A user friendly introduction to math

For people who got scared of math in a school or college when it was taught in a such a way when no curiosity is fostered it is easy to dislike math. But if you still want to give math a try or even curious about mathematics then the How To Bake Pi book by Eugenia Cheng is maybe what you need.

This book is a gentle introduction to a wide audience of the Category Theory which is a part of pure mathematics. It does not require from a reader to be a math expert, but it does require at least a certain interest in math. Each chapter of the book starts with a recipe, usually related to pastries and then proceeds at looking how that recipe could be related to some aspect of mathematics in the first part of the book and to some aspect of Category Theory in the second part of the book.

What I particularly like about this Eugenia’s book is that it talks about sets, rings, groups and categories which are advanced concepts in math, but it is able to explain them in a friendly manner, by providing real world related examples and analogies. For example, she reminded a reader about how it’s possible to use a Pythagoras’s theorem to calculate a vertical and horizontal distances that a ‘real’ taxi cab travels in a city.

What I found most interesting to myself is her layered model of mathematical thinking that consists of three parts: knowledge, understanding and belief. Where understanding is in the middle and binds together knowledge and belief. Put in her own words:

We have knowledge, which is what the outside world sees, belief, which is what we feel inside ourselves, and understanding, which holds them together.

Cheng, Eugenia. How To Bake Pi. Profile Books, 2016: p. 272

What is interesting that Eugenia Cheng has written recently a new book on Category Theory which builds upon the foundations she laid in the How To Bake Pi book. The new book is The Joy Of Abstraction and it can be seen as a textbook for Category Theory presented in a user friendly manner that very much retains the spirit of How To Bake Pi.


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