Despite the ubiquity of countless apps, social media platforms, and so-called smart devices, and even considering the renewed and welcome focus on STEM subjects, societal innumeracy remains a critical driver of bad policy and bad thinking. Almost every major issue facing today’s world is made more difficult by false interpretations, incorrect assumptions, or a general misunderstanding of how numbers inform narratives and statistics shape stories.
New York Times-bestselling author and math popularizer John Allen Paulos has worked for decades to educate readers on not only the formal properties of the numbers, statistics, and probabilities behind news stories, but also what they mean and how they should be interpreted. When we use mathematics to describe the social world, we are always faced with questions: What are we trying to measure or count and how do we decide whom to include, exclude, or qualify?
Who’s Counting features selected columns from Paulos’ well-known ABC News series of the same name collected here in book form for the first time, along with updates and brand-new original essays from the author.
The result is a timeless and timely examination of how better understanding data improves our thinking and decision-making. With examples from government, mass media, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories, climate change, “fake news,” and popular culture, Paulos shows how mathematics and logic are, along with a humble respect for truth, our most basic and reliable guides to reality.
John Allen Paulos is an extensively praised author, popular public speaker, and former monthly columnist for ABCNews.com, the Scientific American, and the Guardian. Professor of math at Temple University in Philadelphia, he earned his Ph.D. in the subject from the University of Wisconsin.He is the author, most recently, of A Numerate Life, as well as New York Times-bestseller Innumeracy, among many others. His papers on probability, logic, and the philosophy of science have appeared in numerous academic journals and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Nation, Discover, the American Scholar, and the London Review of Books. Paulos and has an extensive web and media presence, especially on Twitter @johnallenpaulos.
“Math illiteracy breeds warped understandings of the world that ultimately jeopardize the progress of civilization. Math professor John Allen Paulos wrote Who’s Counting? as an entertaining, relevant, and potent antidote to this societal blight.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
“Who’s Counting? is an astonishing book, for it combines two things that aren't often found together: analytical rigor and fun. You don't have to be a math nerd to appreciate the fluid, easy explanations of everyday innumerate reasoning, but I guarantee that this book will make you feel smarter. Who’s Counting? is structured to enable the reader to dip in and out, biting each chocolate to see what one likes, but I encourage you to do what I did and just gorge yourself. It all tastes good.” – Lee McIntyre, author of How to Talk to a Science Denier
“What better than a mathematician sharing the intrigue of math with us all, and, at the same time, protecting us from the data manipulation and fake news that is threatening our democracy? Who’s Counting? is a must-read for all who want to wear mathematical armor against the war on truth.” – Jo Boaler, Nominelli-Olivier Professor of Education (Mathematics) at Stanford University, co-founder of youcubed.org, and author of Limitless Mind
"I love Paulos's writing. Within the ephemeral specifics of news, he finds the enduring logic of mathematics. Who’s Counting? is a glimpse of a more numerate world – and oh how I wish we lived there!" – Ben Orlin, author of Math with Bad Drawings
“Who’s Counting? would not only make a super present for the math-minded folks in your family (or for yourself), it also provides a rich resource for teachers to dive into for great ideas to spice up their classes.”
— Keith Devlin, Stanford University (Emeritus) mathematician and author
“We too often pigeonhole ourselves as ‘number’ or ‘narrative’ people. But Paulos breaks down that artificial division. With Who’s Counting? skill at crafting numerate narratives is a superpower within our grasp.” – Philip E. Tetlock, author of Superforecasting
“John Allen Paulos yet again defends logic and crusades against the problem of innumeracy with good humor and plain language. Using examples ranging from math puzzles to controversial cultural issues, this engaging book reminds us that citizens in a democracy must understand the facts and figures that swirl about them every day.” – Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise