The Math Kids: An Incorrect Solution (The Math Kids #5) by David Cole

with illustrations by Shannon O’Toole.

The Math Kids are starting fifth grade in a pretty glum mood. Not only are they not all in the same class any longer, but the boys, Justin and Jordan, have been stuck with a teacher known as Miller the Killer, who has no love for math and barely teaches it. When Justin and Jordan try to inject a little more of their favorite subject into the rest of their classes, Mr Miller gets punishment-happy, and poor Jordan gets saddled with both bad grades and two weeks of detention. Justin hatches a grand plan to make Mr Miller start liking math, even as the girls stand up to the bullies in their own classroom. But it’s another bully who catches Justin’s eye, and leads him to a crisis of conscience. Can our four heroes use their math skills to solve these seemingly impossible problems? After all, not even the Millennium Prizes problems could remain unsolved forever.

This was a charming middle-grade novel that deftly incorporates math into everyday life, not only providing brain teasers for young (and older) readers to enjoy, but also teaching brand new techniques for solving math problems. I wasn’t familiar with the lattice method of multiplication before this book and while I’m old enough to be more comfortable continuing to use the old-fashioned form of multiplication for large digit numbers, I will absolutely use the mind-bending percentage tricks explained here in future! I really need to hand a copy of this book to my fifth-grader who also loves math and brain teasers, which is about the highest compliment I can hand out to any book for younger readers I come across nowadays.

Math aside, I really enjoyed the diversity on display here, as well as the overall very responsible way David Cole deals with issues of child abuse. While the book is written in a manner perfect for its intended audience, it also carries a perhaps surprising amount of depth and sophistication, folding in lessons in history, literature and sociology along the way. Shannon O’Toole’s illustrations bring the characters and story to life so vividly, as well.

Highly recommended for anyone in the family who loves math and puzzles, or for anyone whose interest in same you think could use a little piquing.

The Math Kids: An Incorrect Solution by David Cole was published October 7 2021 by Common Deer Press and is available here and from select retailers.

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