Summary: Solving for M
I’ve had Solving for M on my TBR for a long time now! Mika and her mom are used to things just being the both of them because her parents divorced when she was a baby. Her dad remarried soon after, and her mom hasn’t yet. She’s a new middle schooler and is enjoying her math class, although the new pod system in their school means she isn’t in the same group as her best friend. Their math teacher is very engaging and asks the kids to keep a semi-private math journal for the math problems they will do during the school year.
All is well until Mika’s mom discovers a spot on the back of her leg, which turns out to be a melanoma. Her grandmother, Beau has to move in to help care for Mika’s mom as she undergoes treatment. Mika is also forced to spend time with her dad in Florida just to get some air from the difficult circumstances. Through it all, she makes new friends and deals with things by incorporating her life events as she learns algebra, integers, negative numbers, and other math concepts.
This is such a clever book. I’m a bit bummed to have missed out on the illustrations because I listened to this on audio — but honestly, I may never have gotten around to reading it if it were on my Kindle (TOO MANY BOOKS). The narrator was lively and emotive; it felt like I was listening to Mika herself. Let me be clear: I hate math. Just start talking about combining numbers, and you lose me, in like five seconds. But Mr. Vann is REALLY GOOD. He brings abstract concepts to life and keeps the kids active physically and mentally during math class. Perhaps because it was middle school math, I could follow along, and actually enjoy it.
The other component of this book is Mika’s home life, which is quite heavy. However, the author still manages to take readers through without dampening their spirits. This book is as realistic as middle-grade (and even adult books) can get about dealing with skin cancer, both for Mika and her entire family. I liked seeing Mika’s dynamic with her stepmom, as well as with her mom’s friend Jeannie. Finally, Mika’s relationships with her new friends is healthy and fun to read. I also liked that there was no bad blood between her and her ex-BFF. Sometimes, life just takes friends away and it’s sad, but we’ll gain new friends.
Overall: Solving for M
I thoroughly enjoyed this short (256 pages) middle-grade book with a smart, sensitive, and emotionally intelligent protagonist dealing with a parent’s illness. Solving for M includes illustrations and features an enthusiastic math teacher. This book also explores themes of amicable friendship dissolution, parental separation, and a sweet grandparent bond. I would highly recommend it for STEM-loving kids and teachers looking for books with strong STEM connections.
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More Books with STEM Connections
- The Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn
- The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray
- Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj
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Have you read this book or any other books with math-loving protagonists? What are your favorite middle-grade books featuring a sick family member? I’d love your recs!
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