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The Math Olympian

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  23 reviews
As a small-town girl in Nova Scotia bullied for liking numbers more than boys, and lacking the encouragement of her unsupportive single mother who frowns at her daughter’s unrealistic ambition, Bethany MacDonald's road to the International Math Olympiad has been marked by numerous challenges.

Through persistence, perseverance, and the support of innovative mentors who inspi
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 2015 by Friesen Press (first published January 26th 2015)
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Richard Hoshino Thanks so much for your question, Lynn!

All of the characters are fictional, but they are hybrids of real people who have influenced my life. For exam…more
Thanks so much for your question, Lynn!

All of the characters are fictional, but they are hybrids of real people who have influenced my life. For example, Bethany (the main character) meets several mentors throughout the course of the book; all of her mentors are inspired by actual mentors I’ve had over the past twenty years, who modeled innovative teaching techniques and showed me that mathematics isn’t about memorizing formulas or rules (in high school) or about memorizing theorems and proofs (in university).

Also the settings of various scenes parallel some of my own personal experiences. For example, all of Chapter 2 is set in Ottawa, Ontario, at a week-long event called the Canadian Math Society “National Math Camp”. I was the co-director of this Math Camp for seven years, and so I could draw upon my experiences as a coach and trainer to create a set of quirky and interesting characters, and show how difficult problems can be solved in a myriad of elegant ways.

Given all of my experiences, as well as the mentorship I have received from so many world-class teachers, I felt that I could write a fictional novel that would grab and inspire readers, to reveal how math can be taught in an inspiring and creative way, and show how mathematics develops problem-solving skills, daring, critical-thinking and imagination – the types of skills Canadians require if we’re going to be at the forefront of innovation in the 21st century.

That was my motivation for writing "The Math Olympian". I hope you enjoy the story!(less)

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Patrick Boily
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I just finished "The Math Olympian", by Richard Hoshino.

I couldn't help being reminded of the (possibly apochryphal) anecdote relating the number of book sales to the number of equations in the book... perhaps Hoshino has never heard that story, but I suspect that the truth is that he saw it as a challenge: can an author present a meaningful story while introducing mathematical reasoning and non-trivial problem-solving methods?

On the mathematical front, his explanations are clear and insightfu
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You don't have to love math to enjoy this page turning, entertainingly educational story. It occupies almost it's own genre in finding a way to combine themes of competition, problem-solving, bullying, friendship and more.

The story of determination and overcoming obstacles is engaging in itself, and to boot, you find your self learning mathematical problem solving principles and even understanding complex mathematical proofs.

This would be an excellent book for middle school, junior high or senio
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Hoshino in the Q & A section at the back of his book says that his target audience is high school students, but he also hopes that the general public will enjoy it as much as it did the exploration into philosophy in Sophie’s World. I would add a few more groups to his target audience beginning with middle school and high school math teachers and those who teach people to be such teachers. I would also add anyone who enjoys math and likes to do math puzzles, plus those who learned a lot ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m a ninth grade girl interested in math. I picked up this book without knowing quite what to expect, but following the author’s visit to my school. Then I was gripped.

The book has a lot of math, all of it very well woven into Bethany’s narrative, the story of a teenage girl’s years-long journey following math, and towards self-actualization. It’s a story of a girl turning into a woman, with twists and turns that make life what it is.

Bethany, a strong leader that people look towards, wouldn’t b
Tony Qian
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a former math team captain, I found that this book captures everything I loved about math competitions and camaraderie. From relays and olympiad problems to heartbreak and religious philosophy, this book's got it all. A must read for nostalgic mathletes and people new to the art.

Richard has a talent for rendering the most inscrutable problems transparent, while preserving all the elegance and beauty of problem and problem-solving.

He tells a great story too! I met him just once, but I know he
Freya Schalla
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received this book free through Goodreads First Reads. I started reading this book last night and it is amazing! The style in which it is written is magnificent and the story is very poignant to modern day society. This is a book I will read again and again! I highly recommend this book!
Hwie Lie
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book immensely. I loved how the author told the story of how Bethany solved each problem, which in turn made the problems accessible.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Hoshino and it was immediate that this man loves, LOVES math. His passion was so infectious that within 10 minutes he got all of us inquiring deeply about math (there were about 8 of us ladies). So when he told us he wrote a math novel about a teenage girl finding meaning in life through math and that the book is available at our public library, I put a hold on it immediately on my smartphone before anyone else had the chance to.

