Winnie Cooper, math teacher?
Actress Danica McKellar, who played young bookworm Winnie on The Wonder Years, has published Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, the latest in her series of math books aimed at teen girls, presenting concepts in a tongue-in-cheek way to make the subject matter more interesting. Other books in the series include Kiss My Math and Math Doesn't Suck.
"The point of the books is to present math in a way that's different from what we usually see," McKellar recently told NPR. "Math can be dry and boring when taught in certain ways, and it can also be very interesting. And so I teach math in the context of things that preteens and teenage girls are already thinking about, like shopping and makeup and pizza and puppies."
Years after appearing on The Wonder Years, McKellar is hoping to inspire a new generation of young women "I would love to inspire the next generation of mathematicians and scientists, but my main goal is to give girls the confidence that comes from feeling smart and the confidence that comes from knowing that they can handle challenges," she told NPR. "So whether it be a difficult math problem or something else, they can say, wow, I'm not sure if I can do that, and then they work at it, they persevere and they overcome it. And now they've taught themselves that they are stronger and smarter than they thought they were."
Struggling with math is certainly something the actress says she can relate to: She says she used to cry at home because she was afraid of her math homework. "I'm writing books that I wish that I had," McKellar said. "As a teenage girl, you tend to be obsessed with things that are pretty superficial, whether it be how you look or how popular you are. And so I really wanted to address those things."
To that end, McKellar has included things more typically associated with teen magazines than textbooks, like body image quizzes, in her math writing. As for McKellar's love for numbers, that started when she took a math class at UCLA shortly after The Wonder Years ended.
"I was actually worried about taking a math class. I didn't know that I'd be able to handle it," she admits. "I didn't see myself as being good at math even though I was. And that's one of the things I'm tackling in the books. ... I suddenly felt valued and important for something that had nothing to do with Hollywood. It had everything to do with something that I was building from the inside out, and you don't have to have been on television to struggle as a teenage girl with your self-image. And that's why I know that math is an amazing tool for all girls to find themselves, to find something that they value themselves for."