5. Get by with a little help from your (female celebrity mathematician) friends.
We all remember Danica McKellar as girl-next-door Winnie Cooper on the nostalgic 1980s television series “The Wonder Years.” After establishing herself as an accomplished actress on the show, McKellar decided to flex her mathematical muscle by pursuing an education at UCLA, graduating summa cum laude with a mathematics degree and co-authoring the Chayes–-McKellar–Winn Theorem.
While McKellar has continued acting, she didn’t slow down promoting her favorite school subject, especially among young girls in STEM. “We are surrounded by stereotypes that would have girls believe that their main value lies in their appearance – what they wear, what makeup they choose and how skinny they are,” says McKellar. “And there are stereotypes in the media telling girls they are not going to be as good at math as boys will be. It undermines girls’ confidence in math so that even if they are doing well in math, they don’t feel they are doing well.” Though McKellar says she always loved the “challenge of math” she did reach points in education during which the material became extremely difficult. “A new teacher was brought in to the school who put a friendly face on the subject and the very same material that had been difficult was now doable. I never forgot that, and that experience was extremely influential to me on how I would later write my math books.”
On a mission to increase girls’ confidence in the subject, McKellar has written four books that encourage young female students to embrace math. As young women advance in school, McKellar’s series grows with them from the age of nine through high school. “I simply wrote the books that I wish had existed when I was in middle school…it was easy to pretend I was talking to myself at that age. Whether it was sharing tips and tricks or thinking of a funny story to lighten the mood…or just to give pieces of advice. It’s so rewarding to get emails still today from girls who feel that I was talking just to them and are thrilled to report their newfound success and love of math.”
While McKellar’s priority is teaching children, she believes kids shouldn’t have all the fun. Her YouTube series “Math Bites” relays concepts through entertaining, informative, fun, and relatable videos, perfect for adults who could use a refreshing reconnection to the subject. McKellar’s Twitter and Facebook pages also provide fresh, frequent insight regarding how to cultivate interest for math girls in STEM.
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