It's a happy feel-good novel
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I think Richard Hoshino truly gave back to the world by this masterpiece. I personally discovered the beauty of math at a very young age and it has changed my life ever since. What an engaging novel with a little touch of math! When I first picked up this book, I knew that I do not want to finish it all at once, I wanted to live with it. Every week, just a few pages, just a few stories..
Highly recommend it!
Tommy Ryytty
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kevyesti paras fiktiivinen kilpailumatematiikan piiriin sijoittuva romaani. Juoni on hyvin yllätyksetön menestystarina, mutta tarinassa on sen verran särmää ja henkilöt mielenkiintoisia, että se kantaa senkin puolesta. Mutta kirjassa esitetyt tehtävät ovat erinomaisia ja mahtavasti ujutettu mukaan. Luen toista kertaa kirjaa läpi.
Evee Telfar
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed how accessible and understandable the Maths was in this story but there were some sections that were overwritten and too on the nose that could have been cut during the editing process. Overall, I enjoyed the story and absolutely loved Bethany but I wish that ending had a bit more tension behind it.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely a phenomenal book about grit, resilience, and passion. Definitely a read for all, especially young girls interested in STEM and mathematics in particular. Also highly recommend this book to teachers of all subjects and grades.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In one word: amazing.
Juan A.
Aug 20, 2020 marked it as to-read
no hay pdf, ebook para comprar si.
Annamae Elliott
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal read for anyone with an interest in Mathematics, especially math teachers.

After 15 years of teaching, this book helped to bring me to an understanding of my purpose in the Mathematics world. While I have never been the smartest, quickest, or appreciative learner as a student myself, I have realized that these are the qualities that help me achieve my goals as a teacher.

As Bethany explains different situations in the classrooms of her mathematics life, the ideas and goals that her
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even though I'm a high school math teacher, when a friend gave me The Math Olympian, I immediately thought, "A 500-page novel about math! This is a bit much!" The story captured me immediately. Throughout the novel, Hoshino illustrates the beauty of mathematics. In Bethany's journey (the protagonist), she discovers numerous problem-solving strategies that shows that math can be elegant (rather than always mechanical), and portrays a teenager who is immersed in the challenge of solving problems i ...more
David Kirshner
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With the 2015 International Math Olympics just completed, the U.S. coming in first, and a Canadian competitor getting the only perfect score, this is a hot topic for North Americans. There are a variety of books out about the Math Olympics, including some that are quite well informed and thoughtful, such as Count Down, by Steve Olson, about the 2001 American Olympiad team. But this is the first I'm aware of that is in the fiction genre, and aimed at adolescents, exploring the life and passions o ...more
Lara Thompson
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was enthralled by this book! Admittedly quite geeky (both me and the book), reading about Bethany and her math Olympic dreams made me reminisce on the years of high math competitions (but I was constantly jealous of her amazing math teachers and tutors!). I really hope this finds its way into the hands off all the young math stars isolated in their small towns or bigger towns and big cities (!) to help open their eyes to all that's possible. Inspiring book. And it teaches lots of problem solvi ...more
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure what to expect given the title and subject matter, but it was so much more than a story about math. There were many little nuggets of wisdom and very interesting observations about religion, and self-discovery. This book definitely opened my eyes to how beautiful and amazing math can be.
Caitlin Furlong
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. I loved how the math problems were integrated into the book. It helps us imagine that we are the protagonist. I loved that the story focused on a young girl wanting to become a math Olympian. As a math teacher, I could easily relate to the book and the characters.
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Would recommend to any math lovers.
Really enjoyed the mix of fictitious story and math problems.
Loved the simplicity of the story combined with emotional depth of it.
Hoping to read more of Richard's books.
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Seemed like it was directed towards a pretty niche audience. The math problems and solutions were interesting and fun though.
Alex Telfar
rated it it was amazing
Apr 12, 2018
Cameron Friend
rated it it was amazing
Oct 31, 2016
Bartholomew Mashingspoon
rated it really liked it
Aug 02, 2015
Richard Callysto
rated it it was amazing
Aug 30, 2018
Esther Vangeest
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May 27, 2015
Subhajit Das
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Dec 07, 2019
Sofia Graves
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Briony Doyle
rated it it was ok
Sep 18, 2019
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Richard Hoshino, a first-time novelist, teaches computer science at the Vancouver campus of Northeastern University. Prior to that he was a professor of mathematics and computer science at Quest University Canada in Squamish, British Columbia.

To get in touch with Richard, please visit or send him an e-mail at richard.hoshino[at]

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