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Written by Jordan Ellenberg

Narrated by Jordan Ellenberg

Ratings:

13 hours

**The Freakonomics of math**-

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In

Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It's a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does "public opinion" really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?

*How Not to Be Wrong* presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician's method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman-minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia's views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can't figure out about you, and the existence of God.

Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is "an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength." With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.

Publisher: Penguin Random House AudioReleased: May 29, 2014ISBN: 0698163842Format: audiobook

This book is extremely well-written and covers a diverse set of material related to applied mathematics (statistics particularly). However, it covers many disparate topics, and the only string I observed is various caveats and/or pitfalls when utilizing numbers to make decisions or process information more generally.

It is becoming a more common disappointment to find that the author of a book that one admires and found enlightening is younger than oneself. The writing here is very good, the math, mostly number theory, probability and statistics, is very interesting. Ellenberg tells the story of the WWII statistician that came up with the idea that armor plating on aircraft needed to be where the bullet holes were not. He also tells the story of the MIT mathematicians who outfoxed the Massachusetts Lottery, and the story of the Baltimore stockbroker sending letters again only to the random people for whom he got the predictions correct.There is a lot of wisdom in this book, for someone who is 35 years of age

Mainly about statistics. Very intelligent, very entertaining, funny and profound

Heel leuk boek om naar te luisteren. Veel verschillen voorbeelden van wiskunde in real life. Enige minpunt in mijn mening is dat er soms redelijk wat getallen achter elkaar worden genoemt en ik kan op deze plekken niet echt luisteren omdat ik de getallen probeer te onthouden.

This booked contains both stories about the application of mathematics, theory of certain math principles with practical interpretation along with a variety of history about the mathematicians at the foreground of thought and discovery. It’s comprehensive, a little technical and very enjoyable.

My favorite part was the discussion about genius and hard work. Towards the end of the book. Look for it and regain your inspiration for growing more in the field of mathematics.

My favorite part was the discussion about genius and hard work. Towards the end of the book. Look for it and regain your inspiration for growing more in the field of mathematics.

Interesting at many points, but still a bit dry.

Prof. Jordan Ellenberg has written a book which shows the stark beauty of Mathematics. He uses examples to show that pure Math can be applied to real life situations to make complex and often paradoxical situations simple. He mentions that non-linear thinking really explains a lot of anomalies and says succinctly that "which way you should go depends on where you already are."Some of his examples like the Baltimore Stockbroker are just fascinating. All in all an eminently readable book; however, the Math in it is a little tougher than one is led to believe:-)

Okay, I admit it - I'm a math nerd. I was a math major for a couple of years in college, I do math in my head for fun, and I love to read good books on mathematical subjects.

You can safely ignore this. You don't have to be a math nerd to enjoy and get a great deal out of this book. In fact, it's written for people who are not math fans in any way. You can follow along easily without having to know much more than basic arithmetic.

To say that Ellenberg can teach you what calculus is on a single page is a bit much. But it's kind of true. More importantly, he will show you why calculus is important to know and understand, just to evaluate the world around you. The book addresses statistical analysis more than other areas of math, with many specific examples of how using a proper understanding of stats and probabilities can make your political and health news reading more informative.

This book helps people understand why math isn't for mathematicians. It also answers the age-old question of math class, "When am I ever going to use this stuff?".

Ellenberg also has a nice, breezy style of writing. He makes the subject reachable via his words, not just their content.

Great book. This is probably closer to a 4.5 than 4 stars.

You can safely ignore this. You don't have to be a math nerd to enjoy and get a great deal out of this book. In fact, it's written for people who are not math fans in any way. You can follow along easily without having to know much more than basic arithmetic.

To say that Ellenberg can teach you what calculus is on a single page is a bit much. But it's kind of true. More importantly, he will show you why calculus is important to know and understand, just to evaluate the world around you. The book addresses statistical analysis more than other areas of math, with many specific examples of how using a proper understanding of stats and probabilities can make your political and health news reading more informative.

This book helps people understand why math isn't for mathematicians. It also answers the age-old question of math class, "When am I ever going to use this stuff?".

Ellenberg also has a nice, breezy style of writing. He makes the subject reachable via his words, not just their content.

