My book review of 'Numb and Number' by William Hartston

Numb and Number

by William Hartston
Numb and Number
by William Hartston

This past year we've been bombarded by statistics, calculations and projections, the 'R' number, and an array and volume of graphs and 'slides' never before seen on our television screens or newspapers.

So how well equipped are we in digesting and interpreting this information?

Even if we take the current crises of the pandemic and Brexit out of the mix, each day our news is dictated by statistical forecasts, opinion polls, risk assessments, inflation figures, weather and climate predictions, not to mention the political decisions and advice that is supposedly informed by numbers.

Though many of us many consider ourselves wise to the fact that you can find figures to prove any argument, and polls and percentages need to be supported by details and size of the sample group, we all still have a tendency to accept information as it is presented, without pausing to interrogate.

This book is a huge encouragement and inspiration to think a little more deeply about the information we are being fed. It is inspiring and intriguing as the author presents examples of our illogical attitudes towards risk, how huge and tiny numbers confuse us, the randomness of winning and losing, and how governments try to look good. He explains misused mathematical terms and solves everyday problems as well giving encouragement and direction to how we might steer our way through the maths we are confronted with day by day.

The author doesn't patronise nor overwhelm the reader, but his wit and wisdom leaves you feeling energised and enthused and keen to learn more. It's certainly a book I'll be returning to. My only criticism is that it was such an enjoyable read, I finished it too quickly. There is even a chapter about the pandemic, but that comes at the end of the book so you don't have to read it if you don't want to!!

Review date: December 2020
Publication date: 5th November 2020