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Math and Science - Related Books You Can Read, page 8
Recommended by Mr. Brandenburg

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PROBABILITY + STATISTICS

1. Can You Win? The Real Odds for Casino Gambling, Sports Betting, and Lotteries
By Mike Orkin
(Freeman, 181 pp, 1991)
HS-Adult
If you decide to do any gambling, even a few bucks on your state lottery, consider the price of this book as your first bet. Orkin presents the real odds of most popular gambling games, at least one 'sure fire system' (yes there is such a thing, but you need deep pockets and have to be satisified with a pretty low rate of return), and the effects of the 'house edge'in an entertaining manner and with just a minimum of math. In fact, skipping the math in the book does nothing to reduce the book's usefulness nor your reading enjoyment. Read this if you think gambling is a solution to money problems. In fact, after going through this highly readable and entertaining book you may be tempted to skip the lottery tickets and put the money in casino stock instead!

2. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics
By Larry Gonick
(HarperCollins, 223 pp, 1993)
GFBR*** Teen-Adult
"You'll find lucid explanations of probability, distributions, error functions, hypothesis testing, and other basic tools of statistics." And, best of all, it's written in the form of cartoons.

3. Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists
By Joel Best
(U. of Calif. Press, 196 pp, 2001)
HS-Adult
"In an effort to turn people into critical thinkers, Best presents three questions to ask about all statistics and the four basic sources of bad ones. He shows how good statistics go bad; why comparing statistics from different time periods, groups, etc. is akin to mixing apples and oranges; and why surveys do little to clarify people's feelings about complex social issues. Random samples, it turns out, are rarely random enough. He also explains what all the hoopla is over how the poverty line is measured and the census is counted. ... How many men were really at the Million Man March? How is it possible for the average income per person to rise at the same time the average hourly wage is falling? And how do you discern the truth behind stat wars? Learn it all here before you rush to judgment over the next little nugget of statistics-based truth you read."

4. How to Lie With Statistics
By Darrell Huff
(Many editions; about 140 pages)
GFBR***** Teen-Adult
"'There is terror in numbers,' writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics. And nowhere does this terror translate to blind acceptance of authority more than in the slippery world of averages, correlations, graphs, and trends. Huff sought to break through 'the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind' with this slim volume, first published in 1954. The book remains relevant as a wake-up call for people unaccustomed to examining the endless flow of numbers pouring from Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and everywhere else someone has an axe to grind, a point to prove, or a product to sell. ... Although many of the examples used in the book are charmingly dated, the cautions are timeless. Statistics are rife with opportunities for misuse, from 'gee-whiz graphs' that add nonexistent drama to trends, to 'results' detached from their method and meaning, to statistics' ultimate bugaboo--faulty cause-and-effect reasoning. Huff's tone is tolerant and amused, but no-nonsense. Like a lecturing father, he expects you to learn something useful from the book, and start applying it every day. Never be a sucker again, he cries!"

5. Innumeracy
By John Allen Paulos
(Hill & Wang, 208 pp,)
GFBR*** HS-Adult
"This is the book that made 'innumeracy' a household word, at least in some households. Paulos admits that 'at least part of the motivation for any book is anger, and this book is no exception. I'm distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems to indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens.' But that is not all that drives him. The difference between our pretensions and reality is absurd and humorous, and the numerate can see this better than those who don't speak math. I think there's something of the divine in these feelings of our absurdity, and they should be cherished, not avoided. Paulos is not entirely successful at balancing anger and absurdity, but he tries. His diatribes against astrology, bad math education, Freud, and willful ignorance are leavened with jokes, mathematical or the sort (he claims) favored by the numerate. It remains to be seen if Innumeracy will indeed be able, as Hofstadter hoped, to 'help launch a revolution in math education that would do for innumeracy what Sabin and Salk did for polio'--but many of the improvements Paulos suggested have come to pass within 10 years. Only time will tell if the generation raised on these new principles is more resistant to innumeracy--and need only worry about being incomputable."

6. The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century
By David Salsburg
(Holt, 352 pp, 2002)
GFBR** Advanced HS-Adult
"In The Lady Tasting Tea, David Salsburg tells the fascinating story of how statistics has revolutionized science in the twentieth century. Leading the reader through a maze of randomness and probability, the author clearly explains the nature of statistical models, where they came from, how they are applied to scientific problems, and whether they are true descriptions of reality. Salsburg also discusses the flaws inherent in a statistical model and the serious problems they've created for scientists as we enter the twenty-first century." Some of his assessments of the advances and weaknesses of other statisticians are a little hard to follow, in my opinion.

7. A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper
By John Allen Paulos
(Basic, 212 pp, 1995)
GFBR*** HS-Adult
In my opinion a bit easier to read than his Innumeracy. Has contents of his numerous articles that are published on-line and in various periodicals, where he investigates the numbers that make the news in economics and politics, health issues, sports, spin-doctoring, recipes, celebrity features, and more.

8. What Are the Odds? The Chances of Extraordinary Events in Everyday Life
By Jefferson Hane Hane Weaver
(Prometheus, 250 pp, 2001)
HS-Adult
This book was "motivated by the desire to provide a lighthearted treatment of the subject matter [of statistics and probability theory] because mathematics in general and statistics in particular have very poor public images even though these fields are absolutely crucial to the continued functioning of our modern technological society." Areas explored include romance, sex, death, disaster, going to war, striking it rich, encountering danger in the workplace, employment and unemployment, becoming a doctor or lawyer, being audited, crime and punishment, medical procedures and illnesses, getting into an Ivy League school, and becoming a film start, rock star or best-selling author. This conversational style of this text makes a traditionally- academic subject accessible to the general reader. Weaver is an attorney, and the author of several popular science books.

