Book Review: How to not be wrong the power of mathematical thinking

How to not be wrong. The power of mathematical thinking by Jordan Ellenberg is a masterful work that reviews a number of critical math concepts.

As collecting and storing data becomes easier and cheaper, executives and managers are spending more time studying data to make decisions. They are are also learning data’s limitations.

One key takeaway of many, I believe, is:

“Don’t talk about percentages of numbers when numbers might be negative…The combination of positive and negative allows you, if you’re not careful, to tell a fake story. ” (78)

Ellenberg’s book covers a number of critical topics like:

  • Linear vs Parable shaped curves.
  • Causation vs Correlation
  • Expected Value
  • Bayesian’s theory of probability
  • Inference

He explores the arguments for and against the Bible codes, how a stockbroker  can definitely fool someone, and how Boston created a marathon with a positive expected value that made at least several people rich. Ellenberg does a superb job instructing his readers how to think through math concepts that to the non-math major would otherwise find difficult. 

Recommended for anyone who works with data.

Related books: Nate Silver: Finding the Signal in the Noise.



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