A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market

Author: John Allen Paulos
Published: 2003
Website: Amazon Page

A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market is a set of financial, philosophical, statistical, and mathematical anecdotes which relate to Paulos’s life as a WorldCom addict. The narrative of Paulos’s trading of WorldCom stocks (whose downward spiral and eventually bankruptcy occurred at the same time as Enron’s collapse) allow him to show the reader a regret-tinged series of interesting mathematical facts through the lens of personal experience. And this downward spiral is the only connective strand which succeeds in holding these short chapters together. From Benford’s law to derivative trading, Paulos is a great explainer; and although some of the mathematical facts are entirely understandable to readers with a smidgen of mathematical background (like compound interest), Paulos manages to reexplain and retell what could be simple summary through clever stories and difficult riddles.

A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market is an interesting grouping of stories, but it does succumb to a small yet incessant amount of preachiness as Paulos’s side remarks about shady accounting and jabs at executives of certain financial institutions left me with the feeling that Paulos does not like corporate executives. In addition, the only point to the book besides for those side remarks and the interesting anecdotes seemed to be that Paulos is proud that the reader bought his book so that he can end up with a positive balance statement when it comes to his WorldCom woes.



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