Is Math Real?

How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics’ Deepest Truths

Coming Soon


By Eugenia Cheng

Formats and Prices




$38.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $30.00 $38.00 CAD
  2. ebook $18.99 $24.99 CAD

One of the world’s most creative mathematicians offers a new way to look at math—focusing on questions, not answers 

Where do we learn math: From rules in a textbook? From logic and deduction? Not really, according to mathematician Eugenia Cheng: we learn it from human curiosity—most importantly, from asking questions. This may come as a surprise to those who think that math is about finding the one right answer, or those who were told that the “dumb” question they asked just proved they were bad at math. But Cheng shows why people who ask questions like “Why does 1 + 1 = 2?” are at the very heart of the search for mathematical truth.  

Is Math Real? is a much-needed repudiation of the rigid ways we’re taught to do math, and a celebration of the true, curious spirit of the discipline. Written with intelligence and passion, Is Math Real? brings us math as we’ve never seen it before, revealing how profound insights can emerge from seemingly unlikely sources.   


  • “[An] entertaining foray into the more philosophical realms of mathematics… For the budding mathematician in the house, to say nothing of lovers of puzzles and enigmas.”—Kirkus
  • Is Math Real? is a generous tour of mathematics for anyone whose instincts tend less towards ‘Just tell me the answer’ and more towards ‘Wait, but why?’”—Jordan Ellenberg, author of Shape
  • “This book is a brilliant rebuttal to those who see math as only about right answers, rather than about creative discovery. In her singularly inviting style, Cheng digs deep to engage fundamental questions that others might dismiss. She masterfully uncovers what’s simply profound in the profoundly simple and demonstrates how math can help us express the nuance and the richness of our world.”—Francis Su, author of Mathematics for Human Flourishing
  • “In a delightfully accessible style, Eugenia Cheng invites us to move beyond the prototypical love-hate relationship with mathematics and embrace a unique appreciation of mathematics as tool for human flourishing. Escaping negative, socially engrained perspectives, Is Math Real? invites us on a journey of discovery and illuminates a path to joyfully embracing the mathematician in all of us.”—Talithia Williams, author of Power in Numbers

On Sale
Aug 15, 2023
Page Count
336 pages
Basic Books

Eugenia Cheng

About the Author

Eugenia Cheng is the scientist in residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Sheffield. The author of How to Bake Piand Beyond Infinity, she lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Learn more about this author