Here come the Math Girls

November 22, 2011, 1:00 am

Tomorrow (11/23) is not only Fibonacci Day, it’s also the release day for the English translation of Math Girls, a mathematics-themed young adult novel (!) by Japanese author Hiroshi Yuki. Math Girls combines “the rigor of a mathematics text with the drama of teenage romance”, according to a press release by Bento Books (the US distributor of the novel).

I’d never heard of Math Girls before I saw that press release, but apparently it’s a cultural phenomenon in Japan, where it’s gone through eighteen printings, three sequels, comic book adaptations, and fan-created music videos. (The music video is here — I couldn’t figure out how to embed it. You should watch it, just because it’s the only Japanese pop video you will ever see that features a generating function.)

Bento Books describes the novel:

Math Girls introduces readers to a wide range of subjects, from the Fibonacci series and prime numbers, to more advanced topics like generating functions, integer partitions, and Taylor expansions. Also covered are fundamentals of higher math, such as how to name variables, strategies for tackling complex problems, and the importance of precision in mathematical language. Alongside this heady content is the story of the book’s narrator, one vertex in a love triangle with the “math girls,” the brilliant Miruka and the determined Tetra.

With so much peer pressure among girls not to be good at math — or at least to pretend that they aren’t good at it — I think books like this could be a really positive influence among girls here in the US. Danica McKellar certainly has made something of a second career for herself in this area with her books and on the speaking circuit. There are links to purchase the book and free digital copies of the first two chapters at the Bento Books website.

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