Trying to find math inside everything else

Crimes and Mathdemeanors

I’ve made a post about history and science, I guess now it’s time for ELA. I think ELA is, in a way, the easiest to connect to math, but that might just be my background at Bard and working with the Algebra Project. But I wanted to talk about a book I used this past year that fits the bill.

This is a book of mysteries akin to Encyclopedia Brown. but with a more mathematical twist. The protagonist, Ravi, is a 14-year-old math whiz, athlete, and son of the Chicago DA. He often runs across mysteries that he can help solve and the reader gets a change to solve, as well.

I used this book in class to, I think, great effect. Most students enjoyed the prospect of the mysteries and got into attempting solutions. It allowed them in guess at a solution (such as who the murderer is from three suspects) without necessarily having to first grasp the math involved, which worked as a hook. Some students did not get into it but that was from rejecting the very premise of reading a story in math class. Many of those students eventually got past their misgivings.

For each story (I used the book about 6 times throughout the year) I asked the students to underline or circle anything they thought might be relevant to the mystery as we read it out loud. Then we compiled what we knew as a class and discussed what we still needed to know to solve the mystery, and then they worked in groups to come up with a solution, often with some prodding (but occasionally with none, which was nice).

I’m thinking of starting with the stories earlier next year (I didn’t this year because I only received the book in December for my birthday) to set it as normal when we use it. I also hope I can find some other books that might act similarly. If anyone reads this and has suggestions, let me know.


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