What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi , math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the bechamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. Read more...
What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the bechamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. Of course, it's not all about cooking; we'll also run the New York and Chicago marathons, take a closer look at St. Paul's Cathedral, pay visits to Cinderella and Lewis Carroll, and even get to the bottom of why we think of a tomato as a vegetable. At the heart of it all is Cheng's work on category theory, a cutting-edge "mathematics of mathematics," that is about figuring out how math works. This is not the math of our high school classes: seen through category theory, mathematics becomes less about numbers and formulas and more about how we know, believe, and understand anything, including whether our brother took too much cake. Many of us think that math is hard, but, as Cheng makes clear, math is actually designed to make difficult things easier. Combined with her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a true zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey through a vast territory no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi offers a whole new way to think about a field all of us think we know; it will both dazzle the constant reader of popular mathematics and amuse and enlighten even the most hardened math-phobe. So, what is math? Let's look for the answer in the kitchen.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Cheng, a lecturer in mathematics at both the University of Sheffield and the University of Chicago, sets an ambitious agenda for herself: to explain to non-mathematicians how mathematicians think and to educate readers about the tools mathematicians employ when seeking solutions to complex problems. She begins each chapter with recipes (mostly desserts) that she then employs to illustrate the thought processes that underlie mathematical reasoning—a surprisingly stimulating and successful conceit. Having grabbed the reader’s attention, Cheng playfully walks through numerous math problems of varying difficulty, taking care to provide understandable and illuminating solutions. She often departs from mathematical theory to highlight the pragmatic values of logic and rationality as employed by mathematicians in everyday life, and she possesses a lighter side that recognizes mathematical reasoning is not life’s holy grail, underlining her point with an entertaining, and wise, six-point indictment of pure logic as a tool with which to approach “all that life throws at us.” Cheng is exceptional at translating the abstract concepts of mathematics into ordinary language, a strength aided by a writing style that showcases the workings of her curious, sometimes whimsical mind. This combination allows her to demystify how mathematicians think and work, and makes her love for mathematics contagious. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (May)