John Allen Paulos

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John Allen Paulos
John Allen Paulos TAM13.jpg
Born (1945-07-04) July 4, 1945 (age 74)
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison
Known forAuthor of books and articles on a variety of topics, especially the combatting of innumeracy
AwardsIn 2003 AAAS Award, in 2013 JPBM Award
Scientific career
InstitutionsTemple University

John Allen Paulos (born July 4, 1945) is an American professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has gained fame as a writer and speaker on mathematics and the importance of mathematical literacy. Paulos writes about many subjects, especially of the dangers of mathematical innumeracy; that is, the layperson's misconceptions about numbers, probability, and logic.

Early life[edit]

Paulos was born in Denver Colorado and grew up in Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In an interview he described himself as lifelong skeptic.[1] He went to high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After his Bachelor of Mathematics at University of Wisconsin (1967) and his Master of Science at University of Washington (1968) he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (1974). He was also part of the Peace Corps in the seventies.[2]


Mathematics is no more computation than literature is typing.

John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy

The most amazing coincidence of all would be the complete absence of all coincidences.

John Allen Paulos, "Irreligion"

His academic work is mainly in mathematical logic and probability theory.

His book Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences (1988) was a bestseller and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (1995) extended the critique. In his books Paulos discusses innumeracy with quirky anecdotes, scenarios and facts, encouraging readers in the end to look at their world in a more quantitative way.

He has also written on other subjects often "combining disparate disciplines", such as the mathematical and philosophical basis of humor in Mathematics and Humor and I Think, Therefore I Laugh, the stock market in A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, quantitative aspects of narrative in Once Upon a Number, the arguments for God in Irreligion, and most recently "bringing mathematics to bear on...biography" in A Numerate Life.[3]

Paulos also wrote a mathematics-tinged column for the UK newspaper The Guardian and is a Committee for Skeptical Inquiry fellow (formally known as Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)).[4]

Paulos has appeared frequently on radio and television, including a four-part BBC adaptation of A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and appearances on the Lehrer News Hour, 20/20, Larry King, and David Letterman.[5]

In 2001 Paulos taught a course on quantitative literacy for journalists at the Columbia University School of Journalism. The course stimulated further programs at Columbia and elsewhere in precision and data-driven journalism.[citation needed]

His long-running "" monthly column Who's Counting[6] deals with mathematical aspects of stories in the news. All the columns over a 10- year period are archived here.[6]

He is married and the father of two.

Paulos tweets frequently at @JohnAllenPaulos [7]


Paulos received the 2013 JPBM (Joint Policy Board for Mathematics) Award for Communicating Mathematics on a Sustained Basis to Large Audiences.[8]

Paulos received the 2003 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Award for Promoting the Public Understanding of Science and Technology.[9]

In 2002 he received the University Creativity Award at Temple University[10]

Paulos' article "Counting on Dyscalculia," which appeared in Discover Magazine in 1994, won a Folio Award that year[11]


  • Mathematics & Humor: A Study of the Logic of Humor. University Of Chicago. 1980. ISBN 978-0-226-65024-1.
  • I Think Therefore I Laugh: The Flip Side of Philosophy. Columbia University Press. 1985. ISBN 978-0-231-06031-8.
  • Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences. Hill and Wang. 1988. ISBN 978-0-670-83008-4.
  • Beyond Numeracy: Ruminations of a Numbers Man. Knopf. 1991. ISBN 978-0-394-58640-3.
  • A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. Basic Books. 1995. ISBN 978-0-465-04362-0.
  • Once Upon a Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic of Stories. Basic Books. 1998. ISBN 978-0-465-05158-8.
  • A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market. Basic Books. 2003. ISBN 978-0-465-05480-0. (British edition titled A Mathematician Plays the Market)
  • Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up. Hill and Wang. 2007. ISBN 978-0-8090-5919-5.
  • A Numerate Life - A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and probably Yours. Prometheus Books. 2015. ISBN 978-1-63388-118-1.
  • Potpourri of Writings
  • "He Conquered the Conjecture", essay by Paulos on Grigory Perelman from The New York Review of Books
  • Metric Mania
  • Measuring Bacteria With a Yardstick
  • Romantic Crushes and Bayes Theorem
  • Stories vs. Statistics, NYT Opinionator piece
  • How Much Oil Is Spilling?


  1. ^ "Meet the Skeptics!". Christopher Brown. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
  2. ^ "NNDB". NNDB.
  3. ^ Paulos, John Allen (November 10, 2015). "A Numerate Life: A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours". New Books in Mathematics (Interview). Interviewed by Jim Stein. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  4. ^ "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry". CSI.
  5. ^ "Paulos at David Letterman". Temple University. Archived from the original on April 11, 2001.
  6. ^ a b Who's Counting at ABC News
  7. ^ - The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter
  8. ^ "JPBM Award for Communicating Mathematics". JPBM.
  9. ^ "AAAS". AAAS.
  10. ^ "University Creativity Award". Temple University.
  11. ^ "Discover Magazine". Discover Magazine.

External links[edit]