
Meet Danica McKellar 

Actress and Mathematician 

Danica McKellar is an actress,
a mathematician, and an advocate for math
education. She is best known for her role as
Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years and Elsie Snuffin on The West
Wing. Danica is a summa cum laude
graduate of UCLA with a degree in mathematics. She coauthored a
mathematical proof known as The
ChayesMcKellarWinn Theorem.
The busy actress has spoken before Congress about the importance of women
in mathematics. 


Danica McKellar is
a twotime New York Times bestselling author Danica McKellar. In 2007, Danica authored her
first book to inspire young girls. Math Doesn't Suck: How to
Survive MiddleSchool Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail does an excellent job of explaining middle school math concepts
by connecting them to things that really interest young girls. For
example, factors and friendship bracelets, multiples and shoes, and
rates and face cream. For each topic there are clear examples,
explanations and summaries. There are also homework and testtaking tips, testimonials from women, and quotes from
real kids and TV Stars. The teenmagazine format makes this book exciting
and fun to read. She has since published two new books: Kiss My Math,
a prealgebra book and Hot X: Algebra Exposed! Danica now
has a large audience of young people boys and girls who read her
books. 
Todays kids need a good role
model to help them succeed in math. I think the world would be a better
place there were more people
like Danica McKellar. So, naturally, I was delighted to interview Danica about
her book in 2007. Her personal publicist sent me a copy of the book just before it
hit the shelves nationwide on August 2, 2007. Her publicist also arranged for me
to interview Danica by telephone on August 15. Read the interview below to learn more! 
Interview with Danica McKellar, by Gisele Glosser

GG: 
What inspired you
to write this book? 
DM: 
I've
been interested in math education and [it's impact on] young
girls since I spoke in front of Congress in 2000 on women
and mathematics. What I learned in all the research I
did, is that the pivotal time for girls and math is around middle school.
That is when they decide if they are going to be good at math.
That's when they start to become selfaware... and aware that math has
a bad reputation: that it's just for nerds, and also,
just for boys. There was no question in my mind about it being
for middleschool girls. 
GG: 
Did you have any
help or support from colleagues or family members when you wrote
your
book? 
DM: 
I had a lot of emotional
support. And, when I was done writing the book, family members and
friends were kind enough to proofread different sections. I think my mom
read
the entire book at least twice. I've gotten so much support for
this book, on
so many levels, from so many different people. The media, in
particular, has really
embraced the idea of what I am trying to do. And they've given me a lot
of press. I am so grateful for that. 
GG: 
Where did you get your incredibly creative math ideas? 
DM: 
Thank you. A lot of them I came up
when I was in school to help myself remember things. Some of them
were developed as I wrote the book. For example, I'd ask myself "How can I relate prime numbers to
the kinds of things I was doing in middle school?" Then I
thought, aha, of course, there's patterns in a friendship
bracelet! As soon as I got that idea, I wrote that part of the
chapter.
Some sections were harder to think of than others. I did
not write the book in order to begin with. When I was first brainstorming
ideas,
I wrote whatever came to me first. I knew the topics I wanted to
teach, but the order was based on the inspiration of the moment. 
GG: 
What message are you sending to young girls about math? 
DM: 
A few messages. One of
them is that they are
fully capable of doing math. There is no difference between boys and
girls in terms of their aptitudes. You don't have to give up
being girly to pursue math and to be good at math. All
I'm doing is teaching math in the context of what things girls
like. 
GG: 
Do your math topics align with any math standards? 
DM: 
I did a lot of research
in terms of the standards. My book is not just one grade. I
chose the topics that, from my experience, and from talking with
middleschool teachers, would be most beneficial to middleschool students. Fractions, decimals,
ratios, proportions, percents, some words problems and some algebra. I would say it's
mainly fifth through eighth. 
GG: 
Did you have to take time off from acting to write this book? 
DM: 
Yes, I did. I've had the
book deal since January, 2006. I took some time off from acting
until June. That's when I started shooting Inspector Mom
in Dallas. During the shooting I worked
on the book on weekends. I also spoke to teachers about it in Dallas.
After I was done with Inspector Mom in
December, I worked [fulltime] on the book again in January, February and
March. Most of the book was written during those first few
months. But taking time off from writing the book, and speaking
to teachers about it, gave me
some perspective and enabled me to go back and
make some changes. 
GG: 
You've gone from a
child actress playing the role of a middleschool girl to an
adult actress helping middleschool girls. That's quite an accomplishment!
How does that make you feel? 
DM: 
It feels great. Because I
was on a show where I was a middleschool student, it made me
more in touch with my middleschool life. I watched the episodes
over the years and so I found them useful: it helped me relate to girls today. 
GG: 
Do people in Hollywood or in math education notice your
many talents? 
DM: 
When I first graduated
from college I got a lot of attention in Hollywood. They were
both impressed and horrified, and wondered "Why math?",
since
I already had a good career in acting. There were plenty of
starstruck teachers at UCLA. However, Dr. Lincoln Chayes, the
professor I wrote the theorem with, had no television, and no
preconceived notions of who I was. 
GG: 
Do you plan to write more books? 
DM: 
I don't know yet. I am
having a great time with this one! Some people say I should go
to an older or to a younger age group. Actually, the publishers
were concerned about the length of the book, but I insisted on
including the Algebra section. I really like Algebra, so maybe
the next one will be about that. Only time will tell... 

Summary 
It was truly an honor to interview Danica
about her first book and her career. I watched her as a young actress on The Wonder Years. So I
am thrilled to see her as a mathematician and matheducation advocate! As an
author, Danica really gets
into the minds of young people: She shows them math through things that
really interest them using their language. With her second
book, Kiss My Math, she empowers 7th to 9th graders to take on
prealgebra, using the same sassy style as she did in her first one. In
Hot X: Algebra Exposed, Danica puts mathphobic students at ease,
showing anyone how to become confident and totally "get" topics like square
roots, polynomials, quadratic equations, word problems, and more. 


