The Math Kids: An Unusual Pattern
The Math Kids: An Unusual Pattern
Once again, we found ourselves walking down the long quiet corridor in the FBI field office. Agent Carlson held the door open for us as we entered the Cold Cases room. There was another agent in the room, but he had his back turned to us, so I couldn’t tell if it was Agent Perkins or Agent Wilson. Other than that, it was just Agent Carlson and us.
“So, what did you find?” he asked. “When I talked to Jordan a couple of weeks ago, he said you were getting close to a solution.”
“We figured out the poem,” I said. “You were right. Our math definitely helped out.”
“And?” the FBI agent prompted.
“Well, we found a phone number for the other bank robber,” Justin said. I went on to explain how we had solved the puzzle contained in the poem. Once again, it had been a team effort, with everyone contributing to the solution.
“You don’t sound very excited about figuring it out,” the agent said. “You understand that your work could put a dangerous criminal behind bars, don’t you?”
“That’s just it, Mr. Carlson,” Stephanie started. “We’re not sure that he is really a dangerous criminal.”
“But how can you know that just from his phone number?” he asked, looking at each of us closely. He saw something in our faces, because his own face became very serious. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Well, when we found out he lived in Fairfax…” Stephanie started.
“You didn’t go try to find him yourselves, did you?” Agent Carlson interrupted.
No one said anything at first, but I’m sure our faces gave us away. Finally, Catherine broke the silence.
“We were just going to go by to see what his house looked like,” she said. “But then we met his kids.”
“Wait! Are you telling me you went to his house? Do you know how dangerous that was?” he asked angrily. “This man robbed a bank at gunpoint. He knocked a security guard unconscious with a shotgun. He and his partner stole more than two million dollars. And you kids decided it was a good idea to just stroll by his house?” (Pp. 93-94)
Always ready for a challenge, the Math Kids Club, Justin, Stephanie, Jordan and Catherine, take on two cases this time. After successfully working with the FBI in the past, they are contacted by Agent Carlson who is hoping the kids can help them solve a bank robbery from years past that has become a cold case. The robbers have not been caught, but now one of them wants to confess on his death bed. He gives the FBI clues as to who his accomplice was, but his clues are found in a poem. Agent Carlson hopes the Math Kids, with their problem-solving skills, can pull the clues out of a poem that basically makes no sense.
Back at school and in the library after class, the kids are beginning to work on their new project when a very gruff older gentleman comes to the door and chases them out, refusing to allow the Math Kids Club to work after school. What has happened to their usual janitor, Old Mike, who always allowed them to work after school? Was he sick? It is not long before they find out that Old Mike has been fired under suspicion of theft. He has supposedly stolen a backpack from one locker and a phone from another. The kids know that this is impossible. Old Mike has worked at the school for a long time, and he would never do anything that would hurt a student. The Math Kids must prove that he did not commit the crime.
Needless to say, the mysteries are solved, but the Math Club kids go through many trials on their way to success. The unkind older man who takes Old Mike’s place develops a mistrust of them as they try to find a way to prove that Old Mike is not guilty. Some of their antics get them into trouble, and their trip to try to find the bank robber could have proven dangerous had they come face-to-face with him. Surprisingly, while they do not meet the robber, they meet his kids and soon learn that delaying judgement until all the information is in is an important lesson.
David Cole has written another excellent novel to encourage children to see the value of mathematics in everyday life and help them find the fun and reward of problem-solving. He includes the poem that the first bank robber gave the FBI so that each reader or group of readers can try to find the clues. Of course, the solution is supplied. The Math Club also works on codes, and, through this, readers can learn how to develop their own codes. Other science and general interest questions are included, helping students see that math is found in almost every facet of our lives. Cole shows his love for math and teaching children about mathematics in The Math Kids: An Unusual Pattern, an exciting novel that is not only useful in the classroom but will also allow students and their parents to work together during family reading time.
Elaine Fuhr, a retired teacher, lives in Alberta.