Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Don't panic! You won't be asked to complete any math problems to read this book! Believe me, I checked.

Wendy Lichtman has created a fun mystery involving main character Tess, whose unique view of life has her imagining everything around her as it relates to math. Chapter headings include concepts such as "Graphs," "Tangents," "The Additive Property of Equality," and "DNE" just to name a few.

Although the math concepts add creativity to the story, the real focus is on several mysteries. There is a questionable suicide, a stolen history test, and a possible cheating scandal to keep readers interested. Tess joins her friends in trying to solve the mysteries. Along the way, she'll share in secrets and lies that will test even the best of friendships.

Tess's life is filled with interesting teachers, annoying boys, frustrating parents, and just about any other typical teen problem readers can imagine.

This is a book for the experienced as well as the reluctant reader. Math lovers might see this book as a reading challenge. Even math teachers would find this book fun. Wouldn't students be shocked if some math teacher out there used it as read-aloud for end-of-the-year math review?

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2009
Secrets, Lies, and Algebra is a unique book, at least to me, for telling an ordinary story while using math words for conceptual value. I thought the book was going well for me until about three-fourths of the way and then it suddenly ran out of gas. In the last quarter of the book, it was simply running on fumes. The story is not too bad, presenting three different situations going on at the same time: the cheating scandal, the murder mystery, and the test of friendships. As for the main character Tess, I didn't like her that much due to her negative comments about others, especially the history teacher. The cheating scandal was on the verge of being interesting, and I wondered how the author would have solved the problem. Instead, it turned out to be an open ended question with no satisfactory conclusion. I wasn't pleased about that. Then, here comes the murder mystery, possessing the feel of Nancy Drew sleuthing ways. Instead, the unofficial police report placed an end to that. So, pretty much in the end, the book left me stranded without an adventure. I liked how the author used the math words in each chapter and took the book in a different way, but I didn't like her need to illustrate the graph of a person going from alive to dead. Overall, Secrets, Lies, and Algebra, I would say, is an average book that could have been fun. I see that there is a sequel to the book, but no thanks.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2007
Even though I am way past my teenage years, I still loved reading the story of Tess and her friends, their mystery, and discoveries of real math. Lichtman's characters are distinct and vivid; her plot line is creative and original. I even learned about some math principles. My twenty-something daughter and 12 year old nephew both really enjoyed reading it as well. My daughter said it would make a fun movie.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2007
What a great concept to make math cool. I loved the imagery and the way Tess thinks through her world AND that she's a girl (sorry for the run-on). Page turner even for a 36 year old kid.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2007
This innovative book captures the essence of middle school life and engages the mathematical and creative interests of young readers. I read this book with a small group of 11 to 15 year olds and they loved the combination of mystery, math and tales of teenage life. It's a great educational tool... and a great read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a very readable book for middle school and above students. A young math-loving "detective" uses her skills to negotiate life in school and her world. Each chapter connects the story to some math content; the content is appropriate for grades 6 or 7 and up.

One of my favorites has her considering the question of whether life ends at death (like a line segment ends at a point) or goes on forever (like a line).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2007
This book was great fun to read whether you like math or not. It takes mathematical concepts and shows how they apply in real life situations without the use of numbers. For example, should you provide police with information about a crime that may have been committed? Tess is trying to decide whether to tell someone about what she believes is important evidence in the death of her mother's friend, but her mother insists that the family should remain silent because they have no proof. Using the concept of axioms,the information should be reported. "In math, if something is an axiom, it means you don't need proof for it to be true." The proof may be left to the courts, like a theorem, which does need proof. Finally, a fun work of math fiction!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2007
This book is brilliant. If you love math, you'll be amazed at how the author uses the theoretical to describe human relationships and events. If you hate math, this book will give you a new appreciation for the elusive concepts you never thought you'd ever need again. If you're afraid of math, this book will make it accessible in a way it never has been before and it's all accomplished through the backdrop of a great story. Lichtman captures the voice and social culture of adolescence and so seamlessly weaves math concepts throughout that you don't even realize you're learning algebra. This book should be required reading for every teen taking algebra and for every parent who might be asked to help with homework.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2010
The idea is an interesting one: create a story based on math concepts. Much of the time, though, it seemed like the story was being twisted around so that a math concept could be inserted. Worse, the author couldn't resist waxing didactic about other things, like what the Bill of Rights is.

I agree with the reviewer who said that Tess isn't particularly likeable. She's unkind to others, she's full of herself, and she snidely explains very simple math concepts to her parents (like what a negative number is and the difference between a line segment and a line). For some reason, her parents have never heard these things before and are amazed.

Some of the math concepts introduced in the book are very simple (the meaning of > and < is taught in the primary grades). Others are very complex. The book will not really explain much about math concepts for struggling students, though it is an interesting idea.

I also agree with those who said that the plot elements were all pinched off at the end with quick and not-very-satisfying solutions. And these solutions are achieved by other people, not the protagonist.

One last peeve. As a teacher myself, I'm always annoyed by authors who are not teachers telling us what they think "good teaching" is. Invariably they seem to think a good teacher is one who imparts buckets of facts all the time (for example, the history teacher in the book rattling off facts about the Bill of Rights). This is not true. A good teacher is generally one who enables her students to *interact* with facts and concepts and to construct their own knowledge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As a math teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a great book to show students how they can think about math beyond the classroom. I recommended this book to my eighth grade girls and I recommend it now to any other student who expresses an interest in math!
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