Great book. This is probably closer to a 4.5 than 4 stars.

Undoubtedly interesting and great to visit, but I didn't find that this book distinguished itself from others of it's ilk. At times it fell deep into explanations that lost the attention of one particular reader.

Just started reading Jordan Ellenburg's book, "How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking," a book published this year that I bought yesterday with an Amazon Gift card I got for Xmas.I was hooked in the title of the introduction: "When Am I Going To Use This?", and then he went on to answer it. And then he illustrated it with a story from WWII that resonated particularly well with me since I'd just seen "The Imitation Game." The book is about mathematical thinking, aimed at the non-mathematician. The author explains the focus of the book by dividing math into 4 areas, Simple and Shallow (like 1+2=3), Complicated and Shallow (like how to multiply 2 10-digit numbers), Complicated and Profound (like Fermat's Last Theorem), and Simple and Profound (what this book is about). He reassures the reader that "No formal math beyond arithmetic will be required, though lots of math way beyond arithmetic will be explained."It has already quoted from the Cato Institute, Ferris Bueller, Iron Man and Tony Stark, John von Neumann, Archimedes, Zeno, Milton Friedman, Cauchy, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton and George Berkeley, and Mark Twain. There is history near and far. It is hard to put this book down, but I have other things to do today. But I could not contain my utter admiration for this book any longer - LOVING IT!Some sample quotes:"A basic rule of mathematical life: if the universe hands you a hard problem, try to solve an easier one instead, and hope the simple version is close enough to the original problem that the universe doesn't object.""When we teach mathematics, we are supposed to be explaining how to be that guide [on whether the answer makes sense]. A math course that fails to do so is essentially training the student to be a very slow, buggy version of Microsoft Excel.""We don't need to teach students how to extract square roots by hand, or in their head (though the latter skill, I can tell you from long personal experience, makes a great party trick in sufficiently nerdy circles)."

Though at times mind numbingly nerdy, it is also at times profound, enlightening and entertaining. Those of us who have avoided such things like the plague will find we have been missing something and feel more empowered to question our underlying assumptions, statistics and the power to reason. We will also be glad to know the interesting parallels to developing the quality of thought through different disciplines.

Very interesting book - it probably would have helped to have the text in front of me, but it was still understandable.

