Two Trains Leave Paris, by Taylor Marie Frey and Mike Wesolowski

Two Trains Leave Paris

Number Problems for Word People

by Taylor Marie Frey
and Mike Wesolowski
illustrations by Patrick Torres

Abrams Image, 2019. 176 pages.
Review written August 5, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

I think this book is hilarious and utterly delightful.

What we have here is a review of high school and early college mathematics – with stories told about the elusive characters who show up in the word problems.

The first problem in the book, after a review of Algebra, tells about two trains leaving Paris, heading in different directions, and where the two trains are at their first stop. Then we’re asked:

How much distance is between Natalya and Andy when they simultaneously look back toward the city of love, thinking, Every end is a new beginning, and breaking up was for the best. No turning back now, this train only goes one way.?

This gives you an idea of the tone of this wonderfully silly book. Some problems are solved on the following page (like that first one), while the rest have answers in the back.

Here’s the second problem:

When asked his age, your math teacher, Mr. Newman, responds, “If you multiply my age by 4, then subtract 2, the answer is 110.”

A) How old is he?
B) Why does Mr. Newman talk this way?

So this book brings you snappy and funny summaries of math concepts, and then opportunities to try out what you’ve learned, while finding out about the adventures of a cast of characters you’ll come to recognize and maybe even sympathize with. The final chapter, after a review of calculus and probability and statistics, brings you to a wedding where all the characters gather.

Here’s part of the explanation at the start of the Trigonometry chapter:

You see, dear friend, Trig offers you a powerful gift: the chance to gain information about things without directly engaging with them. The people who determine which ads you see on social media know lots of Trigonometry.

And okay, if you don’t think this all sounds hilarious, this may not be the right book for you. As someone who once taught college math, I adored this book. The authors are far more interesting teachers than I ever was.

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