The following review of 2020 Mathical Award Winner Solving for M by Jennifer Swender was submitted by Mathical Selection Committee member Mike Shaughnessy.
Newly minted 5th grader Mika is about to encounter two enormous challenges, one in school and the other at home. A lover of drawing and art but never very big on math, Mika listens suspiciously as Mr. Vann announces that the class will create math journals. Journals in math class, really? At the same time Mika finds out that her mom is very ill and will need some intensive treatment. Mr. Vann’s clever journal prompts enable Mika to rely on her art as she begins to discover her mathematical voice. “Explain your thinking using words, numbers, and/or pictures,” Mr. Vann always says. With each successive journal prompt the reader increasingly wonders, What will Mika do with this one? Imagine a page turner about a 5th grade math class!
“Imagine a page turner about a 5th grade math class!”
Mika’s journal entries demonstrate her growth in understanding a multitude of mathematical concepts and procedures such as time, measurement, fractions, variables, the number line, operations, data and shapes. Author Jennifer Swender artfully sweeps us into Mika’s world, as she is empowered to merge her artwork with her math, but also to use it to cope with and understand her mother’s illness.
Solving for M
By Jennifer Swender
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019
2020 Mathical Award Winner, Grades 3-5
Mike Shaughnessy is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics at Portland State University and past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).