In order to pick up this book, I guess you have to have at least a faint interest in mathematics. Otherwise, the word 'mathematical' in the title will probably scare you off. However, not being wrong anymore sounds like a good enough prospect to make up for all the maths in the book, right? *How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking* starts out by giving a reason why mathematical thinking can be a helpful skill in everyone's life and what math can reveal about improving your chances to win the lottery, understanding different systems to elect a president, and many more. The titles of chapters such as "Everyone is obese", "How much is that in dead Americans?" or "Miss more planes!" show first, that math can be fun, and second, that the intended audience of the book are not math professors but rather everyone.Anticipating readers' feeling towards mathematics, Jordan Ellenberg attempts to answer the most-asked question in math classes first: "So, when am I going to use this?" Ellenberg encourages people to look deeper into things and discover the math in our everyday lives. However, he is very straightforward and also admits that there are aspects of your mathematical education that you might not specifically need anymore. But why should you still learn maths? Ellenberg argues that there is so much more to maths than just adding and subtracting numbers or doing fractions. Math classes improve your way of thinking about many aspects in your life - or at least, math classes should do that. This issue is still debated among math teachers. There are still the ones who prefer the traditional approach of having students practice doing fractions and solving yet another sometimes often slightly math-related problem until they finally discover an algorithm that they can use for a very limited range of problems 'normal' people don't have, anyway. And then there is the more modern approach to teach students the meaning behind what they are doing and to promote critical thinking before mindlessly applying algorithms to problems. This is not to say that students should not learn algorithms anymore. They still should, to my (and Ellenberg's) mind. However, this is just the foundation of what maths is all about. The following quotation sums up Ellenberg's view quite nicely and I couldn't agree more.*"Working an integral or performing linear regression is something that a computer can do quite effectively. Understanding whether the result makes sense - or deciding whether the method is the right one to use in the first place - requires a guiding human hand. When we teach mathematics we are supposed to be explaning how to be that guide. A math course that fails to do so is essentially training the student to be a very slow, buggy version of Microsoft Excel. And let's be frank: that really is what many of our math courses are doing."*At the same time, Ellenberg admits that not everything can be solved with one hundred percent certainty, even though this is often expected of mathematicians. Sometimes, for example when asked to predict which presidential candidate is going to win a certain state, mathematicians can provide a probability, but not rule out uncertainty entirely. However:*"Math gives us a way of being unsure in a principled way: not just throwing up our hands and saying 'huh,' but rather making a firm assertion: 'I'm not sure, and this is roughly how not-sure I am.' Or even more: 'I'm unsure, and you should be too.'"*The book also touches upon a topic many of us discuss around here. Are pop fiction and classic literature - literature with a capital 'L', if you may - mutually exclusive? Or framed differently: Is reading pop fiction a waste of time, and is classic literature always worth the time and effort you put in reading? Ellenberg compares this to the phenomenon of how the guys (or women, for that matter) you meet are either handsome and mean or nice and ugly, but never nice and handsome. He says that we do not even look at the mean and ugly ones so they are ruled out anyway. The triangle of acceptable men, then, which he defines as either nice or handsome is naturally only a small portion of all the men you can meet. And the nice and handsome men are an even smaller part of all the men available. Therefore, the chance of meeting a nice and handsome man has to be quite small logically. If you substitute the two axes from 'ugly' to 'handsome' and 'mean' to 'nice' with 'bad' to 'good' and 'classic' to 'popular', you end up with a similar situation for literary works. If you want to look up the whole reasoning, either read the book or look up Berkson's fallacy. Here goes Ellenberg and his answer seems quite intelligent to me:*"Literary snobbery works the same way. You know how popular novels are terrible? It's because the masses don't appreciate quality. It's because the Great Sphere of Novels, and the only novels you ever hear about are the ones in the Acceptable Triangle, which are either popular or good."*To sum up, I enjoyed reading *How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking* a lot, not only because I agree with what Ellenberg writes to a large extent. No matter if you are interested in mathematics or not, you will probably find this book quite interesting and will probably (not certainly, of course!) not be sorry about picking it up. 4 stars.

Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin. He observes that people often fail to understand common phenomena or make outright errors in judgment because they are unaware of some basic mathematical principles. In this energetic volume, he focuses on some common misconceptions and disabuses the reader of them by applying rigorous mathematical logic, while at the same time avoiding cant and jargon and minimizing the number of equations needed for clarity. He starts out with a bang, so to speak, showing how faulty logic plagued the military in World War II when they were trying to figure out which parts of airplanes were hit the most by bullets, and therefore should be armored more heavily.In other examples, he shows how difficult (impossible?) it is to measure “public opinion” by illustrating the paradoxes that arise whenever three choices instead of two are presented to any electorate. He also discusses the imprecision of measurement and how that affected the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Another chapter demonstrates the mathematics behind the insights of Renaissance painters who figured out how to create a three dimensional perspective on to a two dimensional canvas. **Evaluation:** If you enjoyed *Freakonomics* or *The Signal and the Noise*, you should read this book as well. (JAB)

I’ve known Jordan since high school; he’s exactly as smart and unassuming as his writing makes him seem. This book is mostly about the power of statistical thinking, and the need to understand probabilities, though there are some interesting detours into geometry and bits of math history. I’m an easy sell on the need to make statistical literacy a key part of all citizens’ education; I’d recommend this book as a helpful explanation of the reasons why. The opening anecdote, about why the air force was wrong about which parts of the planes it needed to increase the armor on, is truly fantastic. (Short version: planes were coming back heavily shot up in the wings etc., but not that shot up in the engine. Should engine shielding be reduced to achieve a valuable reduction in weight? Answer: no. That conclusion reflects a misunderstanding of the observation, which was of planes that came back, not the full set of planes. Planes that came back took fewer hits to the engine than to the rest of the plane, and if you (plausibly) assume a standard distribution of bullet holes instead of some aversion of German bullets to engines, then the most likely explanation is that planes that took more hits to the engine disproportionately failed to come back. Put more shielding on the engine, and less on the wings. Math!)

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