Representatives from a dozen publishing houses joined Mathical Prize Coordinator Kirsten Bohl on January 23, 2018 for a Live Q&A Phone-In Session on the Mathical Book Prize. The meeting was hosted by the Children’s Book Council in New York City.
Here we share a few highlights:
“Math is about finding patterns. To mathematicians, it’s a very creative process. The prize is about sharing this creative excitement with kids and teens. The prize is based on a theory of learning in which books connect with a child or teen’s existing interests. There is an invitation to explore this chosen topic through a mathematical lens. After finishing a book, one mark of a winner is that young readers keep investigating. A group of first graders might want to write their own book on the same topic. A teen might want to dig deeper into the topic area of the book,” says Bohl.
Mathical titles are promoted through partnerships with organizations including First Book, which provides new books to children in need; and the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Selected winners are invited to speak at the National Math Festival, which brings 20,000 children and adults to Washington, DC every other spring.
MSRI would love to hear from publishers regarding their interest in live, online author events such as Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” Q&A forums.
“A perennial question is, ‘What is the committee looking for?'” says Bohl. “The Mathical Selection Committee includes mathematicians, but also PreK-12 teachers in both English and mathematics. Many of the books are shared and ‘road-tested’ with groups of kids during the selection process. First and foremost, a book should succeed in its own terms. If it’s a young adult novel, is the story gripping? If it’s a book of mathematical magic, is it immersive in the way of good nonfiction literature? Is it well written and well produced? Is the math a natural part of the storyline? Is the math fresh, interesting, and appealing to kids and teens? Will it spark pure enjoyment, which may lead to further exploration?”
During the Q&A session, Bohl noted the Mathical Prize is still fresh out of the gate, in its fourth year of awards. “We’re young. We’re learning. We value your suggestions,” she said. She offered to review offline the backlist titles of a publishing house to offer any suggestions or tips regarding submissions. She also noted in the 2018 submission process forward, that publishers are responsible for frontlist submissions; while the committee accepts backlist submissions (looking back 10 years) on a rolling basis. Books for middle and high school grades are an area of special interest, as the talent, variety, and excitement of mathy books written for these ages has yet to be fully reflected in the frontlist titles submitted by publishers.