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10 Children's Books Celebrating "Hidden Figures" Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson calculated -- by hand -- the flight trajectories for a number of historic missions, including the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969.

When President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Katherine Johnson in 2015, few people had even heard her name — but today, thanks to the smash success of the book Hidden Figures and its movie adaptation, this groundbreaking mathematician has become an inspiration for girls everywhere!

Johnson was one of NASA's "human computers," a group of female mathematicians who calculated critical equations for rocket design, launch trajectories, and more. During her 35-year career at NASA, during which she was forced to overcome both gender and racial barriers, Johnson's skills in celestial navigation were renowned. She calculated — by hand — the flight trajectories for a number of historic missions, including the Alan Shepard's space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961 and the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. Now, this inspiring woman's contributions to the history of crewed space flight are finally being celebrated by the nation and the world.

In honor of Katherine Johnson who passed away this week at the age of 101, we've showcased a variety of books for all ages about the life and work of this trailblazing mathematician. These books capture Johnson's incredible determination, intelligence, and drive, and provide a stellar example for the next generation of pioneers!

Celebrating Katherine Johnson in Children's Books

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

Written by: Helaine Becker
Illustrated by: Dow Phumiruk
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

Katherine Johnson loved to count, and despite the prejudices against both women and African Americans, she was determined to find a way to make her love of math into a career. As one of NASA's "human computers," Johnson hand calculated elaborate equations... including the trajectories that helped launch the Apollo 13 mission to the moon. And when disaster befell the Apollo 13 mission, it was Johnson's flight-path calculations that brought the astronauts safely home. This inspiring biography of the mathematician catapulted to fame by Hidden Figures celebrates a love of math and encourages kids to follow their passions.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Recommended Age: 5 - 9

When Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden joined NASA, they were hired as "human computers" — their mathematical genius was put to use calculating launch trajectories for America's first trips to space. They overcame both racism and sexism, carved out careers in science, and participated in some of NASA's greatest triumphs. Fans of the Hidden Figures movie will be excited to share this picture book adaptation of the story of these groundbreaking women mathematicians with younger readers!

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America On The Moon

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America On The Moon

Written by: Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by: Veronica Miller Jamison
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

Katherine Johnson was a whiz with numbers, and she knew that just like 5+5=12 is wrong, so was the idea that women could only be teachers or nurses. She proved that girls and African Americans could be as smart as anyone else, zooming ahead of her school classmates and attending college at fifteen. But it wasn't until NASA hired her as a "computer" that she was able to prove that a woman like her could be a mathematician too — and once she did, her calculations helped take America into space, into orbit, and all the way to the moon! This uplifting biography celebrates a STEM pioneer, and includes back matter with inspiring quotes from Johnson herself.

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

Written by: Thea Feldman
Illustrated by: Alyssa Petersen
Recommended Age: 6 - 8

She's been called one of the greatest American minds of all time, and when NASA first started using computers to calculate launch trajectories, they only trusted them after she double-checked the math! Katherine Johnson broke both gender and racial boundaries when she started working for NASA in the 1950s as a human computer, performing the complex calculations necessary to launch rockets, satellites, and eventually, the Apollo 11 moon mission. New chapter book readers who are fans of the hit movie Hidden Figures will be excited to read their very own book about Johnson.

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Recommended Age: 7 - 9

Even as a child, Katherine Johnson was always asking: "Why? What? How?" In this compelling picture book biography, award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome traces Johnson's story from her math-loving childhood to her full college scholarship at age 15 to her work for NASA, calculating trajectories for critical missions including John Glenn's orbital flight. Illustrator Raúl Colón's capture Johnson's determination and curiosity and wonder about the world. This is an inspiring introduction to the Hidden Figures mathematician who defied both sex and racial barriers to pursue her dreams.

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race

Written by: Rebecca Rissman
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

In the early days of the space program, segregation was still the law, and most people thought that girls didn't belong in science. But at NASA, female African-American mathematicians challenged both gender and racial barriers: these "human computers" calculated the launch trajectories for America's rockets and satellites, and eventually, even for the first crewed space flights. In this narrative nonfiction book, young readers learn about these dedicated women, and then get a look at how women working at NASA today feel about their place in the space agency.

