Do the Math: Secrets, Lies and Algebra

By Wendy Lichtman 2007

Source: Library

I like the idea of a mystery intertwined with a few math concepts. Yet, the math is not too deep to turn off the reader. This story is more about the way the main character thinks about life or tries to make sense of life. The main character, Tess, tries to unravel a few mysteries such as a possible suicide, a stolen test, and suspicious high test scores while she deals with annoying girlfriends, parents, boys and other teenage issues. Basically, she tries to make sense of it all by relating to what she knows --- math. Sometimes, the answers do not always balance.

Overall, I liked Do the Math: Secret, Lies, and Algebra. It has a good plot, but it left me with some reservations. For instance, I liked the chapter on graphs. Tess had overheard about the mysterious death of a woman dying of carbon monoxide in her garage. Of course, since Tess was a child, she was sent to her room to do her math homework. Well, she could not concentrate on the assignment to draw a particular graph and instead found herself drawing graphs showing two different possibilities on how the person possibly died using math terminology. Then when her thoughts were interrupted by her father entering the house, she rips the paper into many itty bitty pieces and redraws a less disturbing and appropriate graph. I thought the graphs were tied nicely into the story and the concept explained, but the subject matter of suicide bothered me.

If that does not bother you, and the students are older you may consider reading a chapter a day to your class. Although it has a story line, in my opinion, each chapter can stand alone if you just wanted to read a chapter to introduce a particular math concept. Personally, this is the approach I would use because there are chapters that are quite amusing such as Percentages and Prime Numbers. The complete Table of Contents is below.

Chapter

1
.Inequalities

2
..Graphs

3
..Tangents

4
..DNE

5
..Circular Thinking

6
..Venn Diagrams

7
..The Difference Between Axioms and Theorems

8
..Zero

9
..Percentages

10
The Quadratic Equation

11
Parallel Lines

12
A Complete Circle

13
The Number Line

14
Prime Numbers

15
One More DNE

16
Imaginary Numbers

17
.The Additive Property of Equality

18
Extraneous Solutions

19
Asymptotes, Non-Euclidean Geometry and Other Things

20
Lines and Line Segments

21
Exponents

22
Infinity

Literature and Math make a great learning tool. Try introducing literature in your math class. We all like a good story. Most of all, we remember stories.

If you have any book suggestions, please send them via the comment page.