Finally: A math book that doesn\’t feel like a math book and is applied to real world problems


I spent my entire junior year researching irrigation policy in West Bengal (India) for a World Bank report. I had never been to India, nor did I visit during the school year to learn about the place that I spent so much time reading about for nine months. I struggled to reframe local issues and make sense of the data, so I thought I had earned some expertise by the end of the school year. Then I went to India and quickly realized that I had no idea what was really going on. Then I read Scott Page\’s The Model Thinker and quickly realized there was a better way to navigate complex social problems like the ones I attempted in India.Page shows us  that the more relevant perspectives that we use to frame problems and our thinking, the better our solutions will be. Page refers to these perspectives as “mathematical models” – if you are turned off at the sight of math stick with me here. I am too sometimes, and after reading this book, I am much more confident with statistics, logic and data visualization because Page is a simple writer and orients all models around everyday life and social phenomena. For example, Page uses models to illuminate different causes of climate change and the 2008 recession. The Model Thinker is definitely a robust read for the liberal arts major or casual-math-avoider. But it is well worth it because it can help us upgrade the way we approach and solve problems.\"\"Skimming through the book for this post, I reread the author\’s passing comment, YOU MUST PRACTICE USING THESE MODELS. I finished the book, mind-blown, and had no idea how to \”practice\” with them. It\’s not really emphasized in the book, because The Model Thinker is more of a comprehensive primer on the topic. However, I see now that any \”model\” is useless without tried and true experience actually using it. The ones that Page includes in the book are incredibly valuable to know and use, especially if you\’re committed to making the world a better place.Here are some of my quotes and notes from the book:

\”With models, we think better. In head-to-head competitions between models and people, models win\”\”To rely on a single model is hubris. It invites disaster.\”A little bias among a lot of people can create massive disparity – why the CEO gender ratio is not 50/50\”Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake\” – Wallace Stevens\”Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get to the real meaning of things\” – Georgia O\’Keeffe\”By not keeping data and comparing outcomes, we may go through life skipping breakfast when we would have been better off having grapefruit\”

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