This book is delightful. Dr Cheng illustrates the basic structures of mathematics through her deconstruction of familiar recipes, laying a foundation of ideas that moves through school mathematics and into the abstract ideas of category theory. Through her stories and analogies, she brings a joy and lightness to the mathematics that we encounter both in a classroom and in the world that surrounds us, exposing the beauty of math for all to find.
It’s not about learning math that we might use someday, but about drawing our attention to the math that is a part of everything we do. If we understand the structures, we gain a freedom to push the boundaries, whether it’s in the kitchen or in our mathematical studies:
“The point is that if you understand the principle behind a process rather than just memorizing the process, you will be much more in control of the situation, better able to fix it when it goes wrong, in a better position to modify the process for different purposes, and better able to cope in extreme situations such as missing ingredients, broken equipment, drunkenness . . .” (p 46)
Math should be accessible to everyone, and as teachers we should be looking to assist our students in finding the illuminating reasons that exist between belief and the rules. This book has reinforced my love of basic algebraic principles and has pushed me to find my own analogies of where these exist in my everyday life.
Review by Susan Robinson