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Cakes, Custard & Category Theory: Culinary approach to maths

Press Trust Of India

First published: August 27, 2015, 4:52 PM IST | Updated: August 27, 2015
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Cakes, Custard & Category Theory: Culinary approach to maths
According to Cheng, a senior lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University of Sheffield, many people are either afraid of maths, or baffled by it, or both.

New Delhi: Cooking can be an answer to simplifying mathematics, says a new book which tries to whet the appetite of maths whizzes and arithmophobes alike with recipes and puzzles.

From simple numeracy to category theory ('the mathematics of mathematics'), maths crusader Eugenia Cheng prescribes easy recipes for understanding complex arithmetic in her book "Cake, Custard and Category Theory".

Calling on a baker's dozen of entertaining, puzzling examples and mathematically illuminating culinary analogies - including chocolate brownies, iterated Battenberg cakes, sandwiches, Yorkshire puddings and Mobius bagels - Cheng tells readers why everyone should love maths.

So what on earth does a recipe have to do with maths? "You might think that rice cookers are for cooking rice. This is true, but this same piece of equipment can be used for other things as well: making clotted cream, cooking vegetables, steaming a chicken. Likewise, maths is about numbers, but it's about many things as well - getting the right answer, putting ideas together and so on," she says in the book, published by Hachette India.

According to Cheng, a senior lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University of Sheffield, many people are either afraid of maths, or baffled by it, or both.

"Or they were completely turned off it by their lessons at school. I understand this - I was completely turned off sport by my lessons at school, and have never really recovered. I was so bad at sport at school, my teachers were incredulous that anybody so bad at sport could exist. And yet I'm quite fit now, and I have even run the New York marathon," he writes.

She says 'category theory' which can be thought of as the 'mathematics of mathematics' is about relationships, contexts, processes, principles, structures, cakes and custard.

"Yes, even custard. Because mathematics is about drawing analogies… including custard, cake, pie, pastry, doughnuts, bagels, mayonnaise, yoghurt, lasagne and sushi."

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