2021 Mathical Winners Announced

2021 Mathical Book Award Winners for Ages 2-18

Berkeley, CA – February 9, 2021  Are arguments about who got the bigger snack portion, or toys (not kids, of course) that just aren’t ready for bed yet a regular feature in your family life? Or perhaps the tweens and teens around you would prefer to curl up with a good book featuring colorful Indian folktales, space travel, or stories of groundbreaking women and men in science. This year’s Mathical Book Prize winners offer young people of all ages unique ways to explore scientific and mathematical ideas in the world around them.

The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) announced the 2021 winners today of the Mathical Book Prize, which recognizes outstanding fiction and literary nonfiction for youth ages 2-18.  The announcement takes place as part of a series of online events leading up to the 2021 National Math Festival, and features all five of this year’s Mathical Award recipients reading selections from their winning books, published in 2020.

The Mathical Prize, now in its seventh year, is selected annually by a committee of PreK-12 teachers, librarians, mathematicians, early childhood experts, and others. This year’s honorees include the following:

For Pre-Kindergarten, the Mathical Award Winner is Lia & Luís: Who Has More?, by Ana Crespo (Charlesbridge).

For Grades K-2, the Mathical Award Winner is The Animals Would Not Sleep, by Sara Levine (Charlesbridge).

For Grades 3-5, the Mathical Award Winner is Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, by Rajani LaRocca (Lee & Low Books).

For Grades 6-8, the Mathical Award Winner is How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco (Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s Books).

For Grades 9-12, the Mathical Award Winner is Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math, by Jeannine Atkins (Simon & Schuster).

The following Mathical Honor Books were also announced by the selection committee, co-chaired this year by Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird, collection development manager of the Evanston (IL) Public Library system and reviewer for Kirkus and the New York Times, and Dr. Candice Price, assistant professor of mathematics at Smith College and co-founder of the website Mathematically Gifted and Black.

PreK: One is a Piñata: A Book of Numbers, by Roseanne Greenfield Thong (Chronicle Books)

Grades K-2: Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book about Building, by Kurt Cyrus (Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers); Bird Count, by Susan Edwards Richmond (Peachtree); and Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician, by Lesa Cline-Ransom (Simon & Schuster)

Grades 3-5: Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, by Laurie Wallmark (Chreston Books); Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented, by Tanya Lee Stone (Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers)

Grades 6-8: Can You Crack the Code?: A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography, by Ella Schwartz (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Grades 9-12: David Blackwell and the Deadliest Duel, by Robert Black (Royal Fireworks Press); It’s a Numberful World: How Math Is Hiding Everywhere, by Eddie Woo (The Experiment Publishing)

2021 Mathical Honor Books


The Mathical Book Prize is awarded by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and in coordination with the Children’s Book Council (CBC). 

The Mathical Book Prize is made possible through the generous support of the Firedoll Foundation and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.

MSRI partners with organizations including First Book, School Library Journal, the Books for Kids Foundation, and others to distribute Mathical titles nationally to children in need.

Additional resources to support educators, librarians, and families can be accessed at mathicalbooks.org.

About MSRI: The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) is one of the world’s preeminent centers for collaborative research in mathematics. Located in Berkeley, California, MSRI’s mission is to advance mathematical research, foster talent, and further the appreciation of mathematics. MSRI strives to make mathematics accessible and exciting to those outside the field through the National Math Festival, sponsorship of Numberphile (YouTube’s most popular informal mathematics channel, with over 3.6 million subscribers), film production for public television, and the Mathical Book Prize. www.msri.org

Mathical Supporters Kit

Resources for media, educators, and librarians to use to promote and feature Mathical award winners in kids’ reading programs can be found in the 2021 Mathical Book Prize Media Kit.


Jennifer Murawski, jmurawski@msri.org
Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)