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition

Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly
Recommended Age: 8 - 13

Before people could orbit the Earth or fly to the moon, there was a group of "human computers": dedicated female mathematician who used pencil and slide rule to calculate how to launch rockets. Four African-American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, were critical to the story of space flight — and yet their story was largely untold. In this young readers edition of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, tweens will learn how these women, so little appreciated in their time, changed both NASA and America for the better.

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Written by: Katherine Johnson
Recommended Age: 10 - 14

For the first time, Katherine Johnson, the now-famous mathematician featured in Hidden Figures, is telling her story in her own words! She begins her autobiography with her decision, at age 4, to begin attending school with her older brother so she could help him with his math assignments. Before long, the gifted girl leapfrogged through grades, eventually graduating college at age 18. Her years at NASA, including fascinating stories from her work on the Apollo 11 moon mission, are recounted in vivid detail. Warm and conversational in tone, Johnson doesn't shy away from the difficulties of being both female and black while growing up and during her time at NASA. For any young reader who has dreamed of sitting down to chat with this remarkable role model, this lively book is the next best thing — and it's sure to inspire them to reach for their own promising futures!

Hidden Figures

The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Hidden Figures

The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly
Recommended Age: Adults

When America set its sights on the moon, launch calculations had to be done by pencils and slide rules in the hands of "human computers" — and among them was a group of incredibly gifted African-American women, without whom space travel would have stayed a dream. This book follows the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, whose contributions have until recently been largely neglected in the history books but whose work not only helped humankind reach the moon, but also changed the history of black woman in science. This inspiring book, which kicked off a new cultural appreciation for these groundbreaking women, is a must-read title for anyone interested in women's history.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Recommended Age: 9 and up

This blockbuster film adaptation of the story of NASA's "computers" highlights the social changes going on during the 1950s and 60s, while celebrating the daring women who made those changes happen! Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson were black women mathematicians hired to perform the endless calculations necessary for NASA's research and launches. They crossed gender and racial lines — and in many cases, pushed back against exclusionary policies — in order to help America reach outer space... and even still, few people knew their names until a couple of years ago. This inspiring story, based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, brings Vaughan, Jackson, and Johnson's story to vivid life on screen.

Amazon.com.au

Women in Science - Katherine Johnson Poster

Women in Science - Katherine Johnson Poster

Manufacturer: Rachel Ignotofsky
Recommended Age: All Ages

From Rachel Ignotofsky, the author/illustrator behind the exquisite book Women in Science, comes this high-quality print featuring Katherine Johnson! This poster pays tribute to Johnson's work as a physicist and NASA mathematician, and includes intriguing facts about this trailblazing scientist. This poster is available in 8X10, 11X14, and 16X20 inch sizes and is printed with archival quality inks.

Great Women of Mathematics Poster

Great Women of Mathematics Poster

Manufacturer: Platonic Realms
Recommended Age: 6 and up

Inspire your students with this beautifully designed poster from Platonic Realms featuring portraits and mini-biographies of ten of the greatest women of mathematics, from the ancient world to the 20th century! The mathematicians featured on this poster include Hypatia of Alexandria, Maria Agnesi, Sophie Germain, Ada Lovelace, Florence Nightingale, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Emmy Noether, Eugenia Haynes, Mary Cartwright, and Katherine Johnson. It's available in two sizes, 13 by 19 inches and 18 by 25 inches.

Amazon.com.au

The History of Women in Engineering and Math Poster

The History of Women in Engineering and Math Poster

Manufacturer: Learning ZoneXpress
Recommended Age: 6 and up

Celebrate women in STEM with his poster featuring pioneering female engineers and mathematicians! This laminated, 23 by 35 inch poster features Hypatia of Alexandria, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Sophie Germain, Ada Lovelace, Martha J. Coston, Emily Warren Roebling, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Kate Gleason, Mary Walton, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Emmy Noether, Edith Clarke, Olive Wetzel Dennis, M. Gertrude Rand, Elsie Eaves, Irmgard Flügge-Lotz, Katherine Johnson, Beatrice Hicks, Yvonne C. Brill, Marilyn Jorgensen Reece, Ursula Burns, and Helen Greiner.

Amazon.com.au

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