The Unknowns: A Math Mystery
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The Unknowns: A Math Mystery

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In a trailer park called Adjacent, next to the Folsom Energy Plant, people have started to vanish, and no one seems to care. At first Lady Di and her best friend, Tom Jones, barely notice the disappearances—until their beloved math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, is abducted, too. Mrs. Clarke has left them clues in the form of math equations that lead them all over the trailer park, t...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Amulet Books
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Monica Edinger
This book fills a unique niche in the mystery genre --- there is drama, excitement, pulse-racing action, but there is also some very serious math too. I was a bit skeptical going in, but there is a lot to this book and the author pulls it off.

It takes place on an island that contains Folsom Energy Plant and the Adjacent Trailer Park. Carey does a superb job evoking this place --- the trash, the kind-but-somewhat-down-and-out inhabitants, the ways of trailer park living. As Deborah Stevenson note...more
David Molnar
Enjoyed this immensely. The main characters are 11, so I guess that's the target audience. This is a mystery, which weaves in some age-appropriate mathematics such as coordinate geometry, the Pythagorean theorem, and slope. And you know how much I love slope! People have been disappearing from the town of Adjacent, which is conveniently shaped like a perfect circle - well, I guess a disc, really - with two pipes crossing at the center. Mrs. Clarke, who has been tutoring the kids, is the latest t...more
Sornnujah
Tom Jones and Di, two kids from Adjacent, are trying to find their friend, and math tutor Malba Clarke. This is quite odd, because nothing much happens in Adjacent, but suddenly workers of the nuclear plant start going missing. Tom and Di start finding clues they believe Mrs.Clarke left for them, because they all involve math. With the help of Hamilton Rowan ,Thea Hutchison, both known as mental cases, Oki, the wise words of Mrs.Clarke, and their own problem solving skills, they stop the Folsom...more
Jeretta Hall
So very rarely do I come across a book that I did not like. This is one such occasion. I think that the premise of the story is interesting. But unfortunately, I didn't feel as though it was well executed. Much of the story focused on math and different math concepts. It does require to you be able to visualize many equations and examples in your head. I will admit it, I am not a math person. AT ALL. I just don't do well in it. So having a storyline with several math concepts...much of which I h...more
Zoe
The summary of The Unknowns immediately drew me in...it sounded like a story-line! And I really liked it, but it seems so average compared to other dystopias. There were definitely some flaws in the writing, but overall, I really enjoyed it.

The plot was original (for a dystopia...) and it moved surprisingly quickly. I enjoyed the narration and enjoyed the way the author incorporated readers into the story.
The mystery element was something I really enjoyed about The Unknowns. This helped the plo...more
Sophie
My number one reason why I read this was that it was a Battle of the Books book, so I sort of had to read it. The second reason why I read it is because it was fairly short. I'm sorry, but I did not like this book. I was excited that it was a mystery and it involved puzzles, but I disliked it for the following reasons:

1. The characters were completely not relatable. Apparently, at the beginning, they don't even know who Pythagoras was. At the end, they're solving problems left and right and even...more
Maura
As a math teacher I should have enjoyed this book, since it uses math, specifically the Pythagorean Theorem, coordinate geometry and circle formulae to solve the mystery of the disappearing people. It started out in a fairly promising way, with a sense of foreboding that sinister events are unfolding. People disappear, people are threatened, and bad things seem to be happening for no apparent reason. But the plot is skimpy, as though it was constructed as an excuse for the kids to use math skill...more
704isabel
My dad's friend who is a writer gave me this book to read. When he gave me the book I wasn't ready to read it. I was glad that this year I could finally read it.

I really enjoyed this book but I have to admit when I first picked it up I was a little unsure. I thought it may have a little too much math. But it completely surprised me that it was a mystery and that the math was fun and not a big deal. This book is about two kids (my age) who live in a trailer park on a small island called Adjacent...more
Claire
A clever mystery-adventure. Set in Folsom Adjacent- the site of a nuclear reactor adjacent to Crotona inhabited by generations of plant workers the story reminds me of Chasing Vermeer meets My 100 Adventures.

Lady Di (read the book if you want to know how a pudgy, 11 year-old red head got that name) and Tom Jones are sweating out the summer before they enter the dreaded Middle School in Crotona where kids like them are routinely eaten for lunch. What they wish for is a diversion, a disaster to t...more
Rebecca
Life is not a heck of a lot of fun when you live in a trailer park on a small California coastal island that's home to an underground nuclear plant. It gets even less fun when people start disappearing for no reason. Then Malba Clarke--unofficial math tutor for several island children--disappears, and the kids decide enough is enough. They're going to find out what's happening, and it seems as if Mrs. Clarke has left them a clue--an obscure, mathematical clue that challenges their brains and lea...more
Ollie
The story takes place in a trailer park called Adjacent, next to the Folsom Energy Plant. People have started to vanish, and some of the behavior of some kids who wander Adjacent behavior has also changed. Lady Di and her best friend, Tom Jones, barely notice the disappearances—until their beloved math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, is abducted. Mrs. Clarke left clues in the form of math equations that lead them all over the trailer park, through hidden tunnels under “Mount Trashmore,” and into the Folsom...more
Wei Li
This book is about this town that doesn't even have a name of its own, so people just call it Adjacent, as in next to something. Nothing ever really happens in this town, until one day, people start to disappear, and it definitely isn't a coincidence. Tom Jones and Di go on this adventure to solve this unknown mystery of the sudden disappearance in this strange little town.

