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Article
August 16, 1995

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper

Author Affiliations

Medical Center of Delaware Newark

 

by John Allen Paulos, 212 pp, $18, ISBN 0-465-04362-3, New York, NY, BasicBooks, 1995.

JAMA. 1995;274(7):586. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530070084039

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Abstract

John Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University and the author of the best-selling book Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences, has written a new book to offer "novel perspectives, questions, and recommendations to coffee drinkers, straphangers, policy makers, gossip mongers, bargain hunters, trendsetters, and others" who read the daily newspaper.

The book is a collection of 51 brief chapters organized into five sections whose titles reflect the subject matter of a newspaper: "Politics, Economics, and the Nation," "Local, Business, and Social Issues," "Lifestyle, Spin, and Soft News," "Science, Medicine, and the Environment," and "Food, Book Reviews, Sports, Obituaries." Paulos uses his considerable talents and a breezy style to discuss many ways to apply simple, or at least simply explained, mathematics and logic to analyze the contents of the newspaper.

For instance, a review of voting systems explains the benefits and drawbacks of approval voting, in which voters may

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