Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

Laurie Wallmark, illus. by Yevgenia Nayberg. Creston, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-939547-63-7
In a bedroom wallpapered with her father’s math problems, Sophie Kowalevski “traced the mysterious numbers and symbols, searching for patterns. She was fascinated by the secret language of calculus.” But Kowalevski, born in 1850, faced extensive obstacles to becoming a professional mathematician—she had to seek private instruction and find a university willing to accept her thesis: “The University of Berlin refused to give Sophie a degree. They thought only men should receive doctorates. Not women, no matter how brilliant.” Wallmark relates Kowalevski’s extraordinary story, showcasing her persistence and describing her landmark achievements in the field of partial differential equations (“the mathematical tools that can be used to describe many natural phenomena, such as sound, heat, and movement”), including her Kowalevski Property, which mathematically describes the path of a spinning top. Though the small font can be hard to read, Nayberg’s deep-toned, Chagall-esque illustrations depict Kowalevski’s obstacles and triumphs, and portray the paths traced by spinning tops through the determined mathematician’s numeric dreams. Ages 5–11. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 03/12/2020
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Children's
Discover what to read next