Do the Math

Do the Math

Secrets, Lies, and Algebra

Book - 2007
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Tess has always loved math, and she uses mathematical concepts to help her understand things in her life, so she is dismayed to find out how much math--and life--can change in eighth grade.
Tess has always loved math, and she uses mathematical concepts to help her understand things in her life, so she is dismayed to find out how much math, and life, can change in eighth grade.
Publisher: New York : Greenwillow Books, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780061229565
Call Number: jF LICH
Characteristics: 183 p. : ill. ; 22 cm

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Jul 01, 2018

Tess, your average high school student, looks at life’s problem from a math perspective. In the first chapter, she catches the popular kid Richard copying an upcoming history test. This changes an inequality from R > T (Richard greater than or at least equal to Tess) to T > or = to R (Tess is greater than or at least equal to Richard). In the second chapter she finds out that the wife of her mom’s boss committed suicide but her mom suspects her boss may have murdered his wife. Tess works out a function graph of time it took the wife to die depending upon different scenarios. Each chapter has a math explanation, but Tess’s biggest problem is ethics.

Tess struggles with why her mom isn’t going to the police with her suspicions. Tess believes her mother’s choice is immoral. Tess determines to find the evidence needed to get the police to consider murder. Her two best friends Miranda and Sammy help her come up with a plan, but this is in itself is a breach of trust as she promised her mom not to tell anyone about her suspicions. Meanwhile, Richard’s cheating creates another ethical dilemma which is parallel to the one of the suicide/murder.

Each chapter is short from 4 to 13 pages in length with the entire book being 183 pages. As Tess works her way through solving the suicide/murder and the U.S. Constitution test cheating, readers learn math painlessly. Each chapter has a math concept whose explanation is tied to real life. The book doesn’t teach the math, rather Tess thinks in terms of math for just about everything. As a math teacher, I liked the math tie-ins to real life and felt the explanations helped make the concepts easier to understand.

I did not expect to like this book, but I found the characters believable and I empathized with their problems. I argued with Tess in my mind about how she could judge her mother harshly when she herself was not telling about Richard cheating. There was danger and suspense. There was pathos as friend betrays friend and daughter betrays mother. There is redemption and an understanding that leads to wisdom. I definitely recommend this book.

MissJen Feb 27, 2012

Enjoyable, but flawed in tone, Secrets, Lies, and Algebra swings between a typical school story and a sort-of murder mystery.

The basic concept of a girl who sees the world in terms of math concepts is really well executed by Lichtman, but the plot tries to get too much done here. It's not structured like a mystery so the possible murder storyline feels sort of awkward and doesn't mesh well with the more typical school story revolving around the cheating. The whole thing swings back and forth in mood, but as this is the first in the series hopefully the tone will settle a bit in future outings.


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MissJen Feb 27, 2012

MissJen thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 11 and 14


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MissJen Feb 27, 2012

Tess has always thought the two things she could count on the most were her mother and math, but 8th grade means Algebra where the answers aren't always firm. Not only that, her mom suspects a colleague of murder and won't tell the police. To top everything off, Tess is the only one who knows that the cutest boy in the 8th grade cheated on the Constitution test. Tess has always used math concepts, plus her friends Sammy and Miranda, to help her navigate her world, but will they be enough to guide her now?


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