Being a skeptical person by nature, I usually am not impressed by the person-of-week or hometown-heroes segments on national and local news.
But today, I saw a great feature about Danica McKellar. You’ll remember her as Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years.
Sorry, no video to embed because ABC just doesn’t get it. There isn’t video on their site either of the interview.
She is trying to help convince middle school girls that excelling in math is OK.
“Unfortunately girls think that being glamorous means making mistakes and being irresponsible. And that’s just not true. The smarter you are, the better prepared you are to make decisions in your life, the more likely you are to lead a satisfying life and be glamorous and fun and anything you want to be,” McKellar said.
Here’s the really cool thing: she isn’t just talking the talk. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics from UCLA.
She has a published physics thereom: Chayes, L., McKellar, D. & Winn, B. (1998) Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on . Journal of Physics A: Mathematics and General, 31, 9055-9063.link to pdf
What is she doing now? She has published a book aimed at middle school girls, Math Doesn’t Suck.
“In reaching the middle school girl’s audience I wanted to keep in mind what are girls thinking about at that age? … Boys, makeup, jewelry, fashion, who am I? I took every quiz in every teen magazine known to man because you think you’re going to get the answer to ‘Who am I?'” she explained. “I thought, let me do it in that context, why not? Why not teach math in the context of being a girl?”
“There is no problem with being able to look cute if you want to and do a math problem. It doesn’t affect your brain. The makeup doesn’t seep into your skull and allow you to not think as clearly.”
NPR Interview where she elaborates on her theorem ( four minutes) and goes more in depth on her math passion. She says she would rather use her position to be a role model and she has answered math questions for years on her website. She says that even if she had stayed in math rather than acting, she would rather break the stereotype of what mathematicians look like.