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How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,239 ratings  ·  229 reviews
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 béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and
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Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Basic Books
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Nate I really enjoyed it!
The mathematics explanations are very straight forward despite dealing with college level mathematics. The writing is funny and…more
I really enjoyed it!
The mathematics explanations are very straight forward despite dealing with college level mathematics. The writing is funny and very human. I haven't tried the recipes so I can't help you there. (less)
Gabriela No, not really but it has interesting analogies between baking and math and there's some recipes.
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,239 ratings  ·  229 reviews


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Brian Clegg
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Popular maths books are the most difficult to make interesting to those beyond the hard core readers who are happy to spend their time on mathematical puzzles and diversions, and the reason this book gets four stars despite a couple of problems is that is one of the most original and insightful books on the nature of mathematics for the general reader that I've ever seen.

Rather than simply throw mathematical puzzles and diversions at us, or weird and wonderful numbers, Eugenia Cheng takes us on
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John
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good introduction to what Category Theory *is* and to what mathematics *is*. Lots of helpful examples of concepts, mostly through food and baking. It is important to note that this is *not* a cookery book. It is a book about mathematics that uses recipes for illumination.

The book has one major failing: it lacks a further reading section. It would be great if such a knowledgeable author could have provided a sign post on where to go next to learn more Category Theory. If it had an annotate
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Mark
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How to Bake Pi by Eugenia Cheng is a fascinating look at mathematics from an atypical perspective. In this work Eugenia shows how math is far larger, varied, and more encompassing than merely solving equations. She introduces each of her chapters with a "recipe" involving real food as an analogy to illustrate the points she makes.

In the early part of the book Eugenia describes how many people find math difficult and drop away at different stages. For some, arithmetic is hard. For other algebra
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Jerzy
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math
So far, it's a great exposition of the things I love about math, at (what seems to be) a very relatable level for people who don't love math.

The style is a bit choppy, often jumping from one metaphor to another without smooth transitions, but still it's an easy and pleasant read. The metaphors themselves (for math or its concepts) are excellent, and I will steal some next time I teach :)

p.27: "if you try and use complicated math for a situation that doesn't call for it, you'll think the math is
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Marco
Jan 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A jargon-free book about category theory? Wow! As a maths teacher with a passion for categories, I really had to read this book. The premise - comparing maths to cooking - and the diagrams inside the text seemed to certify that the essay was both fun and rigorous, so I had pretty high expectations when I started the reading.
What a disappointment I had! Though the author really seems to be bright, and surely does her best to expose herself and her personal life in order to provide real-life examp
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C
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hoped this book would teach me category theory. The book talked a lot ABOUT category theory but did not give any theorem, nor illustrate with a problem. It is as if it talked ABOUT addition but did not show you how to add 2 numbers, nor give you a summation problem and tell you if you did it correctly. The book repeats much basic information. It bored me and failed to illuminate its subject matter.
Marta
Rambling, boring, and teaches nothing. I gave up.
Barbara
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The math was a little interesting but the recipes deplorable.
Yodamom
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Math, bleh. I struggled to get through this. I read it in small increments and almost got excited about math from her level of enthusiasm. I suffer from math trauma and hoped this book could be a possible redo for my math spirit. I was lost in the system at school finishing only what was required (forced) on me to graduate. I bake an thought the connection would bring out the light bulbs in my head. The author did a good job of tying in the recipes with a mathematical concept. I could see some o ...more
Glen
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this to learn how to apply Category Theory to computer programming and came away a little disappointed. I expected to become friends with Category Theory, but I feel more like I just waved to it on the way to work.

But I loved that baking was used as an analogy for math! I had never seen even one math-baking analogy, but this book has hundreds of them which are at least as illuminating and engaging as any stereotypically male analogy commonly used to illustrate mathematical concepts. Makes
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Erik Ramsgaard
When you cook and bake, you are always looking at the ingredients, so it's easy to forget that the process with which you combine the ingredients is just as important. Maths isn't just about numbers (and variables, and shapes, and knots, and statements, ...). What you do with them is just as important. From the book: "There are many different ways of combining these simple ingredients [flour, butter, and water], and most of them will not result in puff pastry." The recipe for clotted cream only ...more
Chris Aldrich
While most of the book is material I've known for a long time, it's very well structured and presented in a clean and clear manner. Though a small portion is about category theory and gives some of the "flavor" of the subject, the majority is about how abstract mathematics works in general.

