New book by Jane Miller seeks to improve math competence, confidence

by Marcia Hannigan

Bloustein School professor Jane Miller, Ph.D. became frustrated when her students and others had a difficult time working with numbers.  Although the inability to make sense of numbers interferes with their ability to function in school, careers, and everyday life, Dr. Miller found that students often find numbers boring, terrifying or think they are irrelevant.

Miller decided that she wanted that improve math competence and confidence across a broad spectrum of people.  Her solution was to write a book for those who wanted to become more comfortable as both consumers and producers of numeric information.  Making Sense of Numbers: Quantitative Reasoning for Social Research (SAGE Publications, 2021) was the result.

Innumeracy is not found just among students; it extends to researchers and workers in social sciences and many other fields.  Sometimes they recognize that they don’t understand the numbers, other times they don’t realize when the data they are working with is faulty or the results make no sense.  Dr. Miller hopes to counteract confusion about numbers: how to interpret them and how to work with them so that the results and conclusions are valid.

Dr. Miller designed the book to present systematic ways for students and researchers to approach numbers so that working with new numeric topics or tasks doesn’t become overwhelming. To that end, she uses decades of examples and learning exercises that she field-tested in university courses and in workshops for professionals. In addition, she created some examples specifically for the book, mixing familiar topics with more academic problems to serve a wide range of audiences and needs.