Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills


annika riz math whiz

Annika Riz, Math Whiz (Franklin School Friends series)

Author: Claudia Mills

Pictures by: Rob Shepperson

Published: May 13th, 2014 by Farrar, Strous, and Giroux

Summary: (Grades 2-4) Annika Riz loves math more than anything. She’s trying to teach her dog, Prime, to count. She’s determined to beat fellow math whiz Simon Ellis in a Sudoku contest at the public library. She even sleeps under number-patterned sheets. But Annika’s best friends Kelsey and Izzy think math is boring. All they care about is the upcoming school carnival: their principal is going to be dunked in a dunking tank and their class is going to have a booth selling home-baked cookies. But then disaster foils the friends’ cookie-baking plans. Can math save the day?

Review: Each of the books in the Franklin School Friends series tells the story of a different third-grade student with a passion for a school subject.  I was excited to read Annika Riz’s story because she is a math whiz—and I love math! Annika looks at the world through math-tinted glasses, and she wants everyone to love the subject as much as she does. She even attempts to teach her dog, Prime, how to count. I found the story to be so very charming. Annika is an endearing character who will resonate with many kids (and adults). Her energy and enthusiasm is refreshing. I suspect that readers will appreciate math much more by the end of this book. This series would be a great addition to elementary school classrooms. Series books are a big step in many students’ journey to becoming avid readers. Most adult readers list series books as a major part of their reading identities, so I am a strong advocate of having these texts available to students.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Annika looks at the world through a math mind. Teachers might ask students to pick a school subject and show how that subject is important in many of their everyday activities. This would teach students to apply what they are learning in school to their world.

Check out the downloadable curriculum guide for the Franklin School Friends here!

Discussion Questions: How does Annika approach the sudoku contest? Do you think she does a good job preparing for it?; What role do Annika’s friends play in her life? Because the girls have such varying interests, are you surprised they are friends? Why or why not?; Why do the girls decide to make lemonade? Do you think this was a good choice?; In what ways does Annika use math to examine aspects of her world?

We Flagged: “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 in the world that you loved the most” (4).

Read This If You Loved: Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, Judy Moody by Megan McDonald, and Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

Recommended For:

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Claudia Mills, Philosophy photo by: Larry Harwood

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of fifty early-chapter and middle-grade books, including 7 x 9 = Trouble!, How Oliver Olson Changed the World, and Zero Tolerance. Claudia was a professor of philosophy for over twenty years at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she received many teaching awards, before leaving the university to write full time. She has two sons. To learn more, visit her website at


Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola M. Schaefer


NF PB 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
Author: Lola Schaefer
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Published September 20th, 2013 by Chronicle Books

Goodreads Summary: In one lifetime, a caribou will shed 10 sets of antlers, a woodpecker will drill 30 roosting holes, a giraffe will wear 200 spots, a seahorse will birth 1,000 babies.

Count each one and many more while learning about the wondrous things that can happen in just one lifetime. This extraordinary book collects animal information not available anywhere else—and shows all 30 roosting holes, all 200 spots, and, yes!, all 1,000 baby seahorses in eye-catching illustrations. A book about picturing numbers and considering the endlessly fascinating lives all around us, Lifetime is sure to delight young nature lovers.

Review and Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I learned so much reading this book. My friend Amanda actually read it first and kept yelling out the facts because they are just so interesting; obviously students would find them interesting as well. On top of it just being interesting, this book is a little book of gold! It is a perfect combination of reading, math, and science! Also, the illustrations are just so well done! Throughout the book, scientific facts about animals are shared with the reader (all with numbers) and then in the end of the book Lola Schaefer also shares with the reader even more information about the animals, how to find an average, and other math facts.  And not once does the book even feel a bit boring–it is a perfect read aloud and cross-curricular text.

Discussion Questions: Which of the animals interests you the most?; Using how the author teaches you to find an average, pick an animal and determine the average number of offspring they will have in a lifetime.

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson, Weird but True! by National Geographic, Island by Jason Chin, Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

Recommended For: 

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The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
Author: Deborah Heiligman
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Published June 25th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press

Goodreads Review: Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it’s true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn’t learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made “Uncle Paul” a great man.

My Review: I have been on a great streak of picture book narrative biographies and this is another one. I love how the author so cleverly combined Erdos’s story and mathematics without ever overloading the story with numbers. This book is so much fun (and the colorful illustrations add even more playfulness to it) yet teaches so much within its story.  What impresses me the most is just how much the book makes you think about math, want to learn more math, and want to play with numbers. Even in book form, Erdos is making math understandable.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: What a great book to use in a math classroom (or elementary classroom). This book makes math sound fun and would definitely be a jumping off point for many different mathematical ideas (such as prime numbers, harmonic primes, amicable numbers, odd/even numbers, Euclid’s Proof of the Infinity of Prime Numbers, Sieve of Eratosthenes, Euler’s map of Konigsburg, negative numbers, the Party Problem, Erdos distinct distances problem, Erdos number, epsilon). Many of the ideas are shared in a fun way and would help be a foundation for scaffolding.

Discussion Questions: What math idea/activity do you find to be the most fun?; Use math to complete Paul’s trick- how old are you in seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days?; What are the answers to Paul’s questions about prime numbers? Do they go on forever? Is there a pattern to them? Why is it that the higher you go up, the farther apart the prime numbers are?

We Flagged: “Paul played with numbers. He added them together and subtracted them. One day he subtracted a bigger number from a smaller number.
The answer was less than 0.
How could a nubmer be <0?
Mama told him numbers below zero are called NEGATIVE NUMBERS. Paul thought that was so cool.
Now he knew for sure he wanted to be a mathematician when he grew up. But first he had to tackle another big problem…” (p. 9)

Read This If You Loved: On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull, Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen, Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown, A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison by Don Brown, Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee StoneMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Recommended For: 

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This book just makes me want to learn more!