I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to have a clear picture of what mathematics really is or how it should be properly thought about and practiced (hint: it's not the pablum you memorized in high school or
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Text Addict
3 stars only because, surprisingly, it wasn't advanced enough for me. I really wish it had a bibliography. Her website has a few interesting items, though. (I disagree with her that university lectures are a waste of time - at least in the humanities.)
Alex Ott
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math, own-pbook
really, about 7/10... Good sci-pop book, but I would prefer to have condensed version of it...
Lex
Jun 13, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
Unfortunately math is not as much like pie or baking as I would have hoped from this title. I need someone to read this with me and translate it into english-major-ese for me.
Karen
Jun 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not really about baking, but there are a lot of cool anecdotes that make math sound logical and simple. I wish Ms. Chen was my high school math teacher, I might have actually cared about it.
Bryan Higgs
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
I have felt for a long time that we teach mathematics, especially in high school, in a way that fails to show what mathematics really is (it's not just about numbers, arithmetic, and, by extension, algebra). We tend to teach stuff that students do not relate to: "Two trains start at the same time from Chicago and New York City, and speeds of 30mph and 60mph, respectively. How long before they meet?" Why do we think that students care about such matters, and too often they seem contrived (and in ...more
James Swenson
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely engaging celebration (and defense) of research in pure mathematics. For math lovers, Eugenia Cheng, "the best young female category theorist in South Yorkshire" (p. 248), has prepared a tasty morsel on practically every page. And for those who aren't math lovers? "Whatever you think math is... let go of it now. This is going to be different." (p. 3, emphasis/ellipsis original) A few examples follow.

Flipping to a random page (22), I find the chapter title "Road Signs: Abstraction as
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Mark Schlatter
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
In the genre of general audience books that attempt to explain math, Eugenia Cheng has written an intriguing and often successful volume. Probably more than any other undertaking I've read, Cheng's book wonderfully and clearly describes what doing theoretical mathematics is like (especially on the algebraic side). She has a nice chapter on the benefits and pitfalls of logic, and she does an excellent job of illustrating the processes of abstraction and generalization, both with her cooking examp ...more
Bonny
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 perh
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Lara
Feb 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-2015
When I first saw a review of this book it sounded very intriguing. Then it took a couple of months to get from the library, and a few weeks to get around to reading it. My understanding is that the book was focused on explaining mathematical concepts using reference to food and cooking. There are a number of recipes, and recipes are used to explain some broad concepts. What I didn't realize is that this book is really about Category Theory of mathematics, or the effort to define math concepts in ...more
Kate
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic, mathematics
"When I read someone else's math, I always hope that the author will have included a reason and not just a proof." - Eugenia Cheng

Throughout this book, Cheng attempts to give reasons and not just proofs. I do have trouble deciphering proofs and Cheng makes the reader feel comfortable wherever his math has brought him to this point. She also has the hallmark of a great teacher--she explains the same math several different ways. This book is truly accessible whether you have degrees in mathematics
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Thomas
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read (eat) this book!

I can't believe how good this book is for illuminating what mathematics is. I have spent most of the past forty-five years trying to find the words to communicate what Eugenia Cheng has so masterfully done in this book. Whenever I get a chance in the future to talk about mathematics I will steal her metaphors and examples. I will also be recommending the book to all of my colleagues in education as well as students. I could not stop reading and wondered if sh
...more
Joyce
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, nonfiction, audio
I have less math than science in my educational background--but this is a fascinating book! If nothing else, it has elevated mathematics in my estimation. Honestly, Ching makes the topic intriguing and even edible with recipes included to illustrate points. Tavia Gilbert narrates and her voice invites us to appreciate, if not always fully comprehend, Ching's easy-to-follow points. (A new genre perhaps: math (or technical) books) with recipes? The tone is welcoming, the writing style and ideas ea ...more
Jaseem
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone in school, wanting to explore math a bit more.
Recommended to Jaseem by: Ramakrishnan Muthukrishnan
I didn't really like this book.

I finished the book in one go with a Starbucks mocha. Its a very light read and you can skip a lot of it without losing much. My everyday life involves a lot more math and category theory so I would often skip an entire section when she explains a concept which I am already familiar with. This happened a bit too often in the second half.

Her writing is lucid, jokes are funny and some of the references she makes were quite helpful (I ended up taking some notes as wel
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Bill Kasakoff
The author shows how cooking recipes are similar to mathematics. It is a cute way to explore concepts of mathematics, but I thought that it lacked a focus. It did not meet my idea of a well written book. I believe that the use of a professional editor could have made a significant improvement to this book.
Show
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friendly introduction of category theory and other mathematical concepts for the general public. Unfortunately not enough information was presented for me to have a better understanding of what category theory entails; the book definitely could benefit from an extra chapter on the topic.
Bookjazzer2010
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
It's been a LONG time since I've thought about mathematics. I enjoyed this author's enthusiasm and her joyful descriptions of math & cooking desserts.
David R.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unclassified
I didn't find this title compelling. The recipes and mathematics don't quite synch up.
Annie
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, 2015
I think that this book would be great as summer reading for a middle schooler - even a high schooler. This is not the book for someone who already has a respect for math.
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Around the Year i...: How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng 1 21 Mar 28, 2016 09:03AM  

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