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Workshop Spotlight: Dr. Eugenia Cheng

Workshop Spotlight | October 14, 2016

Renowned mathematician and author Dr. Eugenia Cheng was a special guest at MƒA last week, giving a talk to the MƒA community on high-level mathematics and how it can be appreciated at all levels of understanding. Dr. Cheng, known for her book “How to Bake Pi: Making Abstract Mathematics Palatable,” kicked off her presentation by sharing a fervent belief that trust of teachers is essential and that talented, well-trained teachers need to have autonomy of curricular and pedagogical choices. 

Dr. Cheng shared playful, smart examples of structures that weave themselves through everyday life and illuminate powerful mathematics. “It’s not always about strictly solving a problem or an equation,” Dr. Cheng said. Through unexpectedly connected examples from music, juggling, braiding, and baking, Dr. Cheng demonstrated that math can be made fun and intriguing for all. Dr. Cheng highlighted how flipping a mattress is comparable to the iterations of a Battenberg cake and how category theory plays a role in following instructions to make custard. “Mathematics is the logical study of how logical things work,” Dr. Cheng shared. “Category theory is the mathematics of mathematics – the logical study of the logical study of how logical things work.”

An engaging speaker, Dr. Cheng presented in front of a full house of MƒA teachers and colleagues in our auditorium space. “It's refreshing to hear from a mathematician why and how people with little math background can learn new math without dumbing it down,” said Amy Hogan, MƒA Master Teacher who attended the talk. “I’m excited to explore more on my own and delve into some category theory.”

During the Q&A which followed her presentations, Dr. Cheng was asked her opinion on topics from curriculum to the increased scrutiny over how and what exactly is being taught in today’s classrooms. “Leave things to the judgment of teachers,” she said. “Trust them to teach.”

Dr. Cheng returns to NYC in December for a talk at the Museum of Mathematics. “How to Bake Pi: Making Abstract Mathematics Palatable” is just one of the workshops we offer where outside content experts engage MƒA teachers at the cutting edge of their content area and/or pedagogical practice. Learn more about our course offerings.