PUZZLES + PROBLEMS

1. Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math, and Probability
By Colin Bruce
(Perseus, 320 pp, 2002)
Teen-Adult
"Some people who think they hate math are lucky to learn that they actually just can't abide its often dry, abstract presentation. Physicist Colin Bruce turns math teaching on its head by using conflict, drama, and familiar characters to bring probability and game theory to vivid life in [this book]. Using short stories crafted in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he lets Sherlock Holmes guide Watson and his clients through elementary mathematical reasoning."

2. Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers
By Paul Nahin
(Princeton, 256 pp, 2000)
Advanced HS-Adult
"What are your chances of dying on your next flight, being called for jury duty, or winning the lottery? We all encounter probability problems in our everyday lives. In this collection of twenty-one puzzles, Paul Nahin challenges us to think creatively about the laws of probability as they apply in playful, sometimes deceptive, ways to a fascinating array of speculative situations." The mathematics is NOT easy.

3. How to Solve It
By George Polya
(Princeton, 224 pp, 1971)
Teen-Adult
"This perennial best seller was written by an eminent mathematician, but it is a book for the general reader on how to think straight in any field. In lucid and appealing prose, it shows how the mathematical method of demonstrating a proof or finding an unknown can be of help in attacking any problem that can be 'reasoned' outfrom building a bridge to winning a game of anagrams. Generations of readers have relished G. Polya's deft--indeed, brilliant--instructions on stripping away irrelevancies and going straight to the heart of the problem."

4. Keys to Infinity
By Clifford A. Pickover
(Wiley, 332 pp, 1995)
GFBR**** Teen-Adult
"A treasure trove of recreational problems." (Martin Gardner) "What could be more appropriate to the subject of infinity than a book like this one, so dense with wonderful puzzles, anecdotes, images, and computer programs that you could pore over it forever?" Pickover is very, very creative and original.

5. Knotted Doughnuts and Other Mathematical Entertainments
By Martin Gardner
(Freeman, 278 pp, 1986)
GFBR**** HS-Adult
One of his many collections of his columns from the Scientific Americans, and contains an entirely new set of problems, paradoxes, teasers and tricks. Investigates mathematical games such as Sim, Chomp, and Race Track; also investigates coincidences that seem to violate the laws of probability. any book of his on mathematics or science would be fine. They are usually a collection of short articles on a variety of topics, and we can negotiate on how many articles you should read for your report.

6. Math Wizardry for Kids
By Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams
(Barron's, 336 pp, 1995)
Ages 8-12
Over 200 math puzzles, games and designs for kids, also available as a kit with a protractor, various triangles, a ruler, compass, and other essential tools.

7. The Mathematics of Oz: Mental Gymnastics from Beyond the Edge
By Clifford A. Pickover
(Cambridge University Press, 2002)
Teen-Adult
The author, "Dorothy, and Dr. Oz explore some of the oddest and quirkiest highways and byways of the numerically obsessed. Prepare yourself for a shattering odyssey as The Mathematics of Oz unlocks the doors of your imagination. The thought-provoking mysteries, puzzles, and problems range from zebra numbers and circular primes to Legion's number - a number so big that it makes a trillion pale in comparison. The strange mazes, bizarre consequences, and dizzying arrays of logic problems will entertain people at all levels of mathematical sophistication. The tests devised by enigmatic Dr Oz to assess human intelligence will tease the brain of even the most avid puzzle fan."

8. Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern
By Douglas R. Hofstadter
(Basic, 880 pp, 1985)
GFBR***** Advanced HS-Adult
A compilation of mathematical columns from Scientific American by the extremely original author of Godel, Escher, Bach.

9. The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco
By Dennis Shasha
(Freeman, 181 pp, 1988)
GFBR** Advanced HS-Adult
"This is an extremely entertaining book written in a lively style. The problems and puzzles are unique and exciting. Dr. Ecco's Holmesian character is insightful and engaging. What is so delightful here is that the problems presented, in addition to being challenging, open up readers to significant and important areas of mathematics and their applications." Warning - these puzzles are NOT easy!

10. Solve This: Math Activities for Students and Clubs
By James Tanton
(MAA, 240 pp, 2001)
8th grade-Adult
"The book has plenty of illustrations and lots of engaging problems, some of which would be suitable for bright 8th and 9th graders. Jim has contributed articles to Math Horizons which may be accessible online. This is a wonderful book for students and teachers alike. Sophisticated mathematics is made accessible to everyone. Written with humor, thoughtfulness and a real sense of where people have difficulties and how to get around them, Tanton puts his finger on the pleasures and promises of each problem. Not to be missed, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are."

11. Wonders of Numbers: Adventures in Math, Mind, and Meaning
By Clifford A. Pickover
(Oxford U Press, 352 pp, 2000)
HS-Adult
"This book contains a delightful collection of mathematical puzzles in the tradition of Martin Gardner. There are Klingon Paths, Hexagonal Cats, Messages from the Stars, and Doughnut Loops. ... The book is not all numbers. There are historical anecdotes and stories about mathematicians told by the author's alter-ego, Dr. Googol. Are all mathematicians insane? The answer not clear. However, the author describes the five strangest. Did you know that Pythagoras believed that it was sinful to eat beans?"

[astronomy]   [bad science]   [biography: mathematicians + scientists]
[biology/life science/evolution]   [chaos theory]   [codes and code-breaking]
[computer science/robotics/game theory]   [earth science/geology]
[history of mathematics]   [how-to: mathematics]   [how-to: science]
[mathematics - general]   [novels + short stories]   [number theory]
[physical chemistry]   [physics]   [probability + statistics]   [puzzles + problems]
[reference - mathematics]   [reliable, prolific authors on science + math]   [science - general]  

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