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Publisher's Summary

What is math? And how exactly does it work? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic of mathematics - sprinkled throughout with recipes for everything from crispy duck to cornbread - that illustrates to the general listener the beauty of math. Rather than dwell on the math of our high school classes, with formulas to memorize and confusing symbols to decipher, Cheng takes us into a world of abstract mathematics, showing us how math can be so much more than we ever thought possible.

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.

©2015 Eugenia Cheng. Recorded by arrangement with Weinstein Books. (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"Tavia Gilbert narrates with a liveliness and lightness that one might not expect in a book about the world of mathematics.... Gilbert's lyrical narration, together with her deliberate speed as she delivers the formulas, brings clarity and a down-to-earth approach to this often intimidating subject matter." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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

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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

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • J.B.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 07-31-16

How To Think Mathematics

How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics, By Eugenia Cheng, narrated By Tavia Gilbert. That is because I am a novice in mathematics, but nevertheless, intrigued with obtaining a working knowledge of mathematics. (Have you ever wondered why there are effectively no synonyms for math?)

I thought maybe How to Bake Pi would teach me how to calculate. It was better, much better, as it is a layman’s guide to mathematical conceptualization. Does that sound boring? Dr. Cheng, has made it captivating.

If you have an expertise in math and want to conceptualize your methodology of functioning or you are simply wondering about how a mathematician goes about conceptualizing her/his job read this. Overall the teaching is not simple and definitely takes an academic’s desire to learn but wow it was fun (although I would need to read the book six more times to master its teaching).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anthony
  • Teaneck, NJ, USA
  • 03-24-16

Applying Mathematics to our world

Opened my mind to viewing mathematics like how I view science and philosophy. My cohort group was taught the "rules" to follow to get an answer not how and why these rules were developed. Expanded my mind and views on life. Not an easy listen but worth it if you have the inclination to read between the lines and get a better perspective of the world around us.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Evan
  • Honolulu, HI, United States
  • 08-01-16

This one blew me away.

I always thought of mathematics as a hard fact, absolute truth. Now i know its a human perception. I'm not doing it justice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good overview of the mathmatical thought process

This book was surprisingly enjoyable. It focuses on the thought process behind math, decoding the type of thinking that goes into the theories and equations that math produces. The concepts include simplification, abstraction, relations, building from other principles. It does this with a very inviting tone, presenting the idea, relating it to coming, providing some examples of how this is used in math, adding in an analogy or two and then recapping the concept. Very pleasant book, which in the last 3rd focuses on "category theory" which takes a 'structuralist' sort of approach to math.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting

I really liked the recipe examples. They helped a lot with understanding the concepts explained.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Booooooring

I am very disappointed with the author. Looked like a great approach, poor execution. It was painful.

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Category Theory for all

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, it's very accessible, and very fun to listen to, but also informative. Well at least if you know nothing about category theory. In fact very little understanding of mathematics at all is required, maybe a basic understanding of addition and multiplication. My girlfriend hates math and she enjoyed listening.

What was one of the most memorable moments of How to Bake Pi?

I'll have to think about that for a bit, but probably how she related the recipes to the mathematics.

Which character – as performed by Tavia Gilbert – was your favorite?

There was only the main character, the author.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There were some emotional moments, surprising given that this is predominately an informative book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Unsure of goal

I have a mathematics degree and teach high school math. I understood the content, however many times I wondered where the author was going. I had some insights along the way but less so as the book progressed.