John Allen Paulos

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John Allen Paulos
John Allen Paulos TAM13.jpg
Born (1945-07-04) July 4, 1945 (age 77)
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
Doctoral advisorJon Barwise

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.[1]: 133, 213 

Early life[edit]

Paulos was born in Denver, Colorado and grew up in Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he attended high school. After his Bachelor of Mathematics at University of Wisconsin (1967) and his Master of Science at University of Washington (1968), he received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (1974). In an interview he described himself as lifelong skeptic.[2] He was also part of the Peace Corps in the seventies.[3]


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"

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.

John Allen Paulos, "A Mathematician Plays the Market"

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.[4]

Paulos also wrote a mathematics-tinged column for the UK newspaper The Guardian and is a Committee for Skeptical Inquiry fellow.[5]

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.[6]

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[7] deals with mathematical aspects of stories in the news. All the columns over a 10- year period are archived here.[7]

He is married, father of two, grandfather of four.

Paulos tweets frequently at @JohnAllenPaulos.[8]


Paulos received the 2013 JPBM (Joint Policy Board for Mathematics) Award for Communicating Mathematics on a Sustained Basis to Large Audiences.[9]

Paulos received the 2003 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Award for Promoting the Public Understanding of Science and Technology.[10]

In 2002 he received the University Creativity Award at Temple University.[11]

Paulos' article "Counting on Dyscalculia," which appeared in Discover Magazine in 1994, won a Folio Award that year.[12]



  1. ^ MacNeal, Edward (1994). Mathsemantics: Making Numbers Talk Sense. Penguin. ISBN 9780140234862.
  2. ^ "Meet the Skeptics!". Christopher Brown. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
  3. ^ "NNDB". NNDB.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry". CSI.
  6. ^ "Paulos at David Letterman". Temple University. Archived from the original on April 11, 2001.
  7. ^ a b Who's Counting at ABC News
  8. ^ - The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter
  9. ^ "JPBM Award for Communicating Mathematics". JPBM.
  10. ^ "AAAS". AAAS. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  11. ^ "University Creativity Award". Temple University.
  12. ^ "Discover Magazine". Discover Magazine.

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