A book review.

“How not to be wrong, The power of mathematical thinking” by Jordan Ellenberg.

I think this is a good, useful book well worth the time to read.

When I was in high school, I was a little above average in mathematical ability. Many times, since then, I have tried to improve my practical math skills by reading books purporting to help with this. The problem is they contained a lot of formulas that built on each other, and I quickly was lost putting in the effort I thought was appropriate to what I planned to get out of them. This is not the format of “How not to be wrong”. In the introduction, Ellenberg promised not to use deep mathematics to prove his points. He largely kept to this. A couple of times I felt a little lost, but he always tied it all together with reasonable prose at the end.

The book is a history of the evolution of math, especially probability and statistics, since 1600. He uses many anecdotes to make his points. He has a surprising sense of humor for a math geek. He is also a philosopher and a political commentator. Throughout the book, he provides a format for adding to our understanding of the past and dealing with the present and the future. Not the whole story, but a worthy addition to our tool kit of critical thinking.

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