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34pp, color

9in x 11in

6 to 10
March 2020







Age Range:



Download Curriculum Guide


    “I just love this beautiful book! The story’s messages of passion, determination, and perseverance are universal. The illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Laurie’s words about how mathematical thinking helps explain our world.”

    — Lesley Burnap, Elementary School Teacher, Shrewsbury, MA

    “Meet Sophie Kowalevski, a girl who loved numbers, math, and solving equations, in this inspiring children’s biography based on a real-life legend. Notes and calculations dance across the pages in fanciful patterns and ciphers, and dramatic lights and shadows surround Sophie as she follows her dreams of becoming a successful woman mathematician, a feat unheard of in the late 1800s. End notes include a timeline, bibliography, and further details
about Sophie’s personality and projects."
    — Pallas Gates McCorquodale, Foreword Review

Numbers in Motion:

Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

By Laurie Wallmark

Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

    Women can do the math in this intriguing story about the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics that required original research, the first to hold a university chair in mathematics, and the first to be the editor of a major scientific journal. Sophie Kowalevski proved that women can add up to a lot!

National Science Teachers Assoc. Best STEM Book

Mathical Honor Book


    “This engrossing portrait of Sophie Kowalevski (1850-1891) traces her struggles and eventual success despite assumptions about women made in her native Russia and the various countries in which she obtained an education. . . Distinctive, stylized illustrations portray Sophie's world in exaggerated proportions using unusual points of view. They are dotted with mathematical formulae while concise, accessible text tells Sophie's story, emphasizing how men's perceptions of women were ever present obstacles. . . An inspiring choice for budding feminists, explorers, historians, and scientists.”

    — Kirkus

    "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."

    — Publishers Weekly

    "Wallmark’s picture book biography profiles Russian mathematician Sophie Kowalevski (1850–1891). Born at a time when many universities would not accept women as students, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate for original research in mathematics. She later became a professor and earned the prestigious Bordin prize. Her perseverance and thirst for knowledge is stressed throughout the narrative. Kowalevski displayed a precocious childhood fascination with math, which followed her into adulthood. She was determined to learn advanced mathematics even when denied credit for her work, and she took on the challenge of the “spinning top problem,” which took many years to solve. The watercolor and collage-style illustrations, rendered in shades of green and gold, feature handwritten equations and pages of mathematical text. The expressive faces and gestures convey the many emotional aspects of Kowalevski’s journey. While the book is beautifully designed overall, the small and densely set typeface will likely make it less accessible to children. Despite this flaw, the book deserves a place on shelves as it highlights the story of a pioneering woman in the STEM fields. VERDICT A celebration of perseverance in the face of adversity and a strong addition to all youth biography collections.

    — School Library Journal

    “An inspiring story, beautifully told.”

    — Helaine Becker, bestselling author of Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

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