The Tiger That Isn't
Mathematics scares and depresses most of us, but politicians, journalists and everyone in power use numbers all the time to bamboozle us. Most maths is really simple - as easy as 2+2 in fact. Better still it can be understood without any jargon, any formulas - and in fact not even many numbers. Most of it is commonsense, and by using a few really simple principles one can quickly see when maths, statistics and numbers are being abused to play tricks - or create policies - which can waste millions of pounds.
Reviewed on 23rd October 2011
An excellent exploration of how badly statistics can be misinterpreted and misreported, both by those with their own agenda and those who are tasked with communicating the truth to the public - much like the authors, two BBC journalists. The book splits the problems faced in reporting numbers into one issue per chapter and demonstrates with plenty of examples how badly results can be reported.
It's a really good book that I would certainly recommend to anyone who has to use statistics, whether reporting them to the public or just internally within an organisation, and especially managers and politicians who need to base their decisions on these reports. Even in my own recent experience at work there have been people I've wanted to hit over the head with this book.
One thing that must be noted is that the book needs to be read in small chunks - a chapter at a time. It's not something to read in one or two sittings, and it's a book that probably needs to be returned to a few times for the messages to sink in. I'll be keeping it handy at work for when I'm faced with numbers, and plan to offer it around my colleagues too.