Erica Klarreich

Freelance Mathematics and Science Journalist

Berkeley, California

Erica Klarreich

My work has appeared in Quanta, Nature, New Scientist, Science News, and many other publications, and has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, and 2016 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."


All Is Not Fair in Cake-Cutting and Math

October 7, 2016 — A pair of computer scientists recently settled one of the key questions in the theory of fair division: How can you allocate cake slices among a group of people in such a way that no one envies anyone else? Yet envy-freeness is just one of several competing notions of fairness. It’s all well and good to divide a cake in a way that won’t produce envy, but you might instead want to find an “efficient” allocation, one that can’t be improved for anyone without harming someone else.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too

October 6, 2016 — Two young computer scientists have figured out how to fairly divide cake among any number of people, setting to rest a problem mathematicians have struggled with for decades. Their work has startled many researchers who believed that such a fair-division protocol was probably impossible. People have known at least since biblical times that there’s a way to divide such an object between two people so that neither person envies the other: one person cuts the cake into two slices that she values equally, and the other person gets to choose her favorite slice.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

Math Shall Set You Free—From Envy

May 1, 2014 — Maegan Ayers and her then-boyfriend, Nathan Socha, faced a dilemma in the fall of 2009. They had found the perfect little condo for sale in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain: on the ground floor, just a mile from the nearest “T” train station, and close by Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a seven-mile chain of parks and bike paths.
Nautilus Link to Story

Privacy by the Numbers: A New Approach to Safeguarding Data

December 10, 2012 — In 1997, when Massachusetts began making health records of state employees available to medical researchers, the government removed patients’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. William Weld, then the governor, assured the public that identifying individual patients in the records would be impossible.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

An Uncertain Prognosis for Medicare Auctions: Part II

June 23, 2012
SIAM News Link to Story

An Uncertain Prognosis for Medicare Auctions: Part I

May 18, 2012 — In 1997, in an attempt to rein in the spiraling costs of health care, the U.S. Congress instructed Medicare to implement a competitive bidding process for suppliers of durable medical equipment---things like hospital beds, walkers, and oxygen tanks. Decades of research and practical demonstrations had suggested that the government could get a lot more bang for its buck by replacing its longstanding fee schedules with competitive auctions.
SIAM News Link to Story

Generous Players

July 24, 2004 — Game theory explores the Golden Rule's place in biology.
Science News Link to Story

The Mathematics of Strategy

January 1, 2004 — What does it mean to behave rationally? This question sounds like a problem for philosophers. Yet mathematicians also have something to say about it. In the last few decades, game theory—the mathematical study of strategies and decision-making—has shed crucial light on the nature of rational behavior.
Classics of the Scientific Literature Link to Story

Best Guess

October 8, 2003 — Economists explore betting markets as prediction tools.
Science News Link to Story

Sold to the Latest Bidder

March 30, 2003 — Anyone who has bid in more than a handful of eBay online auctions has probably run into the phenomenon called "sniping," in which bidders place their bids in the last few seconds of an auction, leaving rivals no time to respond. To bidders who have had coveted items snatched away during the final ticks of the auction clock, snipers are predatory monsters who take unfair advantage of the auction rules.
SIAM News Link to Story

Election Selection

November 2, 2002 — Are we using the worst voting procedure?
Science News Link to Story

The Bidding Game

June 1, 2002 — In July, 1992 in the ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., a most unusual auction was in progress.
National Academy of Science Link to Story


Erica Klarreich

I have been writing about mathematics and science for a popular audience for more than fifteen years. A mathematician before I became a full-time journalist, I try to convey the essence of complex mathematical ideas to non-mathematicians, and give them a sense of the beauty and depth of mathematics.

I also enjoy plunging into topics far from my mathematical roots, and have written about fields such as economics, computer science, medicine, and biology — often as these fields relate to mathematics, but often simply for their own sake.

As a freelance journalist based in Berkeley, California, I have written for many publications, including Nature, Quanta Magazine,, New Scientist, American Scientist,, Nautilus, and Science News, for which I was the mathematics correspondent for several years. I was also the Journalist in Residence at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. My work has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, and 2016 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."

I am a graduate of the science writing program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and I have a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stony Brook University.

For the Fall 2016 semester, I am the Journalist in Residence at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact me at

Follow me on Twitter at @EricaKlarreich