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What's the story?
A frustrated math teacher stumbles on an idea to engage his students: build the world's biggest tetrahedron. After initial resistance, several students show up to the first meeting. Those that stick around forge unlikely friendships that change not only their thoughts about themselves but the community's thoughts about the run-down school they attend.
Is it any good?
This quick read will appeal to all kinds of students, whether they love, hate, or are indifferent about math. It will even appeal to budding chefs because barbeque recipes from a restaurant owned by Marcel's father are peppered throughout the book. Come for the math, stay for the BBQ? A strange combination, but somehow this story sticks together just fine, and sticks to your ribs.
This novel based on a true story starts off like many that focus on urban school systems: the students don't care, the teachers are uninspired, and the community is apathetic. Pearsall is a veteran author and she makes ALL OF THE ABOVE transcend the typical "teacher-inspired miracle story." Indeed, the math teacher at the center of the project, Mr. Collins, is a peripheral character. The four students who truly commit to the project -- Rhondell, Sharice, Marcel, and James -- drive the story with short, first-person chapters. The narratives show readers what motivates the four to participate in the project. We learn about their families, their dreams, and how the students are connected to each other.