Count the Stars
Walker Books, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
Everywhere in her everyday world, Maddie finds mathematics. Whether it’s seeing the parallel lines of sunshine pouring through her bedroom blinds in to morning, counting daisy petals in the garden, or finding the patterns in the pathway, she adores maths. But among her friends, it would seem she was alone – when her friends came to play they found fascination in other things like decorating the cupcakes rather than measuring and making them. Her preoccupation impinges on her relationships with her classmates, making her feel out of kilter with them, as though she were some kind of weird and she doesn’t even notice that there might be others with a similar fascination, until…
This is an absolutely intriguing story with lots of layers that will resonate with so many readers, not just discovering the ubiquity of maths in our lives, and maybe building a maths trail around the school. While the author has chosen to make maths the focus of Maddie’s passion, there are bigger issues that can be explored through the story such as celebrating a love of learning; making and maintaining friendships; finding and following your passion and owning it or, conversely, feeling separated from our friends because they don’t love something as we do; even exploring whether friends can like and do different things and still be friends.
Having gone from someone who saved the Year 6 final excursion by being the only person to get 100% in the end-of-year maths exam, to be completely bewildered by the complexities of algebra and trigonometry at high school and getting a bare minimum pass in the School Certificate exam, to becoming a maths consultant and writing a number of teacher resource books on integrating it across the curriculum, I can relate very closely to Maddie as she finds the maths in everything fascinating and understands why it is referred to as the “Queen of Sciences”. So while I could write a book or several (actually have) about how the maths in this story could be the springboard to the year’s curriculum, starting with the endpapers, it also opens the opportunity for readers to share their passions and what is involved in achieving their big dreams. And that could lead to investigating how their heroes achieved their dreams, or building Genius Hour into the timetable, or…
But for all the Maddies who love maths, perhaps they could ponder this… if Maddie can figure out a way to count the daisy petals in the garden, how could she count the stars?