Maths. For so many school-goers, such a difficult subject to get to grips with. If only there was a way to make it more exciting. Maybe with laser beams, or explosions perhaps, or, even better, what if your geometric diagrams came to life to do battle with those of other students?
Well, in New York Times-bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s young adult novel, The Rithmatist, that is exactly what does occur in the classrooms of Armedius Academy. Unfortunately for the book’s protagonist, Joel, however, he’s strictly forbidden from studying the magical, mathematical art he finds so alluring.
Joel is the son of a lowly, deceased chalk-maker, and is only granted attendance to the prestigious Academy because his father and the principal were such close friends. Sadly, attendance is not enough to allow Joel into the exclusive Rithmatic lectures he so desperately wants to be a part of. Rithmatists (magical individuals who can bring chalk diagrams and monster-like chalklings to life) are few and far between and their art is a closely guarded secret.
Joel is a bright young thing, though, and, through his messaging duties, sneaks his way into many a lecture on the Rithmatic campus. With his keen mind and well-honed mathematical ability, he eventually manages to work himself into the good books of an elderly Rithmatic professor, and even earns himself the chance to be the man’s assistant over the summer break.
Sanderson has created a fine magical world and the Rithmatic system, which is fairly complicated, is transmitted impressively through short, intermittent textbook-style explanations. With the existence of magic not being hidden from the masses (as in Harry Potter), the book also offers a fascinating account of the social implications of magicians interacting with muggles. Prejudice and jealously all rear their ugly heads and this aspect of the story is surely the novel’s greatest strength.
The actual Rithmatic duels are also wonderfully exciting, despite, at their core, consisting of two individuals scribbling pictures on the ground. There is, however, the odd problem. For example, the resemblance of snide Professor Nalizar to Professor Snape is difficult to ignore, and many of the book’s relationships develop in a fairly predictable manner.
Overall, however, The Rithmatist is an excellent tale which creates a beautifully textured world and, when Rithmatists slowly begin to disappear, the story really does have you desperate to find out what’s going on.
- The word ‘mathematics’ comes from the Greek word, máthēma, which means ‘subject of instruction’.
- We all know million, billion and trillion, but what’s next? Answer: A quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion and undecillion.
- Similar to the portrayal of maths in The Rithmatist, Simon Mayo’s Itch aims to inject excitement into the fascinating subject of chemistry.
- Did JK Rowling mean to communicate biological principles through the Harry Potter series?