Math Girls

Hiroshi Yuki (Translated by Tony Gonzalez)

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So the thing about me and math is I took a lot of math classes in high school despite a near complete lack of aptitude and interest in the subject and except for calculus, which for some reason clicked1, I generally had mediocre marks. Some people find math beautiful for itself, perverts good for them, but I was generally only ever interested in it to the extent I could use math as a tool to examine subjects I did care about, which is why I can rattle off mass ratios (as long as Vdelta/Vexhaust is an exponent of e I’ve memorized) or but am crap at most other applications. Which is a long way of saying I was probably the wrong person to review this book.

I will say I was filled with a particular glee when I went from F = G*m1*m2/r2) to something that would give me orbital periods but that’s clearly information I can use in every day life. Ditto when it turned out on a chemistry test doing the math for titrations the long way round was right, whereas the short cut gave a wrong answer2. Or powers of e; what if suddenly you need to know a mass ratio and you don’t know your powers of e? You’re fucked is what.

The novel is a series of discussions between the male narrator, teenaged at the time of the events shown and gifted with the sort of deep insight into the opposite sex’s psyche we all expect from teenagers, a girl his age named Miruka and younger girl named Tetra. All three have an interest in math but Miruka’s grasp of the subject is deeper than the narrator’s, whereas Tetra approaches him for tutoring.

Generally speaking, if you’re weak in the basics, then the discourses involving Tetra are the ones you want to read (and play around with), whereas people whose footing in this matter is more secure may prefer the sections with Miruka.

People not interested in math at all may prefer the romance subplot; math is clearly how Miruka flirts and she is extremely cool on Tetra insinuating herself into the narrator’s life. It takes a very long time for the penny to drop for the narrator, although the very first meeting between the two girls

That was when Miruka showed up, walked to where we were sitting, and kicked Tetra’s chair out from under her. The sound of chair and girl crashing to the floor echoed through the library. Now Tetra was on the floor and I was on my feet, unsure what to do.

Tetra picked herself up and gave Miruka a good long glare, then left without saying a word.

Miruka righted the chair as if nothing had happened, sat down, and looked at my notebook.

may imply the girls know what’s going on. Readers may be interested to know the above occurs about 1/5th of the way into the book; our hero suddenly starts connecting dots after more than half the book has passed3. Obviously his math skills are solid enough but he needs to put in more work studying triangles.

Math Girls can be purchased from a variety of sources.


1: But it only took me a decade of never using it to completely forget it.

2: Although the only reason I did it the long way was because learning to do it the long way had been agonizing and having invested the effort I was bloody well going to use the skill every time I could, it was also obvious an exam would use a problem where the short cut didn’t apply. Because teachers.

3: The first time Tetra declares that she loves him is actually even earlier than the confrontation between her and Maruka but she manages to cover in time:

She looked away and smiled. “I think I might love you — ” She looked back at me, then her eyes went wide as she realized what she had just said.
I cocked an eyebrow.
“ — Teaching me!” She blurted, a few seconds too late.
I looked around nervously.
Tetra’s face was burning red. “ Math,” she whispered. “ I love you teaching me math.”

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