The Ancient Formula: A Mystery with Fractions

The Ancient Formula: A Mystery with Fractions

By: Melinda Thielbar
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: October 2010
ISBN: 978-0761349075
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 2010

Joy, Sam, Amy, and Adam were watching Sifu Faiza demonstrate a Kung Fu move with swords with Sigung. She showed them the start of the move and the ending, but left out one of the parts. Sifu said, “If you only learn the starting and stopping positions, you’re missing 1/3 of the move. The kids were all anxious to learn how to work the swords and were told that in that particular form there were 9 moves. They were 3/9 or 1/3 of the way through and Adam claimed that “Sword practice makes my wrists sore.” They took a break to take a look at Sifu’s Kung Fu journal to see if they could solve some of the puzzles her grandfather wrote down. It appeared that the puzzle was incomplete and there was an aura of mystery surrounding the puzzle.

The next puzzle, figuring out the portions of a sports drink to have with their snack, was easy in comparison, but they still had to think. After they figured out the recipe, they had to figure out how to divide the mixture in fourths so everyone would get a cup. After snack time, Amy talked to Sifu Faiza about needing help with Sifu’s grandfather’s puzzle. Sifu said, “Everyone needs help sometimes. Even Kung Fu masters, like Sigung and me. Ask others for help when we’re learning something new.” Sifu Lelung Jan was a respected Kung Fu master, but he wanted to keep his formula for Jow, “Chinese medicine for Kung Fu students” a secret and had carved the formula into an ivory disc.

This formula was the “puzzle” that everyone was having difficulty understanding as the formula was in eight wedges. Sifu Lelung carved the other side to look like a clock and burned his notes, but the formula was eventually stolen. They had a group discussion, but because they were still stuck, Sifu decided it was time to take a break. Soon it was back to working with the swords, but Sigung had a sudden burst of anger when Miranda walked through the door. She had two pieces of the puzzle in her hand, but was not to be trusted. Sigung was angry because she had stolen Sifu Leung’s formula. There was a little evil lurking about because they would find that Miranda was up to no good. Would they eventually be able to find the missing pieces to the puzzle and figure out what the long lost formula was?

This is a fabulously ingenious method of painlessly weaving clues and fractions, into a Kung Fu mystery. Most likely by the time most youngsters read this book they have been at least introduced to the concept of fractions. When they are incorporated into this mystery, the visuals of seeing them in action make them very easy to grasp. For example, the mysterious disc is divided into a pie graph. We subtly are introduced to fractions as a whole, adding fractions with like denominators, recognizing and comparing fractions, etc. This “Manga Math Mystery” is far from a thorough introduction to fractions, but will definitely take the fear out of learning them and hopefully will assist parents, teachers, and caregivers to help the student build a solid foundation for learning them…painlessly.

Quill says: If you have a reluctant student who prefers manga to math any day, this is one exciting series you may wish to look into!

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