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Cheng is an expert on category theory, a cutting-edge subject that is all about figuring out how math works, a kind of mathematics of mathematics. In How to Bake Pi, Cheng starts with the basic question "What is math?" to explain concepts like abstraction, generalization, and idealization. By going back to the logical foundation of the math we all know (and may or may not love), she shows that math is actually designed to make difficult things easier. From there, she introduces us to category theory, explaining how it works to organize and simplify the whole discipline of mathematics. The result is a book that combines some of the most satisfying features of popular math books - the thrill of truly understanding things that may or may not have been confounding in high school - while still looking long and hard into unexplored territory.
Through lively writing and easy-to-follow explanations, How to Bake Pi takes even the most hardened math-phobeon a journey to the cutting edge of mathematical research.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Bonny on 08-06-15
Mathematics is easy, life is hard.
I read How to Bake Pi in hopes that ingredients, dessert recipes, and baking would help elucidate math for me, and this worked for the most part. Some of the food analogies are necessarily a bit forced, and I had trouble relating some of them to the math being discussed, but that was most likely a failing on my part.
One thing that stands out in Dr. Cheng's book is her ability to clearly define and talk about math terms that I've heard, been taught, used, but never completely understood (or perhaps I've forgotten.) She thoroughly discusses concepts like abstraction, generalization and axiomatization in ways that even I could understand, before writing about her own field of category theory in the second part of the book. Things got a bit murky there for me; I kept wondering, “What is category theory?” even while hearing that it is “the mathematics of mathematics.” This is probably because I'm a reader and student that needs concrete examples that I can ponder and examine, but I'm not sure category theory or Dr. Cheng can provide that.
What I liked best about How to Bake Pi is Dr. Cheng's enthusiasm for her subject matter, that she seems to really care about explaining mathematics to non-mathematicians, that she made me think and also raised many other questions, ideas, and areas of interest for me. Even if you may not care about math or think math is difficult, listening to How to Bake Pi may change your mind in an interesting and enjoyable way. Like the author says, “Mathematics is easy, life is hard.”
21 of 24 people found this review helpful
By Philip Deckers on 07-09-16
An interesting concept that translates poorly
Any additional comments?
This is an intriguing concept, an approachable introduction to the fundamentals of mathematics. However, it translates poorly to the audiobook format with the repetitions of formulas.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful