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Who's Counting?

Uniting Numbers and Narratives with Stories from Pop Culture, Puzzles, Politics, and More

For decades, New York Times best-selling author John Allen Paulos has enlightened readers by showing how to make sense of the numbers and probabilities behind real-world events, political calculations, and everyday personal decisions. Who’s Counting? features dozens of his insightful essays—original writings on contemporary issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, online conspiracy theories, “fake news,” and climate change, as well as a selection of enduring columns from his popular ABC News column of the same name.

With an abiding respect for reason, a penchant for puzzles with societal implications, and a disarming sense of humor, Paulos does in this collection what he’s famous for: clarifies mathematical ideas for everyone and shows how they play a role in government, media, popular culture, and life. He argues that if we can’t critically interpret numbers and statistics, we lose one of our most basic and reliable guides to reality.


"John Allen Paulos's Who’s Counting? is an astonishing book, for it combines two things that aren't often found together: analytical rigor and fun. You don't have to be a math nerd to appreciate the fluid, easy explanations of everyday innumerate reasoning, but I guarantee that this book will make you feel smarter.”

— Lee McIntyre, author of How to Talk to a Science Denier

"I love Paulos's writing. Within the ephemeral specifics of news, he finds the enduring logic of mathematics. Who's Counting? is a glimpse of a more numerate world – and oh how I wish we lived there!"

— Ben Orlin, author of Math with Bad Drawings

“Math illiteracy breeds warped understandings of the world that ultimately jeopardize the progress of civilization. Math professor John Allen Paulos wrote Who’s Counting as an entertaining, relevant, and potent antidote to this societal blight.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History

“John Allen Paulos yet again defends logic and crusades against the problem of innumeracy with good humor and plain language. Using examples ranging from math puzzles to controversial cultural issues, this engaging book reminds us that citizens in a democracy must understand the facts and figures that swirl about them every day.

— Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise

"What better than a mathematician sharing the intrigue of math with us all, and, at the same time, protecting us from the data manipulation and fake news that is threatening our democracy? Who's Counting? is a must-read for all who want to wear mathematical armor against the war on truth.”

— Jo Boaler, Professor of Math Education at Stanford University, co-founder of youcubed.org, and author of Limitless Mind

"We too often pigeonhole ourselves as ‘number’ or ‘narrative’ people. But Paulos breaks down that artificial division. With Who's Counting? skill at crafting numerate narratives is a superpower within our grasp.”

— Philip E. Tetlock, author of Superforecasting

"Who's Counting? would not only make a super present for the math-minded folks in your family, (or for yourself), it also provides a rich resource for teachers to dive into for great ideas to spice up their classes.”

— Keith Devlin, Stanford University (Emeritus) mathematician and author