by. John Allen Paulos. · Rating details · 3, ratings · reviews. Dozens of examples in innumeracy show us how it affects not only personal economics. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. Front Cover. John Allen Paulos. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, – Mathematics – pages.

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Innumeracy refers to mathematical incompetence.

One of the topics covered in this book is probability. Obviously, if you had people in a room, there would be a percent probability that at least two of those people kohn a common birthday. Babe Ruth has a higher batting average than Lou Gehrig in both the first half and second half of the season, but Gehrig has a higher batting average than Ruth for the season overall.

How could this be? During the second half of the season, Ruth could bat.

Innumeracy – The Key Point

The result would be a higher overall batting average for Gehrig than for Ruth: There is some math geek humor sprinkled in the pages of this book: He determined the probability of this, found it to be low but not low enough for him, so now he always travels with a bomb in his suitcase. He reasons that the probability of two innumracy being on board would be infinitesimal… Isolated but vivid tragedies involving a few people should not blind us to the fact that myriad prosaic activities may involve a much higher degree of risk.


In one study where participants were to imagine they are military generals, they made contradictory decisions simply based on whether otherwise identical questions were phrased in terms of lives saved or lives lost. The author explains a survey method which makes it safe for people to answer anonymously. That leaves people who answered yes out of the who replied to the question honestly those whose coins landed heads.

He also explains the capture-recapture method for estimating the number of fish in a lake.

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos

After allowing them to disperse about the lake, we catch another hundred fish and see what fraction of them are marked. If eight of the hundred fish we capture are marked, then a reasonable estimate of the fraction of marked fish in the whole lake is 8 percent.

Since this 8 percent is constituted by the one hundred fish we originally marked, the number of fish in the whole lake can be determined by solving the proportion: A common error is assuming that correlation indicates causation. One common way in which this can occur is for changes in both quantities to be the result of a third factor… There are many purely accidental correlations.


Studies reporting small nonzero correlations are often merely reporting chance fluctuations… Too much research in the social sciences, in fact, is a mindless collection of such meaningless data. In the chapter on pseudoscience, the author skewers such topics as psychics, astrology, and numerology.

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. Hill and Wang, View all posts by andreweverett Post was not sent – check your innumedacy addresses! Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email.

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