According to the official website, today is International Day of Mathematics, a global celebration of math. And while math aficionados around the world will be celebrating in various ways, we here at the Mixed-Up Files are commemorating the day by highlighting a few of our favorite middle-grade novels that showcase math in a literary way. If you have a favorite middle-grade math novel, let us know in the comments section. (Mouse over the titles for purchasing information.)
Violet and the Pie of Life by D.L. Green
Twelve-year-old Violet has two great loves in her life: math and pie. And she loves her parents, even though her mom never stops nagging and her dad can be unreliable. Mom plus Dad doesn’t equal perfection. Still, Violet knows her parents could solve their problems if they just applied simple math.
#1: Adjust the ratio of Mom’s nagging to her compliments.
#2: Multiply Dad’s funny stories by a factor of three.
#3: Add in romantic stuff wherever possible.
But when her dad walks out, Violet realizes that the odds do not look good. Why can’t her parents get along like popular, perfect Ally’s parents? Would it be better to have no dad at all, like her best friend, McKenzie? Violet is considering the data when she and Ally get cast in the school play, and McKenzie doesn’t–a probability that Violet never calculated. Maybe friendship and family have more variables than she thought. Filled with warmth, math-y humor, and delicious pie, this heartfelt middle grade read is perfect for fans of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Includes illustrated charts, graphs, and diagrams throughout.
All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall
Based on a true story, All of the Above is the delightful and suspenseful story of four inner city students and their quest to build the world’s largest tetrahedron.
Weaving together the different personal stories of the kids, their teacher, and the community that surrounds them, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has written a vividly engaging story about math, life, and good-tasting barbecue.
Filled with unexpected humor, poignant characters and quiet brilliance, All of the Above is a surprising gem.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
Lucy Callahan’s life was changed forever when she was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but the zap gave her genius-level math skills, and she’s been homeschooled ever since. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!
Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?
A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.
Solving for M by Jennifer Swender
When Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?
But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones.
Debut author Jennifer Swender delivers poignant prose and illustrator Jennifer Naalchigar brings Mika’s journal to life in this perfect equation of honesty plus hope that adds up to a heartwarming coming-of-age story.
Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill
Who are you, if you can’t be what you always expected? A moving coming-of-age tale of prodigy and community, unlikely friendship and growing things.
Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan has grown seven inches in the last eight months. She’s always been different from her twin brother, Thomas, but now she towers over him in too many ways. The gap in their interests continues to widen as well. Rose, who loves both music and math, is focused on winning the upcoming Bach Cello Suites Competition, while happy-go-lucky Thomas has taken up the challenge of growing a giant pumpkin in the yard of their elderly neighbor, Mr. Pickering. But when a serious accident changes the course of the summer, Rose is forced to grow and change in ways she never could have imagined.
Along the way there’s tap dancing and classic musicals, mail-order worms and neighborhood-sourced compost, fresh-squeezed lemonade, the Minnesota State Fair — and an eclectic cast of local characters that readers will fall in love with.
Secret Coders #1 by Gene Luen Yang, illus. by Mike Holmes
This is Book 1 of the series by Gene Luen Yang who was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2016 to 2018 and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what’s popularly known as the MacArthur “Genius” Grant.
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!
From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!
Numbed! by David Lubar
When Logan’s class takes a trip to a math museum, his mischievous friend Benedict is sure it will be a boring day―until he discovers a robot and its creator in an off-limits area. The robot proves feisty, and soon both boys get zapped. They realize only later that they’d left the museum without their math skills.
To get back the knowledge they need for school―not to mention buying food at the mall, divvying up dinner at home, and much more―they’ll have to get back to the museum and pass a series of math challenges. Being “numbed” teaches Logan and Benedict just how useful, and even fun, math can be.