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How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

How Not to be Wrong: A review you have no business reading, go read this book instead



Author: Instaread
Narrator: Dwight Equitz
Publisher: Instaread
Length: 13 h 21 m
Genre: Science & Technology
Published: 2016
Reviewer: Anonymous

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This book is incredibly impressive, right away I rereaded the first two chapters after finishing each. As soon as I get a chance I will be reading the whole thing again and am looking for a cheap/free version of Jordan Ellenberg's first book. If only this book were required reading for every elementary to high school math instructor and student we would have a lot more kids interested in math and going into the sciences. The simple idea is that math is just a set of common sense "tricks" for thinking correctly, that's it, that is math. If every time a student asked why they were doing such and such a math exercise they were given this answer, along with any one of the amazing examples from this book, we would have a lot more successful students. Ellenberg makes his stories so clear that it makes me suspect the only explanation for the educational system doing such a bad job is conspiracy to keep students from doing math. For me, this is a must read for any non-mathematicians or anyone that doesn't already understands this simple idea of what math is.

My favorite example from the book is the history of the lottery. How it started as part of the democratic process as a way to "elect" a portion of the legislature directly from the constituency. In my opinion this is a great idea that should be a necessary part of any democracy as a way to protect against only the privileged being able to seek elective office. It sounds like a good idea and it was, people loved it and the idea of a "lottery" for official seats spread like wild fire across the early republics. As much as the people loved it, the ruling class of course hated it as it meant that anyone (even the non-wealthy) could "run for" and hold office. We may say elections in the US are open, but only for those that can afford to not work for months on end while still looking good on camera. Trying to get rid of the "lottery" met with objection and after a lot of effort the ruling class hit upon the tactic of replacing the holding of office with simply a large cash payout. This payout did the same thing as before except kept the "winner" from ever having any real power. The math "trick" comes in later when a group of MIT students scam a state lottery for millions based on the "windfall" idea of a lotto paying out whatever is left in their coffers at the end of a fiscal period.

Anyway, please read this book, then tell everyone else you know to read it too, thank you :)