Annika Riz, Math Whiz

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Annika Riz loves math more than anything, so when she hears about a sudoku contest at the local public library, she is determined to win it--maybe then her friends Kelsey Green and Izzy Barr will see that math is just as cool as reading and running. When the school carnival, the biggest fundraiser of the year, comes around, Annika realizes her class booth is losing money by selling their lemonade too cheaply. Annika embraces her math skills, saves the day, and shows her friends that math can be useful and even a ...

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Annika Riz, Math Whiz

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Annika Riz loves math more than anything, so when she hears about a sudoku contest at the local public library, she is determined to win it--maybe then her friends Kelsey Green and Izzy Barr will see that math is just as cool as reading and running. When the school carnival, the biggest fundraiser of the year, comes around, Annika realizes her class booth is losing money by selling their lemonade too cheaply. Annika embraces her math skills, saves the day, and shows her friends that math can be useful and even a bit of fun, too, in Claudia Mills's Annika Riz, Math Whiz.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Annika loves numbers. Annika and her friends each have their own special talents, and Annika's is math. She looks forward to math class the way Kelsey loves reading and Izzy loves running. But while Annika likes reading and physical exercise, her buddies hate math. When others in the class do not know an answer or are daydreaming, Annika side-whispers the answer to help them out of a bind. Annika and fellow third-grade math whiz Simon are excited to learn that the library is running a sudoku contest, and Annika sets out to practice as much as she can. Mills keeps the situations light and amusing, inviting readers into Annika's number-filled house, where the tablecloth is printed with numbers and the magnets on the refrigerator are numbers and even the dog is named Prime, and introducing them to Mr. Boone, the overenthusiastic principal who takes a seat in the carnival dunking booth. Shepperson's black-and-white drawings extend the text nicely; kids will chuckle at the kitchen chaos as the girls make cookies for the bake sale and at the interruption-hating Mrs. Molina as she tries to control math class. Math lessons are embedded gracefully into the plot, making it an easy tie-in for teachers looking for accessible real-world math problems. For number lovers and phobics alike—this bighearted series has something for everyone. (Fiction. 7-10)
From the Publisher

"Mills delivers with a felicitous blend of breezy accessibility and perceptive understanding." - BCCB

"As always, Mills has her characters struggle with right and wrong behavior, and here Annika accepts that everyone is different and that sometimes simply trying is a worthwhile endeavor . . . Readers will enjoy guessing the topic and title of the next book." - The Horn Book

"Mills has developed characters who are realistically flawed and friendships that are supportive throughout." - School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Maturing readers who liked Mills’s Kelsey Green, Reading Queen, will be happy to greet Annika, who loves math. She belongs to the trio of “Franklin School Friends,” including Izzy Barr, devoted to running. Annika, the only one of the best friends who finds math delightful, often has to whisper answers to the others when no-nonsense Mrs. Molina starts quizzing them. To Izzy and Kelsey, math is boring. Of course, Annika’s parents work with math, the entire house is filled with math-patterned items, and Annika’s even trying to teach her dog to count! Now it is school carnival time—their third grade class will bake cookies to sell. (Principal Mr. Boone has volunteered to be dunked for a price.) With excitement running high, Annika learns of another event: a library-sponsored sudoku contest that she would much rather spend time on. But classmate Simon’s a math whiz, too—does Annika have a chance to win? Mills demonstrates some practical uses for math as the girls attempt three times to bake chocolate-chip cookies, with disastrous results because they have miscalculated an ingredient. When they compensate by making lemonade for their class booth, Izzy and Kelsey discover that math’s important for setting a price. The story could be didactic, but there is enough humor and suspense to keep third-graders reading and perhaps convincing them, like Kelsey and Izzy, that math really does count. Annika discovers that, while winning a contest is fun, daring to try is even more rewarding. Fans of the enthusiastic trio will be ready for a book focusing on Izzy, coming soon. Mills has built in a number of ideas for readers to discuss; teachers can find questions and two printable bookmarks at by clicking on “Teacher Resources.” Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 7 to 9.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Third-grader Annika Riz loves math as much as her friends Izzy Barr and Kelsey Green dislike it. While she is attentive during math, her friends are easily distracted, so she whispers answers to help them avoid agitating their stern teacher. During the week of the school carnival, it seems like there is nothing else that any of the other students can think about, but Annika is secretly focused on winning the public library's citywide sudoku contest. She believes that if she can beat all of the city's third-graders, her friends will see that math is cool after all. After some disappointments along the way, Annika's love of the subject helps her save her class's carnival booth and convinces her that her attempts to help her friends may have done more harm than good. As in Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Farrar, 2013), Mills has developed characters who are realistically flawed and friendships that are supportive throughout. She does an excellent job of demonstrating why Annika's cheating is problematic without any heavy-handed moralizing. The occasional illustrations are perfectly paced and a nice supplement to the text.—Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374303358
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 5/13/2014
  • Series: Franklin School Friends Series, #2
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 277,957
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of many books for children. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Rob Shepperson's recent books include The Memory Bank, a collaboration with Carolyn Coman. He lives in Croton on Hudson, New York.

