Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As a high school student and a journalism major in college, I took several different probability and statistics courses. I'm NOT a numbers person by any stretch of the imagination, but I was fascinated by how numbers can be manipulated - especially in polls, just by how you word your questions.

When I saw Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife (who, incidentally, is a journalism professor) on my library shelf, I picked it up.

I'll be honest with you. I got through the first 80 pages before putting the book down. It's actually very well written, and I like the terms Seife gives to different types of 'number-laundering.' Terms like fruit-packing, apple-polishing, and cherry-picking.

And Seife gives plenty of real-life examples from recent years of how different people manipulated the numbers to support their opinion.

I had to put the book down because, first of all, it's all about numbers (and numbers are not my best friend) and secondly, because of the holidays. I was too tired to follow his book when I had time to read. I knew it would take me too long to read through this book.

But I was impressed enough that I wanted to remember the title. I thought this book would be a great foundation for a class on understanding and analyzing how numbers are used in our society. (I even started creating a syllabus in my mind.)

Proofiness is a book I want my children to read in high school - especially in conjunction with a probability and statistics or a media analysis class. And if you are a numbers person, Proofiness is a book you would enjoy.

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