How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg [Book Review]

This book is so good! About 50 pages in, I knew I had to buy it for my 14 year old cousin for Christmas. As I told her, this is a perfect book for someone who wants to develop their mathematical thinking. I told my cousin that she doesn’t have to read it now, but hopefully she does by the time she’s in her second year of university. While the math is made quite simple, the stories surrounding the math could be a bit difficult for a 14 year old to grasp- references range from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, to the Laffer Curve, from a discussion of HDL/LDL levels to stock brokers, and beyond.

The author flanks his novel with the answer to the question, “When am I going to use this [math]?” This provides good direction and purpose, and ensures that the reader doesn’t get lost in the book that covers everything from elementary school mathematics to university level probability and statistics. Isobars and isobaths are even mentioned, which as someone who studied physical oceanography, I love. This book pretty much covers everything.

Jordan Ellenberg doesn’t fall trap to “the math don’t lie” fallacy, and includes a lengthy discussion on statistical significance, and how numbers can be fudged by researchers to get what they want. He suggests we call it “statistically notable” or “detectable” rather than “statistically significant,” which I think many in the scientific community agree with.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading about the math of everyday. I wouldn’t say that this book really tells you how not to be wrong, but more tells you how to think like a logical mathematician. And that’s something we need people to do more!

Rating for How Not to Be Wrong: 4.5 out of 5. I do find it to be a little lengthy at times, but everything else about it is just great.

2 thoughts on “How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg [Book Review]”

  1. Great review. Maybe incremental but I can’t find an amazon link so you can get some credit for the referral. Found you through your English/Cantonese post on Looking forward to trying it as a backup to some agencies I am currently using for English/Mandarin. So far been so infrequent, I have been doing manually. All the best.

    1. Thanks, Vince! I don’t have any sort of Amazon link set up but I’m very happy you like the review. And glad you enjoyed my English/Canto post. I’d love to hear if you end up using the code for your work- please let me know if you do. Take care!

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