Making Numbers Count

Reviewed on , book by Chip Heath

An entire book about how to present numbers to humans. A topic worth spending a 100 pages on, I’d say. But nothing that’ll blow your socks off. There’s a lot of cool examples in there to keep you entertained. If I was a data scientist or otherwise spent more time than I do presenting numbers to people, then this would probably tick up to 4 stars of usefulness for me.


  • Make it vivid, e.g. instead of 40% of US adults don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, say 2 of 5 you shake hands with didn’t wash their hands.
  • Make it concrete, e.g. don’t say 3 or 4 ounces, say the weight of a deck of cards.
  • Combine with surprise to make it memorable, e.g. Replace your lights with CFLs when your child is learning how to walk. The next time you’d have to replace the bulb, your child would be in second grade, learning about oxygen. The next time, they’d be taking driver’s ed.
  • Category jump, e.g. comparing California to the size of a country makes it more memorable.


  • Using big numbers that are unrelatable, e.g. LeBron scored 35,000 points in the first 18 years of his career.