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Read an Excerpt




Annika Riz sharpened her already sharp pencil. She admired its soft pink eraser. She never made mistakes during math—well, hardly ever—but it was good to have a pencil with a fresh eraser just in case. In five minutes—no, four and a half minutes now—it would be her favorite time of the day, which happened to be the least favorite time of the day for her two best friends, Kelsey Green and Izzy Barr.


“All right, class, time for math!” Mrs. Molina told her third graders.

Sitting in front of Annika, Kelsey gave a deep sigh and tried to finish reading one more page of her library book. Sitting next to Kelsey, Izzy sighed, too. She had been staring out the window at the P.E. field, green on this first Monday morning of May.

Kelsey loved reading and Izzy loved running the same way that Annika loved math. But Annika didn’t hate reading and running the same way that the others hated math. It was hard when your two best friends hated the thing that you loved the most in the world.

At his perfectly tidy desk, Simon Ellis sat with his math book open, ready to go. Simon was a math whiz, too. Simon was an everything whiz.

The only person without a math book on top of his desk was Cody Harmon. Cody hardly ever paid attention in class.

As Mrs. Molina prepared to launch into the day’s math lesson, her gaze fell on Cody.

“Math time, Cody,” she said.

Yes, Annika thought. Math time, everybody!

When Cody still didn’t take out his book, Mrs. Molina asked, “What is it, Cody?”

She sounded impatient, as if she really wanted to ask, “What is it now?” Annika didn’t blame her. Every day there was someone who was reading during math time (Kelsey), or stretching her leg muscles during math time (Izzy), or doing nothing at all during math time (Cody).

“I heard there’s going to be a dunking tank at the carnival on Saturday,” Cody said. “And that people can buy tickets to dunk Mr. Boone.”

Now the classroom was abuzz. Everyone obviously thought a dunking tank at the upcoming Franklin School carnival was more exciting than learning about decimals. Especially if it was the jolly principal, Mr. Boone, who was volunteering to be dunked.

“That’s nice, Cody,” Mrs. Molina said, although it was plain from the expression on her face that she didn’t think a dunking tank was nice at all.

“I heard that some of the teachers are signing up to be dunked, too,” Cody continued.

Mrs. Molina adjusted her glasses, in the way she always did when she wasn’t sure what to say. Annika knew that Mrs. Molina was the last teacher in the school—in the whole entire world—who would sign up to be dunked at a school carnival.

This time Mrs. Molina didn’t say that was nice.

“The school carnival is always enjoyable, I’m sure,” she said. “And it’s the most important fund-raiser of the year for the PTA. But right now we’re doing math. So, Cody, please get out your math book and open it to page 187.”

Cody fumbled in his desk, dragged out his book, and opened it as instructed. Annika could tell that he was still thinking about the dunking tank, and probably also about cotton candy, and a fishpond where you could fish for prizes, and the raffle where the prize was an enormous stuffed elephant donated by a local toy store, already sitting in the front hall outside Mr. Boone’s office.

