Murderous Maths

Murderous Maths

The Guaranteed to Bend Your Brain cover
Author Kjartan Poskitt
Illustrator Philip Reeve; Ian Baker; Rob Davis; Daniel Postgate
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Mathematics
Genre Children's; mathematics
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date
1997 – present

Murderous Maths is a series of British educational books by author Kjartan Poskitt. Most of the books in the series are illustrated by illustrator and author Philip Reeve, with the exception of "The Secret Life of Codes", which is illustrated by Ian Baker, "The Essential Arithmetricks: How to plus, minus, times and divide." illustrated by Daniel Postgate and Rob Davis, and "The Murderous Maths of Everything", also illustrated by Rob Davis. The Murderous Maths books have been published in over 25 countries. The books, which are aimed at children aged 8 and above, teach maths, spanning from basic arithmetic to relatively complex concepts such as the quadratic formula and trigonometry. The books are written in an informal similar style to the Horrible Histories, Horrible Science and Horrible Geography series, involving evil geniuses, gangsters, love stories and smelly burgers, and lots more wacky comedies. The author also maintains a website for the series, which has been running for the past 10 years .


The first two books of the series were originally part of "The Knowledge" (now "Totally") series (), itself a spin-off of Horrible Histories. However, these books were eventually redesigned and they, as well as the rest of the titles in the series, now use the Murderous Maths banner. According to Poskitt, "these books have even found their way into schools and proved to be a boost to GCSE studies". The books are also available in foreign editions, including: German, Spanish, Polish, Greek, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, Croatian, Italian, Lithuanian, Korean, Danish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Finnish, Thai and Portuguese (Latin America) . In 2009, the books were redesigned again, changing the cover art style and the titles of most of the books in the series.

Poskitt's goal, according to the Murderous Maths website, is to write books that are "something funny to read", have "good amusing illustrations", include "tricks", and "explaining the maths involved as clearly as possible". He adds that although he doesn't "work to any government imposed curriculum or any stage achievement levels", he has "been delighted to receive many messages of support and thanks from parents and teachers in the UK, the United States and elsewhere".


The following are the books that are currently available in the series.

Related puzzle books have been published also:

One title that encompasses almost all areas of mathematics has also been released:

Kjartan has also written a book entitled Everyday Maths for Grown-Ups (2011).


A recommendation of the series by Scientific American, due for publication in January 2011[1] includes a quote from a Stanford engineer named Stacy F. Bennet, who described the series as "very humorous and engaging introductions to such topics as algebra, geometry and probability". On 22 November 1997, that same publication said of the series, "Have a look at Murderous Maths by Kjartan Poskitt. It is a truly addictive reading book, and was leapt on and devoured by my children. The book is full of awful jokes, fascinating facts, real murders and yes, the maths is good too. This is a brilliant book."

Some reader reviews have included appraisals of the series such as, "I just wanted you to know what a big difference you made to one [dyslexic] child's life. So thank you so much", "We are now trying to encourage our maths teachers at school to break out of the tedium and have some fun with maths!" and "We both found your books interesting, exhilarant, rich in tips and very appropriate to link pupils to the usually very boring and tiring activities connected with maths."[2]

The Primary Times released a review of Professor Fiendish's Book of Diabolical Brain-benders on November 25, 2002, describing the title as "intriguing, fun to do, and not at all dry", and adding "I warn you, once you start, you'll be 'hooked'!". Times Educational Supplement also published a review on the book on December 6, 2002, describing the title as being "action-packed" and reasoning that "behind the non-stop fun, serious mathematical principles are being investigated".[3]

Kjartan did a presentation for 350 kids and 10 teachers at Wolfreton School, Hull in June 2004. Reporter Linda Blackbourne described it as a "stand-up maths routine [that] has children - and teachers - in fits of laughter". CAROUSEL issue 16 (the guide to children's books) commented on the event: "...he possesses a prodigious gift of the (Yorkshire) gab, appears to be incapable of not enjoying himself, and plays his audience with the finesse of a maestro. Maths will never seem the same again".[4]

TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT described Murderous Maths as "A stand-up maths routine has children and teachers in fits of laughter... maths has never been so much fun". The Western Gazette said: "It is not often that you see a grown maths teacher cry with laughter...", while The Worthing Gazette said: "The kids went wild, they absolutely loved it...". The Stockton Evening Gazette said: "Headteacher Barry Winter said it was a stroke of genius inviting the quick-witted author to open the resource centre", the GCSE book in the Guardian said: "Those who have experienced Poskitt "live" will recognise his commitment to getting readers involved with the learning process" ( Nov 6th 2001), and The Press (York) described it as "...charismatic..."[5]

Poskitt has also received positive feedback from school faculty to which his books or presentations have made a positive impression. "How can I thank you for such a wonderful day...if any schools would like verification of their value for money, just point them our way.... this was one day that we will talk about for a long time to come" (Jane Scott, librarian, Hilbre High School, The Wirral), "Thank you sincerely for yesterday - you were terrific and genuinely "took the place by storm" in the nicest possible way. I have had many comments from staff, students and parents all enthusing about the way the Awards Afternoon left them feeling upbeat and optimistic... and your books are selling like hot cakes!" Jeff Bower, Headmaster, Pocklington.[5]

A review by Brian Clegg for Popular Science [6] described his views on Murderous Maths: Desperate Measures, "It's the usual clever mix of light historical context − mostly ancient from Israelites and Archimedes to the Romans − and real insights into fascinating aspects of something that sits nicely between maths and practical science. There's plenty to keep the reader and interested, and even adults perusing it will have one or two surprises along the way. Because it is very much applied maths, there is also a lot more opportunity to have fun with practical things to try out than has been the case with some of the Murderous Maths series. All in all this is a great addition to the fold." He gave the book a score of 4/5 stars.

The title Murderous Maths: The Essential Arithmetricks was given a score of 4.1 out of 5 on the website JacketFlap.[7]

A review of the series by monlim on On Kids And Education [8] said that "the books are great for reviving interest and aiding understanding in maths, but I don’t think they are suitable for every child. Many of the mathematical concepts are pretty complicated, so even though they’re explained in a fun and simpler way, some kids will still struggle to understand them."

markwtest at commented on the Murderous Maths website: "This site is full of oddities and tricks. A great resource to help keep us going for the last couple of weeks, especially for the older (Year 5 onwards) children." [9]

Ruth in NC at InfoServe commented on the series: "Now we are reading through the maths series together everyday. We often need paper and pencil to follow along but we have learned some handy maths tricks. Doing sums may be derided in the text but the beauty and fun of mathematics is celebrated."

The Word Pool [10] describes the series as being "excellent explanations of a wide range of maths topics which fit well with Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. This is maths as you've never seen it before − maths that children of 8 and over may choose to read for fun."

There are further reviews of the Murderous Maths series at:

Recurring characters

There are a number of recurring characters in the MM books. These include:


See also


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