Dr. Cheng tells Colbert: “I’m not a Calculator; I’m a Mathematician”

A segment on the Late Show last night combined three subjects that always hold my attention:  Stephen Colbert, education, and books. Colbert was hosting Dr. Eugenia Cheng, who lectures in the field of pure mathematics at the University of Sheffield. She was promoting her new book How to Bake Pi, an introduction of the beauty and logic of mathematics–especially geared to the math phobic— through insights gained from the kitchen.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TT1VLSG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1

I’m putting the book at the top of my reading list  and will download it on Kindle today! As one who is infinitely more at home in the world of words, the land of figures eludes me to the point that I can’t even remember my cell phone number. But, I have no more given up on discovering the key to unlocking the mysteries of math than I have given up on finding the magic formula for weight loss. It must be out there somewhere, and maybe this is the one.

What attracted me most to How to Bake Pi was  not the prospect of learning the relevance of numbers to recipes. Rather, it was a comment that Cheng made to Colbert, which revealed her educational mindset on mathematics–a mindset that we need to adopt in our schools as we help kids make sense of the world through numbers.

During the segment, Colbert tried to show off by adding a complicated series of exponents in his head. When he asked, “Is that right?” Cheng responded,

“How should I know? I’m not a calculator. I’m a mathematician.”

Colbert asked, “How did you get the answer?”

Cheng said, “I looked it up on my phone before the show.”

Colbert then admitted he had done the same thing.

I love this lady! Let’s put her in charge of our educational system in North Carolina.

I’ll let you know when I finish reading the book. It may be one to put on your Christmas list for a math phobic friend.

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