a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|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:
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:
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:
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.
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|(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.)|
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)