Author Interview with Laurie Wallmark to Celebrate SK Days and Numbers in Motion

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

Today we’re celebrating one of the most amazing women in Mathematics because we’re in the throes of SK Days!

For more than twenty years Sonia Kovalevsky Days (SK Days) have been organized by AWM (Association for Women in Mathematics) members and held at colleges and universities throughout the country. SK Days consist of a program of workshops, talks, and problem-solving competitions for high school and middle school students and their teachers, both women and men. The purposes are to encourage young women to continue their study of mathematics, to assist them with the sometimes difficult transitions between middle school and high school mathematics and between high school and college mathematics, to assist the teachers of women mathematics students, and to encourage colleges and universities to develop more extensive cooperation with middle schools and high schools in their area.

Some SK Days locations and info:

Frenso State February 28, 2020 (my alma mater where I earned my math degree!)

Colorado State March 12, 2020

Temple University March 28, 2020

The University of Iowa April 18, 2020

To celebrate SK Days, we have an extra special guest today, who introduced me to the amazing Sonia Kovalevsky, also known as Sophie Kowalevski,  with her amazing book Numbers in Motion. The wonderful Laurie Wallmark! We will talk math and books–my two favorite things!

cover: sophie with a top

Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today, Laurie!

Laurie: I’m thrilled to be able to shine a light on Sophie Kowalevski, one of the many unsung women in mathematics.

Kaitlyn: Yay! Let’s dive right in then! Can you tell us a bit about Sophie’s name? The AWM calls her Sonia Kovalevsky but in your book you use Sophie Kowalevski, why is that? 

Laurie: I chose to use Sophie Kowalevski because that’s the name she chose to use on her business cards. If it’s good enough for Sophie, it’s good enough for me. In the back matter of my book, I explain about the transliteration of her name from the Cyrillic alphabet to our Roman alphabet and why that can cause confusion.

explanation of sophie's name

Kaitlyn: That’s so interesting; I had never thought about different alphabets and how the translations can lead to so many possible names. How did you discover this remarkable woman?

Laurie: I often get this question about the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) I write about. Usually I can’t answer, because I feel as if I’ve always known about them. That wasn’t the case here, though. I knew that I wanted to write about a mathematician, so I went through lists of women in mathematics. Sophie’s story called to me for two reasons. First, even though her work was in abstract math, children would be able to understand its real world examples. Second, who could resist writing a book about the person who solved the problem known as the mathematical mermaid?

Kaitlyn: So true, mermaids rock, and mermaid math problems super rock! If you could pick just one thing, what’s the most inspiring thing about math to you? 

Laurie: I’ve loved math ever since I was a girl. I’d take math books out of the library that were way (way!) above my comprehension level. I didn’t care, because of one reason–math is fun!

Kaitlyn: Wow, way to go, Laurie! Numbers in Motion has such a unique perspective, starting with Sophie playing with a fun, spinning top, how do you come up with the angle for your books that always makes them so kid-friendly and fun?

Laurie: Choosing that perspective is always the hardest part of writing a biography. In my workshops about writing biographies, I spend half the time on what I call finding your focus. What are possible different approaches you can use to pull a child into the story? For one of my books, I wrote it first in prose, then poetry, then back to prose. You often have to experiment a bit (like a scientist does!) to figure out the correct approach. 

sophie watching spinning top

Kaitlyn: Great advice, do you have any other you like to share with authors?

Laurie: Keep on keeping on.

Kaitlyn: That is definitely some of the best advice when it comes to this industry. What’s next for you? Do you have other books in the works?

Laurie: I have another woman in STEM book coming out next year that hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t tell you who it is. In addition, I’m branching out into fiction, with three picture books on the way. The first is Dino Pajama Party. This one is clearly not nonfiction, as far as I know.

Kaitlyn: Hahaha, I can’t wait to read them all, and I’m just on the edge of my seat with your cliffhanger about your next bio. Finally, if you could hang out with your favorite writer or mathematician, would you chat over tea or go fly a kite?

Laurie: Isaac Asimov. He’s one of my favorite science fiction writers, but he also wrote nonfiction books on a multitude of subjects, not just science. And talk about prolific–he wrote over 500 books!

Kaitlyn: Wow, that’s amazing! It was such a pleasure visiting with you, Laurie. Thanks for sharing Sophie’s story with the world and for joining us today on the Math is Everywhere blog to celebrate SK Days 

Laurie: Thanks for having me, Kaitlyn. Happy Sonia Kovalevsky (or Sophie Kowalevski) Day, everyone.

Laurie’s Bio

head shot of laurie

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in fields ranging from computer science to mathematics to astronomy. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, AAAS/Subaru Prize Longlist, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. You can find Laurie on the Web at and @lauriewallmark.

Kaitlyn’s Review of Numbers in Motion

I was blown away by this book. Laurie Wallmark found such an interesting perspective for this story that will intrigue children and adults alike. I was inspired, I felt with Sophie, and I even learned new things about math, and I’m a math teacher! And the cherry on top? Yevgenia Nayberg’s art really brings Laurie’s words to life. The images she’s created have a magical way of making me feel like I’m there in the story with Sophie Kowalevski.

A must-read for all!

cover: sophie with a top

Sophie Kowalevski was both a brilliant mathematician and a talented writer. Creative work nurtured her mathematical research, giving her a flexibility of thought she treasured. A wonderful STEAM figure, she not only did mathematical research, but she also created many literary works. This inspiring title tells the story of Sophie’s journey as the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics, which required original research, holding a university chair in mathematics, and becoming the editor of a major scientific journal.
Get a copy of Numbers in Motion: Indiebound  Amazon  Barnes and Noble

Do you want to WIN a SIGNED copy of Numbers in Motion? (U.S. only)

To enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Retweet this tweet about the blog post
  3. Let us know in the comments that you have ordered one of Laurie’s books (you can earn an entry for each book)
  4. Let us know in the comments that you requested your library carry Numbers in Motion (if they don’t already have it)

Each thing you do above gets you an extra entry!


Thank you all so much for celebrating SK Days with us, talking math and writing, and supporting such a wonderful author!



Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez


PS. I hope you’re working on your #SpringFlingKidlit entry, it’s about a month away now, and I’m so excited to see all the awesome gifs and read the wonderful stories!


26 thoughts on “Author Interview with Laurie Wallmark to Celebrate SK Days and Numbers in Motion

  1. What a great interview, Kaitlyn. Thank you to Laurie for sharing the story behind Numbers in Motion and for her excellent writing advice. I also loved learning about transliteration and how that led to so many different names for Sophie/Sonia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve reallly enjoyed Laurie’s nonfiction picture books. It only makes sense she keeps writing them. Congratulations! Just sent in a request at my library.

    Liked by 1 person

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