Making Numbers Count: The Art And Science Of Communicating Numbers

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A clear, practical, first-of-its-kind guide to communicating and understanding numbers and data—from bestselling business author Chip Heath.

How much bigger is a billion than a million?

Well, a million seconds is twelve days. A billion seconds is…thirty-two years.

Understanding numbers is essential—but humans aren’t built to understand them. 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 gotten increasingly complex, our brains are stuck in the past. How can we translate millions and billions and milliseconds and nanometers into things we can comprehend and use?

Author Chip Heath has excelled at teaching others about making ideas stick and here, in Making Numbers Count, he outlines specific principles that reveal how to translate a number into our brain’s language. This book is filled with examples of extreme number makeovers, vivid before-and-after examples that take a dry number and present it in a way that people click in and say “Wow, now I get it!”

You will learn principles such as:

-SIMPLE PERSPECTIVE CUES: researchers at Microsoft found that adding one simple comparison sentence doubled how accurately users estimated statistics like population and area of countries.
-VIVIDNESS: get perspective on the size of a nucleus by imagining a bee in a cathedral, or a pea in a racetrack, which are easier to envision than “1/100,000th of the size of an atom.”
-CONVERT TO A PROCESS: capitalize on our intuitive sense of time (5 gigabytes of music storage turns into “2 months of commutes, without repeating a song”).
-EMOTIONAL MEASURING STICKS: frame the number in a way that people already care about (“that medical protocol would save twice as many women as curing breast cancer”).

Whether you’re interested in global problems like climate change, running a tech firm or a farm, or just explaining how many Cokes you’d have to drink if you burned calories like a hummingbird, this book will help math-lovers and math-haters alike translate the numbers that animate our world—allowing us to bring more data, more naturally, into decisions in our schools, our workplaces, and our society.


  • 001 MakingNumbersCount Open

    Duration: 30s
  • 002 MakingNumbersCount Introduction

    Duration: 23min
  • 003 MakingNumbersCount Part1 TranslateEverything Chapter1 TranslateEverything

    Duration: 05min
  • 004 MakingNumbersCount Chapter2 AvoidNumbers

    Duration: 10min
  • 005 MakingNumbersCount Chapter3 TryFocusingOn1AtATime

    Duration: 11min
  • 006 MakingNumbersCount Chapter4 FavorUserFriendlyNumbers

    Duration: 18min
  • 007 MakingNumbersCount Part2 ToHelpPeopleGraspYourNumbers Chapter5 FindYourFathom

    Duration: 13min
  • 008 MakingNumbersCount Chapter6 ConvertAbstractNumbersIntoConcreteObjects

    Duration: 20min
  • 009 MakingNumbersCount Chapter7 RecastYourNumbersInDifferentDimensions

    Duration: 16min
  • 010 MakingNumbersCount Chapter8 HumanScale

    Duration: 19min
  • 011 MakingNumbersCount Part3 UseEmotionalNumbers Chapter9 FlorenceNightingaleAvoidsDryStatisticsByUsingTransferredEmotion

    Duration: 17min
  • 012 MakingNumbersCount Chapter10 ComparativesSuperlativesAndCategoryJumpers

    Duration: 13min
  • 013 MakingNumbersCount Chapter11 EmotionalAmplitude

    Duration: 09min
  • 014 MakingNumbersCount Chapter12 MakeItPersonal

    Duration: 07min
  • 015 MakingNumbersCount Chapter13 BringYourNumberIntoTheRoomWithADemonstration

    Duration: 18min
  • 016 MakingNumbersCount Chapter14 AvoidNumbingByConvertingYourNumber

    Duration: 12min
  • 017 MakingNumbersCount Chapter15 OfferAnEncore

    Duration: 05min
  • 018 MakingNumbersCount Chapter16 MakePeoplePayAttention

    Duration: 13min
  • 019 MakingNumbersCount Part4 BuildAScaleModel Chapter17 MapTheLandscapeByFindingTheLandmarks

    Duration: 07min
  • 020 MakingNumbersCount Chapter18 BuildAScaleModelYouCanWorkWith

    Duration: 10min
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