Winter Break Reading: Baking and Math

Sierpinski cookies. Oh yes. Image: Lenore Edman, via Flickr.

Sierpinski cookies. Image: Lenore Edman, via Flickr.

If you, like me, like both food and math, then maybe you should check out Yen Duong’s blog Baking and Math. Duong is a graduate student studying geometric group theory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her blog mostly consists of expository math posts and interesting recipes, but there are also some more reflective posts about being a mathematician and more specifically a woman in math. The blog is about a year old now, and her blogiversary post from November rounds up some of the highlights.

Some of my favorite posts:

On failure and coconut chocolate chip cookies. “I failed at these cookies. I fail at math sometimes. I am not a failure of a person, and while I enjoy baking and math, being great at either of them does not define me as a person.” I am writing this post after grading my final exams. The exam was hard, and I hope any of my students who are disappointed in their performance on the final know that they are not their grade on a math test! (In a related vein, Francis Su’s blog post about the lesson of grace in teaching really helped me think about how I communicate to my students that I care about them as people.)

A reaction to being a woman in math. “When I’m a super-minority (as in the only person with a particular characteristic in an otherwise homogenous situation), I feel a burden of responsibility to represent whatever that minority is: woman, mathematician, non-white person.” I definitely feel that burden sometimes when I am the only woman in a group of mathematicians!

On inaccessibility and why we do math. When an explanation of math is unclear, people are very ready to blame themselves rather than the source of the explanation, and it’s not always justified. I found myself nodding along as I read this post. Sometimes people tell me that my blog posts are good but they’re way over their heads. I think it’s meant as a compliment, but my goal is to make the posts accessible to most people who care to read them!

The three-part series about the curve complex, culminating in a proof that it is connected!

Chia chews. Duong doesn’t just make easy recipes like chocolate chip cookies. She also tries more daring stuff like making her own energy chews for workouts and running mini-triathlons!

I’d like to see baking and math combined a little more on the blog. I’m holding out hope that she will bake a model of the curve complex, mostly because I want to find out what locally infinite confections taste like! OK, that was just a ridiculous geometric group theory joke. I think the groanworthy puns in her recipes are going to my head! I’d better step away from the computer and make myself some banana pudding, even though it’s a “high-whisk investment.”

If I had all these things, I would make banana pudding. Image: Yen Duong.

If I had all these things, I would make banana pudding. Image: Yen Duong.

This entry was posted in Math Education, Theoretical Mathematics, women in math and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

yyyOne Response to Winter Break Reading: Baking and Math

  1. Teresa Ryan says:

    I love your posts. Sometimes they are over my head. I love mathematics and I wish I had the time to research, and study more. I will continue to read your posts and hope that until I have the time to learn, that some of it will sink in by osmosis. Thank you for writing and for challenging me and other women to strive to be the best we can be.

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