I picked up this book because Sornnujah recommended it to me, and I wanted to read a mystery novel.

I finshed this book becau...more
Saskia
The beginning was good, and it was all well thought of. The math was smart and went good with the story. But the ending was rushed, and disappointing, it was nothing special, and the climax didn't have so much suspense. If you like math and adventure you will like this book.
Christina
A fresh idea: kids solving a mystery using math. "Lady Di" and "Tom Jones" (real name Tamir) are friends who live in a trailer park named Adjacent, because it's adjacent to an underground nuclear power plant. When their favorite elder lady math tutor disappears from her home, Di and Tom set out to follow the mathematical clues she's left behind for them to figure out. The math was fairly complex, involving plotting coordinates and geometry, and I got a little lost on it but they explain everythi...more
Mark Schlatter
I started off liking the book, but did not appreciate the latter two-thirds. The math puzzles appeared ill-defined (which is part of the point) and unnecessary, and I lost track of some of the conclusions about a map which is central to the story. Even with graphics added to the chapters, I found it difficult to build a strong visual image of what was going on.

I do like the meta-mathematical lessons of the book --- given the ill-defined problems, there is a strong focus on experimentation and re...more
Katie
Enjoyed it a lot - thanks, Rebecca! G liked it a lot too. Fun with the math problems embedded in the story. I liked the writing style too.

Interesting that her best friend read the other edition, titled simply "The Unkowns" for a book report and it was on my To Read list. Somehow I had a wrong edition in Good Reads (the ebook version, no idea how nor why it is not connected to these hard copy versions) and didn't realize they were the same book. Fun to read it after so many recommendations!!

Read...more
Amy
Interesting story about a forgotten town in the shadows of a nuclear plant.
Clever weaving of mathematical concepts into a mysterious tale of secret plans, missing persons, and the adventures of two would-be-heroes and their unlikely partners.

Though the writing was lacking in places (it's dessert, not desert when it's ice cream!), it tells a good tale and has some subtle references to some of mathematics' great minds. Overall a decent read with accessible math for middle schoolers (coordinate pl...more
Janice
A good book for kids who like math. It's a mystery that involves clues that have to do with things like algebra, geometry, probability, etc. But more than that, it's about a group of misfits who live in a misfit town who come together and form friendships as they solve the mystery and escape danger (like being shot at and almost drowned). So, there's some higher level stuff as well as some action adventure. Not everyone's cup of tea but not too bad.
Asch-Lee
I didn't know what to expect when I picked the book up, the title was interesting, the cover was cool, and the brief summary of the story seemed intriguing, but I wasn't totally convinced it was going to be good. After the first page I was hooked. The way the author ties in math with the story was really imaginative. It was sometimes hard for me to follow, but I think it's because I'm not really a math person. Realisitc characters and a great story.
Marilyn
Aug 26, 2009 Marilyn rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: 5th - 7th grade
This is one of those books like The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer that teachers, in particular math teachers, will want their students to read. It was a fun mystery and the math problems the two main protagonists had to figure out were woven into the story well. The storyline itself strained the bounds of believability, but was interesting enough that I think kids will enjoy it.
Shanshad Whelan
This might be more the thing for the math whiz, I found it didn't really grab me for very long. The setting and the story are inventive, but the overall plot seemed almost anticlimactic. While I enjoy a good riddle in a story, a book full of math related clues that the protagonists must solve didn't excite me all that much. Oh well, on to the next!
Natalie
The Unknowns is a very good book. It is about two people named Di and Tom who work on the mystery of why their tutor, Mrs. Clarke, disappears along with two other people in Adjacent. So after finding a clue in her trailer they begin to unravel the reason for these disappearances. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.
Ruth
A great one to booktalk with upper elementary and MS right now as nuclear power and the problems with power plants has been in the news. Two MS age kids who live in a trailer park near a plant find themselves using math to solve a mysterious equation that a tutor has left behind. I dislike math and I still liked this book!
Lana Krumwiede
Loved the math that comes into play in this story. The action and suspense was strong enough to carry me forward.

I really enjoyed the quirky characters. It reminded me a little of "Holes" in that way. And the voice was terrific.

Overall a terrific read, especially for someone who enjoys math(or wishes they did).

Chrissy
Interesting plot for a mystery involving lots and lots of math. For reasons I am unable to define it felt very dark and kinda gritty for a kids book. Not in a bad way, just an odd feeling for a kids book. Also, I didn't feel the characters were very easy to connect with. I didn't really care about them much.
Tracie
I couldn't put this one down! I'm often skeptical when authors add math to a tale but this one made me want to know the answers not despair because I couldn't figure them out. A nice mix between Bridge to Terabithia, City of Ember and Chasing Vermeer.
Meredith
Started this one - it's just not a good time to finish, even though I'm enjoying it. It seems really fun so far - appealing along the same lines as Winston Breen or Benedict Society. Mathy. Casual tone, which is easy/fun to read. Great characters.
Catherine
This was an interesting story - and I really liked the way the characters used mathematics to solve the mystery - although sadly I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't actually understand it all.
Recommended for the younger reader.
Angela
Suspenseful tale with lots of mathematical puzzles for the young heroes to solve in order to get to the bottom of what's going on there on the island where everyone lives in trailers and works at the nuclear power plant.
Akila
This was an AMAZINGLY UNIQUE book. Though I would give the book alone (literature) a 4 star rating, the fact that math was combined into the mystery made it a lot better. Simple math mixed into a fantastic mystery!!!!
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