Do the Math! On Growth, Greed, and Strategic Thinking (Sage, 2013)

John K. White
Softcover, 350 pages

Do the Math! is a refreshing look at mathematical concepts and moral dilemmas in the increasingly more numerate world of everyday living. Aiming to popularize and inform, Do the Math does for numbers what Eats, Shoots, and Leaves does for words.

To learn more about everyday mathematics and the number-filled world around us, check out the downloads below.

Do the Math cover

Caracolas | The best place to live in Spain [.xlsx]

Here's my list for each of the seventeen regions (a.k.a. autonomous communities): area, population, sloped surface percentage, coastline, population density, purchasing power, unemployment, number of towns, number of blue-flag beaches, and number of tourists. In my weighting, I've opted to maximize the importance of sloped surface percentage, coastline, purchasing power, and the number of blue-flag beaches, while minimizing area, population, population density, unemployment, number of towns, and tourist numbers. That makes Asturias the winner with 401 km of coastline, a PP per capita of $28,271 (lots considering the price of food), 16 blue-flag beaches, and 81% sloped surface! You can ski and surf in Asturias (though not at the same time). You can walk up and down hills all day long and along as many beaches as you want. You can eat some of the best fish and seafood in the world. You can eat some of the best fish and seafood in the world.
Download the spreadsheet to change the data and make your own favourite place to live in Spain!

Do the Math!
Chapter 7 Random Walk [.xlsx]

The flipping of a coin is used to model a future event, the so-called random or drunkard's walk, each step having an equal probability of left or right (recall the binomial distribution from Pascal's triangle). Randomness rules, as can be seen in a one-dimensional random walk, where an equal chance of a step left or right shows a relatively flat distribution and the position of a random walker after 100 steps. Such logic is often used to simulate the dynamics of a complex system, and long-term weather prediction has even been likened to predicting the destination of a drunken man from his first few steps after exiting a pub. In such complex, many-bodied interaction systems, computers are invaluable and often the only means to study how these systems work.

Do the Math!
Chapter 5 Weighted Mean [.xls]

The importance of weighting can especially be seen using the concept of a weighted average, where the "population middle" of a country is calculated and physically represented on a map. Such a weighting can provide valuable information about economic growth, political boundaries, or where to build future infrastructure. The population-weighted middle is calculated by multiplying the population (the weighting) by distance (longitude and latitude) in the same way one can average three missed darts to get a bull's-eye. Such pictures show in a straightforward way how a country's population is distributed and can be used to compare different distributions (in this case, country demographics), one of the main reasons for using statistics to represent large data sets.

Do the Math!

Chapter 7 School Talk on Computing [.pdf]

Do the Math!
More and more of everything today is done by computer, from databases that profile health, wealth, and our general likes and dislikes to loyalty cards that tabulate consumer purchases and correlate buying patterns to the social and gaming networks where we spend more and more of our spare time. With the increased importance of the Internet, the computer now ranks our web searches, suggests our friends, and provides real-time data on anything from stocks to sporting results. And that's just the tip of the computing iceberg.

What's more, probability and chance involving large numbers can be calculated only by computer, where simulations count the possible outcomes in the absence of analytical solutions. Computers and probability are also the guts of today's fast-growing online gaming industry, and a basic understanding of both is needed if we are to keep from becoming sitting ducks for the now-ubiquitous Internet huckster.

To be sure, the power of the computer increases by the day, and in today's wired world, no one can afford to remain technologically ignorant.

About the author

John K. White received a B.Sc. in Applied Physics from the University of Waterloo, Canada, and a Ph.D. from University College Dublin, Ireland.

He has worked around the world as a physicist, lecturer, project manager, and computational analyst over a 25-year career. He has worked as a project manager and technical writer for Sun Microsystems, The Netherlands Organization, and Berminghammer Foundation Equipment, consultant for Interactive Image Technologies, ScotiaBank, and the Ontario Government, and as a lecturer and research fellow at University College Dublin, and has analyzed game playing strategies, from professional sports teams to the stock market as well as many other thought provoking systems.

He is also active in promoting physics and numeracy in schools, and has published widely in academic journals, contributed chapters to edited volumes, and authored numerous technical publications. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he grew up in Toronto, Canada, and now lives and works in Dublin.

Do the Math! On Growth, Greed, and Strategic Thinking

John K. White
Softcover, 350 pages, Sage Publications (2013)

Better numeracy, Do-it-yourself analysis, Social inclusiveness, Foster critical and strategic thinking, Uncomplicated mathematical discussion

Our world has become more complicated, and the notion of growth at any cost has led to constant economic uncertainty, a permanently stressed-out workforce, and everyday stories of government and corporate abuse. John K. White argues that a better knowledge of basic systems is needed to understand the world we live in, from pyramid scams to government bailouts, from sports leagues to stock markets, from the everyday to the seemingly complex.

   John K White