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Interesting Numbers

Books in which to find more Interesting Numbers

  1. Can You Win? The Real Odds for Casino Gambling, Sports Betting, and Lotteries by Mike Orkin (W.H. Freeman & Co. 1991)

This is a witty, literate look at probability as it is applied in gambling.  It is here that I learned that one has a much better chance of being killed in an auto accident on the way to purchase a lottery ticket, than of winning the lottery.  (More than a 3 times greater chance.)  Most of us do not fear getting into a car to drive to the store, because we overwhelmingly experience safe travel.  So why do so many of us ignore our experience when we buy those tickets each week, sure that this time we'll be the winner?

  1. The Completely Revised and Updated Fast-Food Guide by Michael F. Jacobson and Sarah Fritschner (Workman 1992)

Everything you ever wanted to know about the nutritional content of fast-food menus.   Michael Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the organization that periodically breaks into the headlines with stories about the fat content of meals in Italian and Mexican restaurants.  In addition to a first rate analysis of restaurant menus, this book treats us to lucid discussions of the place of sugar, fat, fiber, salt, caffeine and numerous other nutrients in our diets.

For those who are interested, many articles from CSPI's Nutrition Action Health Letter are available online.   Included in the list are their studies of Mexican, Italian and Chinese restaurants.

  1. Imagining the Universe: A Visual Journey  by Edward Packard (Perigee Books 1994)

This book is a masterful collection of visual analogies that make familiar the strange micro world and macro universe.

  1. One Million by Hendrick Hertzberg (Times Books 1993)

An intriguing attempt to put the number one million into some sort of understandable perspective.

  1. Rubbish! : The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy (HarperCollins 1992)

While this title is now out of print, it is definitely worth seeking out in a library or used bookstore.  Here are some online examples of the sort of information you'll find. 

  1. We're Number One by Andrew L. Shapiro (Vintage 1992)
  2. Also currently out of print, this book is a fascinating presentation of the statistical contradictions visible in the U.S.  For example, on page 73 we find out that "We're Number One in billionaires", as well as that "We're Number One in children and elderly in poverty".  On page 64 we find out that "We're Number One in percentage of students who say they're good at math", as well as that "We're Last in percentage of students who are good at math".  Each of these assertions (and all others in the book) are discussed and supported by presenting the actual statistics that underlie them.

  3. Theoni Pappas

Math teacher Theoni Pappas' work is magnificent.  If you haven't seen her math calendars and books, check them out!

The Mathematics Calendar 2005

The Joy of Mathematics
Paperback - 237 pages Rev edition (August 1989) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 0933174659

More Joy of Mathematics : Exploring Mathematics All Around You
Paperback - 294 pages 1st Ed. edition (April 1991) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 093317473X

Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales
Paperback - 55 pages (March 1993) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 0933174896

The Magic of Mathematics : Discovering the Spell of Mathematics
Paperback - 329 pages (April 1994) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 0933174993

Math for Kids : & Other People Too!
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback - 132 pages 1 Ed edition (November 1997) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 1884550134

The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback - 132 pages (November 1997) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 1884550142

Math Talk : Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices
Paperback - 71 pages (April 1991) 
Wide World Pub Tetra; ISBN: 0933174748

  1. Damned Lies and Statistics : Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists
    by Joel Best
    Hardcover - 196 pages (May 7, 2001) 
    University of California Press; ISBN: 0520219783

Read an excerpt from the book that begins with an example showing how an innumerate populace can easily create and be duped by an exponential statistic.


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original web posting: Wednesday, December 16, 1998
last modified: Sunday, November 14, 2004