cover image How to Bake Π: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

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

Eugenia Cheng. Basic, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-465-05171-7

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. [em]Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (May) [/em]