Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You've Never Heard Of

by Helaine Becker (Author) Kari Rust (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In this engaging and inspiring biography, a groundbreaking but relatively unknown woman finally gets her due as one of the most influential mathematicians of the twentieth century.

Emmy Noether is not pretty, quiet, good at housework or eager to marry --- all the things a German girl is expected to be in her time. What she is, though, is a genius at math. When she grows up, she finds a way to first study math at a university (by sitting in, not actually enrolling) and then to teach it (by doing so for free). She also manages to do her own research into some of the most pressing math and physics problems of the day. And though she doesn't get much credit during her lifetime, her discoveries continue to influence how we understand the world today.

Bestselling and award-winning Helaine Becker has crafted an engaging look at the life of Emmy Noether, a contemporary of Einstein's and one of the most influential, though little known, mathematicians of the twentieth century. Despite the obstacles she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field, and as a Jew who had to flee the Nazis, Emmy still accomplished a great deal. Artwork by Kari Rust uses touches of humor for emphasis and a golden glowing effect around Emmy to visually express her brilliance and ideas. Back matter includes a biographical note, explanations of complex mathematical concepts and suggestions for further reading. There are curriculum links to physics and mathematics --- subjects portrayed here as fascinating and exciting --- and poignant real-life character education lessons on courage and perseverance.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-4--In the late 19th century, young women were expected to conform to gender norms. They were advised to be attractive and obedient and to cook, sew, get married, and have children. Born in Erlangen, Germany, Emmy Noether (1882-1935) preferred puzzles and formulas. Although women were not permitted to attend university at this time, Noether's father arranged for his daughter to audit classes. Her fellow male classmates resented Noether for her abilities, but she persevered. In 1907, she was awarded a PhD with the highest honors. Noether, a contemporary of Albert Einstein, used her skills to repair the previously inexplicable hole in his theory of relativity. She later defined the connection between the laws of symmetry and conservation, now known as Noether's theorem. Though she was able to overcome society's sexist limitations, as a Jewish person living in 1933 Germany, she was no match for the Nazis. Friends encouraged her to move to the United States, where she taught at Bryn Mawr College until her death at 53. The humorous, engaging text uses everyday objects such as bowling balls and socks to explain abstract theories. Lighthearted, hand-drawn, and digitally colored illustrations provide a welcome balance to the occasionally weighty subject matter; comical speech bubbles add to this effect. A lengthy author's note and bibliography will satisfy curious readers. Pair with Becker's Counting on Katherine or Cheryl Bardoe's Nothing Stopped Sophie. VERDICT A worthy addition to the growing collection of STEM-related picture book biographies of pioneering women.--Barbara Auerbach, Cairo P.L., NY

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Kids Can Press
Publication date
October 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV004000 - Juvenile Fiction | Biographical | General
Library of Congress categories

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