MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

...
Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen (2007)
Kathryn Walat (playwright)
...
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for young adults.

Victoria Martin is a popular girl at Longwood High -- dating one of the stars of the school basketball team and friends with the "Jens" on the cheerleading squad. So, most of the guys on the math team are not pleased when the school principal places her on the team because it is a co-ed team and therefore must have at least one female member. Then, to everyone's surprise (except perhaps to audience members), she not only becomes a valuable member of the team but also teaches the guys what it means to be human.

The show received mixed reviews from professional critics. It was thoroughly panned in the New York Times review for having "nothing beyond easy, tired stereotypes to offer". Still, the play received somewhat more positive reviews from Variety and CurtainUp, and received an honorable mention from the Jane Chambers Award.

My vote, which may interest you due to my supposed "expertise" in mathematical fiction, puts it somewhere between those professional ratings. This play certainly deserves praise for challenging the prejudices that neither girls nor popular students participate in math competitions. However, despite its stereotype-breaking agenda, it comes off seeming rather cliched in its view of high school drama, and it has nothing else interesting to say about either math or math competitions.

Although we later learn that Vickie gets her interest in math from her father, a computer programmer who lives far away, I like the way it is more subtly hinted at early on. The opening scene, in which Victoria is chatting on the phone with one of the two Jens, simultaneously clues the audience in to her low academic standards and cleverly suggests that she thinks mathematically:

(quoted from Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen)

Jen hasn't read it either. So even if we did what we did with Scarlet Letter and I copied off of her, and you copied off of me, I feel like your chances of getting more than a C+ are like approaching zero.

I definitely appreciate the idea, but wish that it had made a bit more sense. [People sometimes misuse "approaching zero" as a description of a number with a very, very small magnitude, but it really should refer to the limit of a quantity depending on a parameter, and there is no parameter here.]

Another clue to Victoria's mathematical interests is her habit of occasionally reciting quite a bit of the beginning of the decimal expansion of π (which must be fun for the actress to memorize). This is a very nerdy thing for a popular girl to do -- of course, that's the point.

Let me give you two brief excerpts from the play to show how math appears in the dialogue. This excerpt just has a few members of the team recalling a past victory:

(quoted from Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen)

FRANKLIN. We won because Sanjay Patel has the biggest brain in the state.

MAX. And it all came down to him.

FRANKLIN. To that one moment.

MAX. One tie-breaking problem.

FRANKLIN. One insane algebraic equation.
...
MAX. An algebraic equation of seismic proportions.

FRANKLIN. A five on the Richter scale of algebraic equations.

MAX. The algebraic equation was prodigious, grandiose, Homeric ---

FRANKLIN. Will you cut it out with the SAT vocab?

PETER. It was a multi-variable, unrecognizably quadratic, irregular ... wicked hard math problem.

FRANKLIN. Which you could have solved using calculus.

PETER. True.

FRANKLIN. God, I can't wait to learn calculus!

Consider also the following scene, which follows an emotionally intense exchange between two best friends on the team, one of whom has just "come out of the closet" as a homosexual:

(quoted from Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen)

VICTORIA. OK, this is math. Numbers, variables, equations -- we can all do this. We solve things and yes, it's pretty awesome, but it's just math. Just some pencil marks on a piece of paper, right Jimmy?

(JIMMY picks up the test paper that PETER dropped.) And since when are we ruled by a piece of paper? A piece of paper that isn't even like -- the Treaty of Versaille or the "diary of a young girl" or whatever, and no matter what you write on it, or how many times you fold it up like top-secret origami, it's just paper. So, go on Jimmy, show them what you can do with paper.

(JIMMY holds the test paper above his head. He tears it in two. Thus surprises and thrills VICTORIA, who continues with even more conviction.) That's right. Just paper. Just math. But what you were all listening to before? Between those two kids, Franklin and Max -- my teammates. That's real, and it's hard, and it's life.

So, come on you math gods -- if you really are Klingon warriors and you really do know Bernulli's [sic] equation -- then raise your hands, brave the paper cuts, and show us what you can do with a little piece of group work.

In summary, from my perspective, once you've heard the description "popular girl does well on high school math team", you've already gotten all you need from this play. But, that's just me. I am sure there are many people in the world who would find this play interesting and inspiring in ways I did not. Hopefully, I have provided enough information in this review so that you can tell which of these categories you fall into.

This play premiered in 2007 at The Women's Project, an Off-Broadway theater in New York.

Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com. Amazon.com logo
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gifted: A Novel by Nikita Lalwani
  2. Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman
  3. Probabilities by Michael Stein
  4. Batorsag and Szerelem [a.k.a. Beautiful Ohio] by Ethan Canin
  5. Mean Girls by Tina Fey (screenplay) / Mark S. Waters (director)
  6. Geek Abroad by Piper Banks
  7. Monster's Proof by Richard Lewis
  8. Family Ties (Episode: My Tutor) by Jace Richdale (Screenplay) / Sam Weisman (Director)
  9. What Are the Odds? by Justin Spitzer (writer) / Matthew Tritt (director)
  10. Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin
Ratings for Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3.5/5 (2 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
2.5/5 (4 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHumorous,
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Romance, Math Education,
Topic
MediumPlays,

Home All New Browse Search About

Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)