Annika Riz, Math Whiz
written by Claudia Mills; pictures by Rob Shepperson
2014 (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Third grader Annika Riz loves math like other kids love video games. She even counts down the minutes until math class begins. With a father who teaches math and a mother who is a tax accountant, it's not surprising. Magnetic equations adorn the refrigerator. In the kitchen are salt and pepper shakers shaped like numerals. This is a serious number crunching family. On this particular day, Annika's teacher presents her with an appealing challenge. A citywide sudoku challenge for elementary school students is being hosted by the public library. The student with the correct answer in the fastest time will be the winner. Annika has a week to compete. Normally, a math challenge like this would keep all of Annika's attention, but this week is different. The annual Franklin School carnival is being held on Saturday. This leads to some errant cookie baking by Annika and her friends during the week leading up to the carnival. As Annika practices during the week, interesting questions develop. She wonders why her classmates don't like math as much as she does. When she finds out the result of the contest while attending the carnival, it's a bittersweet conclusion to her efforts. This is one big reason why I like this series of books. There are loose ends here as well as in the previous book, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen. Like real life, there are questions that linger and are not neatly answered. I also like the focus on math. Every year when we dismiss students for the year, what do we encourage them to do? Read over the summer! What about math? Shouldn't students be working on this as well? How often do we encourage new parents to do math with their young children? It's not that reading isn't important, but let's not push math to the side. With role models like Annika Riz, hopefully it will be full STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design, Math) ahead!