Thursday, June 16, 2016

Math Inspectors: The Case of the Claymore Diamond

I am always on the look out for good stories that can also encourage kids to engage with math. When done well it can help kids to see the relevance of math and stop those annoying when will I ever need this questions.

The Math Inspectors: Story One - The Case of the Claymore Diamond (Volume 1) is a cute mystery in the style of Encyclopedia Brown, though the author clearly was shooting for Scooby Doo. There is only one story, unlike the short stories found in Encyclopedia Brown, however, the goal is to use brain power to solve crimes that challenge the police. While Encyclopedia Brown focuses on observation and logic, the Math Inspectors use math concepts and clearly demonstrate how the answers were arrived at each time. This is a plot trick commonly used in math fiction, however, I give the authors credit, it was more natural in this book than in others I've reviewed. It didn't have that feel of we've reached the middle of page 4 it's time to insert a math problem to reach our quota.

The reference to Scooby Doo in the book pretty much gives away the thief early on, but the author keeps the twists interesting enough that I think it would encourage a reader to finish it to the end to discover how the robbery happened.

I have just a couple of criticisms. First, I recognize there is a push to address bullying in children's literature. At the beginning of the novel, we clearly see the math kids are being bullied. However, instead of demonstrating healthy coping skills, they in turn become bullies themselves, sanctioned by the authors because they are the smart kids. I wasn't comfortable with that.

My second complaint is how the kids work with the police. Encyclopedia Brown often solved the crimes before the cops, but he never struck me as rude and arrogant towards the adults in the book. These kids humiliate the bumbling police chief on several occasions and then as a reward for solving the case get him to participate in bullying the kids who bullied them. I just didn't like that.

My last complaint is a minor one. I appreciated that the conversation between the kids was clean and for the most part demonstrated positive language patterns. However, I think the conversations between the kids represented more of how we as adults think kids communicate with each other rather than how they do communicate with each other. It was just a little awkward at times.

All and all this is one of the most promising math series I've come across in a while. I'm looking forward to reading The Math Inspectors: Story Two - The Case of the Mysterious Mr. Jekyll (Volume 2) to see if the series improves on this beginning book.

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