Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng

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Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Whatever your preconceived notions on the subject, this brilliant book will leave you thinking maths can be as easy as pi
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Profile Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781252888

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Eugenia Cheng is a professor of maths and a lover of cake. If you’re wondering how those two things could ever intersect, it’s quite easy. And the result, the middle of the Venn diagram, if you will, is this book which makes maths fun, meaningful and relatively easy to digest. Much like her recipes.

I love a good, geeky maths book, and as I’m partial to the odd cake (or five) too, this book could have been written just for me. Linking the two themes, Cheng takes a logical (of course) approach to explaining some of the basic and not so basic concepts of maths, and what this means in the real world. I’ve lost count of the number of times I told people about this book when I first started reading it, parroting all sorts of examples from how you can ‘extrapolate’ your baking (so you only need one recipe for pie, not individual ones for apple, blackberry or cherry) to how there’s two ways to start to cook, or do maths, one where your ingredients inspire you and one where your equipment does.

I did maths to GCSE level, bagged an A* and now work in a VERY numerate job, but I’ve not had any formal training beyond age 16. For the most part, the concepts were familiar to me in that vague way old school work is, but although I remembered them and understood them again, the author’s explanations were brilliant and I couldn’t help but think how much further I might have got had I had this book at the time. It’s not aimed at year 11s, per se, but if you can convince them to read it I think it could be a big help in getting to grips with concepts that can just seem so remote and detached from real life when you learn them in school.

One of the things I love about maths is how it’s universal. I spent a week at school in Germany as a teenager and remember that, aside from English class, maths was the one I could most easily keep up with, even providing the answer to a quadratic equation based question (entweder a oder c muß null sein or words to that effect). This book shows that not only is maths maths, wherever you are in the world, but sometimes the world is maths too.

There’s lots of things that keep this book from being dry: the examples, the illustrations, the recipes. Ultimately, though, it’s the voice. Friendly, approachable, encouraging, non-judgemental. In the blurb we learn the author’s dream is to rid the world of maths phobia and this book is a great start. I was a friend of maths before and now I’m a lover but even if you’re just brief nod-hello-in-the-street acquaintances for now, this book will surely help improve your relationship with the devilish subject, and you’ll certainly pick up some fun recipes along the way.

Highly recommended, there’s not a thing I would change here. Two very big thumbs up for a book that truly does make maths seem as easy as pi.

Thanks go to the publishers for sending us a copy.

After inventive maths fun for all ages? This is Not a Maths Book by Anna Weltman and I Used to Know That: Maths by Chris Waring are worth a look.

Buy Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy recipes for understanding complex maths by Eugenia Cheng at Amazon.com.


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