Each class was going to have its own booth at the fair. Mrs. Molina’s class booth, supervised by Kelsey’s mom, who was their PTA room mother, was going to sell all different kinds of cookies. Annika, Kelsey, and Izzy had already decided that they would bake chocolate chip.

“Today we’re going to learn how to turn fractions into decimals,” Mrs. Molina said, obviously relieved to have diverted the conversation away from dunking tanks.

Annika listened eagerly as Mrs. Molina explained how decimals were another way of expressing fractions. She already loved fractions, and now she knew she’d love decimals, too.

As usual, Mrs. Molina called on people to give answers to the problems in the textbook. She probably did it so that people wouldn’t tune out completely, knowing that there was some chance of being called on and having to give a wrong answer in front of the whole class.

Annika answered her question, easy-peasy, and Simon answered his, too. But then Mrs. Molina called on Kelsey.

“Kelsey Green”—Mrs. Molina used a person’s full name if she was certain the person wasn’t paying attention at all—“what decimal is one-third?”

Sitting directly behind Kelsey, Annika whispered the answer. Even though Kelsey should have been doing her own work, Annika couldn’t bear to see her friends flounder. And she couldn’t bear to leave a math question unanswered, any more than she could bear to leave a blank space in a sudoku puzzle.

“Point three three three.”

“Point three three three,” Kelsey parroted.

Mrs. Molina gave her a suspicious look, but Annika had gotten so good at whispering without moving her lips that they hadn’t gotten caught once all year. Of course, the teacher had to notice that certain of her students who did well in class did vastly less well on their tests. But, then again, math tests made lots of people nervous.

When it came time for the class to do some problems quietly on their own, Annika finished hers in a few minutes. Then she tiptoed over to the pile of sudoku puzzles and word searches Mrs. Molina kept on her desk for kids who finished an assignment early. She took a sudoku puzzle from the top of the pile and returned to her seat.

Sudoku puzzles were tons of fun. You started with a nine-by-nine grid that had some numbers already filled in and others left blank. You had to fill in the blank spaces so that each row contained all the numbers from 1 to 9, and each column contained all the numbers from 1 to 9, and each little three-by-three box in the nine-by-nine grid had all the numbers from 1 to 9, too.

Right away, studying the puzzle in front of her, Annika saw where she could put a 9. And then where she could put a 5, and another 5. Her fingers flew over the page.

The other kids around her were still working on their decimal problems, but she could see that Simon was doing a sudoku puzzle, too.

“Annika, Simon, would you please come up here for a minute?” Mrs. Molina said.

Annika glanced toward Simon, but he seemed as bewildered as she was. It couldn’t be that they were in trouble. Not during math! Not when they were the two math whizzes!

Mrs. Molina spoke in a low voice so as not to disturb the others.

“Because the two of you are our sudoku enthusiasts, I wanted to let you know that the public library is having a citywide sudoku contest this week. I received an e-mail about it this morning. Just go to the library any day, from today until the library’s closing time on Saturday. Tell the librarian you want to enter the contest, and she’ll sit you down with a sudoku puzzle. The person who completes the puzzle correctly in the shortest time wins. The winner for each grade will receive a subscription to a sudoku magazine.”

Annika looked at Simon.

Simon looked at Annika.

Of course, third graders from all the elementary schools in town would be entering, too, and there might be another third grader at another elementary school who was even better at math than Annika and Simon.

Frankly, Annika found that hard to believe.

This was better than chocolate chip cookies, or cotton candy, or a fishpond with prizes, even better than a dunking tank with Mr. Boone poised to splash into the water beneath.

If Annika won a huge sudoku contest, Kelsey and Izzy would see that math was as cool as reading and running. Kelsey loved reading contests, and Izzy loved running races. Well, now Annika had a math contest and a math race of her own.

All she had to do was win it.


Text copyright © 2014 by Claudia Mills

Pictures copyright © 2014 by Rob Shepperson

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2014

    Book review

    Good read but quick to quick

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