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Danica McKellar - math wondergirl

By Murray Bourne, 26 Sep 2007

Danica McKellar

Danika McKellar has achieved recent fame for her book Math Doesn't Suck - which, according to A Math Makeover (link no longer available), is:

... aimed at helping young girls survive — "and even thrive" — in math class.

From the blurb [no longer available]:

In MATH DOESN'T SUCK, internationally known actress and bonafide math genius Danica McKellar — called a "math superstar" by The New York Times — rips the lid off the myth that math "sucks," helping to show that math can be easy, relevant, and even glamorous — while providing the tools needed to ace the next big math test!

With Danica as a personal tutor and coach, even the most frustrated student will finally "get" fractions, decimals, rates, ratios, proportions, "solving for x," and more...

Homespun advice abounds in the book, from what I can make out in this excerpt:

Let's get a few things straight: Acne sucks. Mean people suck. Finding out that your boyfriend kissed another girl? That would totally suck. Too much homework, broken promises, detention, divorce, insecurities: suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.

But math is actually a good thing.

It turns out that McKellar is a skilled mathematician:

She graduated with high honors in 1998. Around that time, she also became the only television actress in America to coauthor a groundbreaking mathematical physics theorem; it was published in the Journal of Physics and bears her name (the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem). [Source no longer available]

The actual paper is called Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2.

It is not clear what McKellar's contribution to the paper was.

It is good to have female mathematics role models, and it is also good that the popular press has picked up on it. You never know, the book might actually inspire some girls to take further math.

Now that wouldn't suck.

Update: Here's a video of Danika talking about her acting and mathematics accomplishments.

See the 3 Comments below.

3 Comments on “Danica McKellar - math wondergirl”

  1. Daniel says:

    "internationally known actress"???

    I'd never even heard of her until this article. Oh well, the more you know.

  2. Lisa Christian says:

    Im not for some of her posing and exploiting women while at the same time trying to elevate and liberate them... kind of confusing. BUT if we get the message to teenage girls who think only with their hormones (boys too, of course) that math is SEXY that nerdy plus pretty equals fabulous, then, okay, we've accomplished something. because... that sex sells thing...well its not going away so soon, that is another matter. πŸ™‚ So yayyy to selling math to our young people. And she does seem to keep a certain level of modesty while being sexy. so good for her. πŸ™‚

  3. Russell Robinson says:

    I used to have a crush on winnie cooper as a teenager. After the show I didn't hear any more about her until her math theorem was published. She's a beautiful woman. But, when i found out she was uber-smart, I was overwhelmed. To be pretty is 1 thing. But,to have brains & beauty is even more appealing. It seems a little unfair to normal people. However, that's life. Right? Now tell me she's funny as well, well that crosses a line. Kidding!! Bless her for being a role model.

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