How to Bake Pi (Paperback)

An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

By Eugenia Cheng

Basic Books, 9780465097678, 304pp.

Publication Date: May 10, 2016

List Price: 16.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


"Whimsical...rigorous and insightful." -- New York Times Book Review

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 how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number five, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. At the heart of it all is Cheng's work on category theory, a cutting-edge "mathematics of mathematics," that is about figuring out how math works.

Combined with her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and true zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math is a funny journey through a vast territory no popular book on math has explored before. So, what is math? Let's look for the answer in the kitchen.

About the Author

Eugenia Cheng is tenured in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield. She is the Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she currently lives.

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

"[Cheng's] book, a very gentle introduction to the main ideas of mathematics in general and category theory in particular, exudes enthusiasm for mathematics, teaching, and creative recipes. Category theory is dangerously abstract, but Cheng's writing is down-to-earth and friendly. She's the kind of person you'd want to talk to at a party, whether about math, food, music, or just the weather.... Cheng's cheerful, accessible writing and colorful examples make How to Bake Pi an entertaining introduction to the fundamentals of abstract mathematical thinking."—Evelyn Lamb, Scientific American's Roots of Unity blog

slyly illuminating dispatch on the deep meaning of mathematics.... Cheng
manages to do for us what the mathematician Keith Devlin has said
mathematicians do for themselves: she compels us to see numbers and symbols as
vivid characters in an ongoing drama, a narrative in which we are alternately
observers and participants."—Natalie Angier, The American Scholar

entertaining...frequently illuminating.... [How to Bake Pi] offers
enough nourishment for the brain to chew on for a long time."—Columbus Dispatch

"In her new book, How to Bake Pi, mathematician/baker Eugenia Cheng offers a novel, mathematical approach to cooking.... How to Bake Pi is more than a mathematically-minded cookbook. It is just as much a book about mathematical theory and how we learn it. The premise at the heart of the book is that the problem that stops a cookbook from teaching us how to cook is the same problem that makes math classes so bad at actually teaching us to do math."—Ria Misra, io9

never quite overeggs her metaphor of the mathematician as chef...and her tone
is clear, clever and friendly. Even at her most whimsical she is rigorous and
insightful. Potentially confusing ideas are expressed with a matter-of-fact
simplicity.... How to Bake Pi is a welcome addition to the popular-math
shelf, unusual not only because of its quirky premise but also because Cheng is
a woman, a lucid and nimble expositor, and unashamedly proud of her domestic
obsessions.... It would be wonderful if this book attracted a new audience to
the field. And there's no better ambassador (or dinner-party host, I'd wager)
than Eugenia Cheng."—Alex Bellos, New York Times Book Review

"Combined with infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi...will dazzle, amuse, and enlighten."
Gambit Weekly

plenty of examples from cooking and baking, as well as other everyday-life
situations such as calculating a taxi fare, searching for love through online
dating services and training for a marathon, [Cheng] explains abstract
mathematical ideas--including topology and logic--in understandable ways....
Her lively, accessible book demonstrates how important and intriguing such a
pursuit can be."—Scientific American

"This is the best book imaginable to introduce someone who doesn't think they are interested in mathematics at all to some of the deep ideas of category theory, especially if they like to bake."—MAA Reviews

each chapter with a recipe, Cheng converts the making of lasagna, pudding,
cookies, and other comestibles into analogies illuminating the mathematical
enterprise. Though these culinary analogies teach readers about particular
mathematical principles and processes, they ultimately point toward the
fundamental character of mathematics as a system of logic, a system presenting
daunting difficulties yet offering rare power to make life easier. Despite her
zeal for mathematical logic, Cheng recognizes that such logic begins in
faith--irrational faith--and ultimately requires poetry and art to complement
its findings. A singular humanization of the mathematical project."—Booklist, starred review

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."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"With this delightfully surprising book, Eugenia Cheng reveals the hidden beauty of mathematics with passion and simplicity. After reading How to Bake Pi, you won't look at math (nor porridge!) in the same way ever again."—Roberto Trotta, Astrophysicist, Imperial College London and author of The Edge of the Sky

is a lot like cooking. We start with the ingredients we have at hand, try to
cook up something tasty, and are sometimes surprised by the results. Does this
seem odd? Maybe in school all you got was stale leftovers! Try something
better: Eugenia Cheng is not only an excellent mathematician and pastry chef,
but a great writer, too."—John Baez, Professor of Math at the University of California, Riverside

clotted cream to category theory, neither cookery nor math are what you thought
they were. But deep down they're remarkably similar. A brilliant gourmet feast
of what math is really about."—Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, and author of Visions of Infinity and Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers

"An original book using recipes to explain sophisticated math concepts to students and even the math-phobic.... [Cheng] is a gifted teacher... A sharp, witty book to press on students and even the teachers of math teachers,"—Kirkus Reviews

well-written, easy-to-read book."—Library Journal

curious cookbook for the mathematical omnivore."—The Irish Times (Ireland)

Cheng's charming new book embeds math in a casing of wry, homespun metaphors:
math is like vegan brownies, math is like a subway map, math is like a messy
desk. Cheng is at home with math the way you're at home with brownies, maps,
and desks, and by the end of How to Bake Pi, you might be,
too."—Jordan Ellenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of How Not to Be Wrong

a charming and original book! The central analogy--math is like cooking--turns
out to be surprisingly apt and often funny. Light and tasty, yet so, so good
for you, How to Bake Pi is a real treat."—Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University and author of The Joy of x