GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.
See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020.
Guest post by Laurie Wallmark
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved math. While other kids were playing outside, I’d be working my way through books of math puzzles. I think I read every math book in our public library, even though most of them were way (way!) above my head. I always thought I’d be a mathematician when I grew up, but I took a detour into computer science instead. In spite of this, my love of math has never gone away.
As a children’s author, I wanted to make sure children realize that anyone, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, etc., can grow up to be a mathematician. But how do I do this?
I decided to write a picture book biography, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, about an unsung woman mathematician. I’ve previously written biographies of mathematicians, but these women were known for their accomplishments in computer science, not math.
Sophie’s road to becoming a mathematician was not an easy one. In order to study outside her Russian homeland, she couldn’t travel without a man, so she participated in a sham marriage. Once in Germany, she was allowed to take classes, but couldn’t receive credit for them. At another university, she wasn’t even allowed on campus, so a professor gave her private lessons. Just as she was about to hand in her doctoral thesis, she found out someone else had just published the same research. She had to start all over again. Not wanting to take any chances this time, she did original research on three problems. Talk about determination.
Sophie Kowalevski’s most important discovery was how to use mathematics to describe the motion of rotating solid bodies, like planets, footballs, and spinning tops. This was a problem so difficult that it stumped other mathematicians of the time, the 1800s. In fact, it was known as the mermaid problem, because like that elusive mythical being, just when you thought you found the solution, it slipped out of your reach.
I hope that when children read Sophie’s story, they realize that although life may place obstacles in your way, you never know what you’ll accomplish if you persevere.
Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics (Creston Books) releases March 3, 2020, but is available for preorder now wherever books are sold.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s picture book biographies of #WomenInSTEM (Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, And Numbers In Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics) have earned multiple starred trade reviews and many national awards such as Cook Prize Honor and Outstanding Science Trade Book. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She frequently presents at schools, libraries, and national professional conferences (NSTA, NCTE, ISTE, TLA, etc.). She is a former software engineer and computer science professor.