The Girl With a Mind for Math is a beautiful book from the creative team of Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley. Telling the story of Raye Montague who pioneered new ways of designing ships in the US Navy, this is a must have book for the classroom - and one which can be used in a number of different lessons.
This is the third book from Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley (and the team at The Innovation Press) focusing on the life and achievements of great scientists. The Girl With a Mind for Math introduces us to Raye Montague who was just a young girl when her grandfather took her to visit a submarine, inspiring her to one day design ships just like it. However, Raye was born into the segregated south of the USA, and as a black girl she would have to fight to get the education she wanted to get. Her persistence and hard work and the support of her family over a number of years helped her finally achieve her goal and allowed her to bring new design ideas into the US Navy.
Why is this book important?
Told in relatively simple rhyme, A Girl With a Mind for Math allows readers an accessible insight into the world of a remarkable mathematician. With the extensive additional material at the end of the book, adults reading with children can help them gain an even deeper understanding of Raye Montague and the importance of her work, as well as the systemic barriers she faced as she worked to achieve her dream.
Picture book memoirs and biographies can be used across a wide range of grades. Young students can bring illustrations and words together to discover new worlds, while older readers can experience the story and gain background knowledge to support further research without having to wade through material often designed for adult readers.
This is also a story we should all know, but may not. Raye Montague was named a ‘hidden figure’ of the US Navy; someone whose contributions may have been overlooked or not remembered or celebrated as much as they should have been. Her achievements would be extraordinary for anyone - to design a ship by computer in less than 19 hours even though she had been given a month to work on it - but they are especially noteworthy as you learn the story of what she had to do to learn the skills she needed to achieve this feat.
Ways to Use The Girl With a Mind for Math in the Classroom
The Girl With a Mind for Math is a great book to share with your students or to add to your classroom library. But you can also use it for a range of teaching moments.
Explore machines used by the military
Often times when we think about the military, we think about those who fight in the armed forces. But it’s worth taking a little time to look at what happens behind the scenes and the machines which are used to assist the military. Some of these machines have become famous in history (like the aircraft of World War 2) and it can be interesting to look at how these were designed, how they worked and how they changed the way battles were fought or life was made safer for armed forces.
The Girl With a Mind For Math is just a little insight to that behind the scenes work - there are many scientists, mathematicians and engineers who have worked for the military to create machines!
Uncover other under recognised people of STEM
Students can go for their own search for STEM people in history who should be well known but aren’t. They might like to use their research to write memoirs or create museum displays or can even create a website or podcast series to share their discoveries with others. It can be a great way to explore research skills as well.
Explore some of the themes of the book
There are so many themes to explore in The Girl With a Mind for Math. Students can look at some of Raye Montague’s defining characteristics such as persistence and hard work, compare these with other examples from other people or reflect on how they can use these skills in their own lives.
Older students might like to explore discrimination and how it can impact the lives of people historically and today. The book gives several examples of discrimination faced by Raye Montague; students can also examine other notable people and the challenges they faced due to discrimination.
Want a free resource to go with The Girl With a Mind for Math? Galarious Goods was thrilled to create an Interactive Timeline, along with additional questions for teachers to use, for students to set out notable moments in Raye Montague’s life. This is a great way to get an overall understanding of the book, and a good starting place for a more in-depth exploration.
You can see how the resource goes together in this video!
Have you read The Girl With a Mind for Math? Have you used it in your classroom?