The Math Kids: An Incorrect Solution
The Math Kids: An Incorrect Solution
On Saturday morning, the Math Kids met for the first time since school had started. They had a lot of catching up to do.
“So Justin gets up in front of the class and teaches them how to do percentages, and Mr. Miller sits in his chair and grins,” Jordan said. “I try to teach multiplication and I end up with two weeks of detention. I ask you, where is the fairness in that?”
“Life is cruel, my friend,” Justin said. He reached for the last glazed doughnut, only to have Jordan snatch it away at the last second.
“Hey, I was going to eat that,” Justin protested.
“Life is indeed cruel, my friend,” Jordan said. He stuffed half of the doughnut into his mouth. Glaze covered his lips and small pieces of doughnut dropped onto the floor.
“That is gross, Jordan,” Stephanie said. “Funny, but gross.”
Catherine asked, “Has Mr. Miller gotten any better?”
“Not much,” Justin said, “but we’re working on it.” He went on to explain Operation M and M.
“Do you really think it will work?” Catherine asked. She sounded doubtful.
“So far, so good,” Justin responded. “But we’ve still got a long way to go.”
“How are things with Mrs. Wilson?” Jordan asked.
“She’s okay, I guess,” Stephanie said.
“That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.”
“But it’s not really her that’s the problem,” she said.
“Let me guess,” Jordan said. “Is it Dylan Carmen?”
Stephanie nodded emphatically. “How can he be such a jerk all the time?” (p. 84)
The Math Kids are back at school and starting grade 5, but there are many reasons not to be happy. They all love school and do well, but this year Justin, Jordan, Stephanie and Catherine have different teachers and are not together in class. The girls are with Mrs. Wilson, and Justin and Jordan are with Mr. Miller who is not only grumpy but hates math. He doesn't even have math groups and only teaches the basics. The group has to do most of their work on their own time, with their biggest problem not necessarily a math problem. The boys decide that there must be a way to get to know Mr. Miller better and, hopefully, help him realize how important and how much fun math can be.
While they work on this problem, another presents itself that may be more difficult to handle. Jordan sees Robbie, one of the school bullies, standing with his dad, a police officer. Mr. Colson is angry, and Robbie seems afraid of him. Jordan remembers seeing bruises on Robbie and wonders if Robbie’s father is the cause. Jordan needs to find a way to help Robbie if he can.
Both problems seem to contain no math skills at all, but the kids soon realize that is not true. When Mr. Miller’s son is falsely charged with speeding and reckless driving by Mr. Colson in response to Mr. Miller’s treatment of Robbie, the Math Kids use their skills to find a solution. This solution also helps them solve Robbie’s problem with his dad. And just like a domino effect, Robbie quits bullying the Math Kids, and Stephanie and Catherine are moved to Mr. Miller’s class where Mr. Miller has found a new respect for math.
Just like David Cole’s previous novels about the Math Kids, this novel has a plot that keeps the reader entertained from the first word to the last. There are many twists and turns for the Math Kids as they try to solve the problems. As readers follow the kids on their problem solving adventure, they are given the chance to solve math problems, learn some world history and find an easier way to do multiplication with multiple digits. There is often more than one way to do a math problem. For parents and teachers, there is an appendix with information on types of child abuse and signs to watch for if you suspect a child is being abused. The game “Prisoner’s Dilemma” is described and is a really interesting cooperative game. The book Stephanie is reading is an actual book, and Cole discusses the fact that it is a book about important inventions by women. And there is so much more.
The Math Kids: An Incorrect Solution is an exceptional read, and, while all the novels in this series have been excellent, this one is my favourite.
Elaine Fuhr is a retired teacher from Alberta.