Innumeracy Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

John Allen Paulos; With a New Foreword by the Author

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

208 Pages



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Why do even well-educated people understand so little about mathematics? And what are the costs of our innumeracy? John Allen Paulos, in his celebrated bestseller first published in 1988, argues that our inability to deal rationally with very large numbers and the probabilities associated with them results in misinformed governmental policies, confused personal decisions, and an increased susceptibility to pseudoscience of all kinds. Innumeracy lets us know what we're missing, and how we can do something about it.

Sprinkling his discussion of numbers and probabilities with quirky stories and anecdotes, Paulos ranges freely over many aspects of modern life, from contested elections to sports stats, from stock scams and newspaper psychics to diet and medical claims, sex discrimination, insurance, lotteries, and drug testing. Readers of Innumeracy will be rewarded with scores of astonishing facts, a fistful of powerful ideas, and, most important, a clearer, more quantitative way of looking at their world.


Praise for Innumeracy

"Our society would be unimaginably different if the average person truly understood the ideas in this marvelous and important little book."—Douglas Hofstadter

"Like carrying on a conversation with an engaging, articulate math whiz who easily shifts from the profound to the funny."—Christopher Farrell, Business Week.

"The innumerate will surely profit from this entertaining book."—Morris Kline, The New York Times Book Review

"This admirable little book is only 135 pages long. You can read it in 2 hours. Chances are that they could be among the most enlightening and even profitable 120 minutes you ever spent."--Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times.

"He takes us a couple of steps closer to numeracy, and it is all in all an enlightening place to be."—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

1 Examples and PrinciplesTwo aristocrats are out horseback riding and one challenges the other to see which can come up with the larger number. The second agrees to the contest, concentrates for a few minutes, and proudly announces, "Three." The proposer of the game is quiet for half an hour, then finally shrugs and concedes defeat. 
A summer visitor enters a hardware store in Maine and buys a large number of expensive items. The skeptical, reticent owner doesn't say a word as he adds the bill on the cash register. When he's finished,he points to the total and watches as the
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  • John Allen Paulos; With a New Foreword by the Author

  • John Allen Paulos, professor of mathematics at Temple University and the author of several other popular books on mathematics, is a regular contributor to national publications, including The New York Times and Newsweek. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • John Allen Paulos Leah Paulos
    John Allen Paulos