When delivering Year 9 Maths Picnics to local schools, I often search for books that popularise and develop a further interest in maths as we give them as prizes for the winning teams. Finding such a book can be challenging, as few are around. Sometimes such books can be written for children who are ‘maths geeks’ or who already find mathematics interesting.
“The Truth Detective” by Tim Harford, a great BBC 4 “More or Less” presenter and economist, is a great book. Written almost as a graphic novel, with engaging illustrations and attractive fonts, it talks about the empowering ability of statistics to solve big problems. While there were books written in the past that discuss how statistics can mislead us if not used properly, this book focuses on how it can help us find truths about the world around us.
Statistics are at the heart of health and social policies that can save lives. We can use statistics and the power of numbers as a magnifying glass to hunt down the truth. Inflation, confirmation bias and phenomena like Why do we believe fake news are communicated in a child-friendly way? The book deepens our understanding of maths and the world. It builds critical analysis and observational skills, which are desperate for the survival of our society and for the world of work.
This book is a real treasure, and I recommend it to children and adults. In the light that the AMSP promotes Core Maths and that some form of post-16 maths education might be compulsory for all students by the end of this decade, if not earlier, this book offers an insight into what skills we want our students to be equipped with when they leave school.
by Valerija Peles-Edwards