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Making Numbers Count is a lively, practical, first-of-its-kind guide to turning cold, clinical data into a memorable story.
How many hours' worth of songs are on your Spotify Wrapped this year?
How much is your commute time really worth?
How do you work out how likely you are to get Covid based on the official statistics?
How do your viewing hours track against the most popular shows on Netflix?
Whether you're interested in global problems like climate change, and understanding that the Australian wildfires destroyed an area twice the size of Portugal, or just grasping how few people have washed their hands between visiting the bathroom and touching your hands, this book will help math-lovers and math-haters alike translate the numbers that animate our world.
Until very recently, most languages had no words for numbers greater than five - anything from six to infinity was known as 'lots'. While the numbers in our world have become increasingly complex, our brains are stuck in the past. Yet the ability to communicate and understand numbers has never mattered more. How can we more effectively translate numbers and stats - so fundamental to the next big idea - to make data come to life?
Drawing on years of research into making ideas stick, Chip Heath and Karla Starr outline six critical principles that will give anyone the tools to communicate numbers with more transparency and meaning. Using concepts such as simplicity, concreteness and familiarity, they reveal what's compelling about a number and show how to transform it into its most engaging form.
Stanford business professor Heath (Decisive) and journalist Starr (Can You Learn to Be Lucky?) deliver a mixed collection of tips for making data more easily understood. Based on the premise that human brains can't easily work with large numbers, the authors provide ways to break down, reframe, and convert them into everyday comparisons or analogies. It's helpful, for instance, to use concrete objects as size references ("a deck of cards" sticks with people more than a three-to-four-oz. portion size); to use culturally relevant comparisons (the Covid-19 pandemic's six-foot social distancing guideline is illustrated by a hockey stick in Canada and a surfboard in San Diego); and if something is hard to grasp, to convert it (how long it takes to walk somewhere can be easier to interpret than how far away it is). Though the authors write that their tips are aimed at both "numbers people" and "non numbers people," the text tends to read like a corporate training course, and their somewhat dismissive view of math as incomprehensible and useless in the "real world" will strike many as blatantly wrong. Still, "non numbers" people will find plenty to consider.