Innumeracy (book)

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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences is a 1988 book by mathematician John Allen Paulos (1988 1st ed., 135 p. ; 24 cm. New York : Hill and Wang; ISBN 0-8090-7447-8) about "innumeracy," a term he embraced to describe the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy—incompetence with numbers rather than words. It was a New York Times bestseller.

Paulos speaks mainly of the dangers of mathematical innumeracy; that is, the common misconceptions of the layperson in regard to numbers, exploring the relationship between math and the human mind. Paulos discusses innumeracy with quirky anecdotes, scenarios and facts, encouraging readers in the end to look at their world in a more quantitative way.

Topics include probability and coincidence, the birthday problem, innumeracy in pseudoscience, and statistics and trade-offs in society.


  1. Examples and Principles
  2. Probability and Coincidence
  3. Pseudoscience
  4. Whence Innumeracy?
  5. Statistics, Trade-Offs, and Society