# Innumeracy

## Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

Hill and Wang

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.

## BOOK EXCERPTS

Innumeracy
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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## REVIEWS

### Praise for Innumeracy

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

"[An] elegant ... Survival Manual ... Brief, witty and full of practical applications." - Stefan Kanfer, Time
"Our society would be unimaginably different if the average person truly understood the ideas in this marvelous and important book." - Douglas Hofstadter

"[An] elegant ... Survival Manual ... Brief, witty and full of practical applications." - Stefan Kanfer, Time

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• 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.
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## Innumeracy

Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences