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Sophie Simon Solves them All (2010)
Lisa Graff

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A 100-page novel for 2nd graders about a math genius, Sophie Simon, whose parents are always worried that their daughter is not “well-adjusted”. Sophie, on the other hand, wants to do math far beyond her age and is constantly in search of more mathematical challenges. She has her heart set on a graphics calculator, the Pembo Q-60, but her parents, in an effort to stop her from “growing too quickly”, try to divert her away from such ideas (“Sophie imagined what it would be like to have parents who understod her”). On the other hand is her friend, Julie, who wishes to be nothing more than the school journalist but whose father can never stop talking about mathematics and is bent on having Julie compete as a (gasp!) “mathlete”. As a happy coincidence, the prize for the winning mathlete is Pembo Q-60. Things end happily, of course, for both Julie and Sophie.

The book, in its way, does convey how parents can get overly protective or pushy (Sophie’s father says, “Just Imagine! Our well-adjusted daughter, exposed to this … educational material! The kind of stuff most ADULTS don’t understand!” when he discovers a college textbook, “Advanced Concepts In Calculus” in Sophie’s bag). But I think the authors also do some disservice to mathematics by having passages like the one quoted above and

(quoted from Sophie Simon Solves them All)

“Sophie’s father was right about one thing. Calculus was math. A very complicated kind of math. It involved long equations with letters and numbers and symbols so confusing that most people avoided looking at them directly, in case their brains turned to mush. There were graphs and charts and formulas and silly words like tangent.”

In the end, I thought it was half-way motivating for students who are already smart and in some ways scaring off those who already have math-anxiety.

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Works Similar to Sophie Simon Solves them All
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Geek Abroad by Piper Banks
  2. Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroder
  3. Mean Girls by Tina Fey (screenplay) / Mark S. Waters (director)
  4. Sophie's Diary by Dora Musielak
  5. The Math Olympian by Richard Hoshino
  6. Recess (Episode: A Genius Among Us) by Brian Hamill
  7. The Square Root of Murder by Paul Zindel
  8. Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin
  9. The Cinderella Theorem by Kristee Ravan
  10. Getting Somewhere by Jenny Pausacker
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GenreChildren's Literature,
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Math Education,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)