Publication Date: October 23, 2018
In Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall, Amy is in 5th grade and is frustrated with her math homework. She struggles with a word question, sparking an outburst toward her mother, who also struggles with math but is doing her best to help her daughter succeed. Will Amy give up or will she learn the secret to unlocking her potential?
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. Alice Aspinall is a math teacher at the high school my daughter attends. I have never met this teacher and my daughter has never been in her class, but I have known of her for quite some time. Alex is routinely in the pit band for the school’s musicals, and last year, Ms. Aspinall designed an exercise for her class around the musical of the year, Hairspray. I was impressed at the time with her attempt to engage the interest of her students, so when I heard she would be the speaker at an upcoming AGM, I purchased her book. While she did subsequently, coincidentally, request a review, it is just the odd way life works.
The beginning of Everyone Can do Math is a glimpse into the past. Amy’s struggle is one with which I deeply identified. My school required a 90 percent or better to pass, and I was the kid who was “just not made for math.” Readers hoping for that secret to cracking the math code, like me, will find this book more focused on cracking the life code.
Amy goes about her day enjoying personal success and the success of her friends through dogged perseverance. Could determination lead to success in math as well?
Everyone Can do Math is a direct and simple line for children to follow with the lesson that you never win by quitting. The narrative is frequently the inner dialogue of Amy connecting the dots. She successfully accomplishes a difficult dance move, a friend traverses the monkey bars, another friend sinks a number of free throws and Alice makes the connection. Aspinall doesn’t give us a magic fix but leads readers along with the dots to a common sense conclusion. Is it perhaps too basic when boiled down? Sure, but this is a book for children whose societal outlook is developing and not a spell book.
Everyone Can do Math is beautifully illustrated in cartoon style. While the story is generally well-presented, the attention of the target audience may be challenged as there is more telling than showing. The strength in Amy is that she is wholly identifiable and young readers will see themselves in her. They are helped to see the message through the journey and will know the reward in things that don’t come easy. Amy publicly admires the skills of the people who have stuck to their challenges, and they’ll want that for themselves as well as the satisfaction of being that person that can do anything if only they keep at it.
Everyone Can do Math by Alice Aspinall (author) and Alexandria Masse (illustrator) contains a great lesson for young readers. Buy this book on