##### ParentingScienceSkepticism

# Math is cool: Winnie Cooper says so!

Danica McKellar, aka Winnie Cooper from *The Wonder Years,* has written two NY Times best-selling books. Both are about math and the audience is girls in middle school. (Are any teen skepchicks reading this? I’d love to see a review of these books!)

McKellar is also going to be a regular on the Science Channel showÂ Brink.

Info about her books is below the fold.

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail

â€œDanica McKellar has a message for girls: Cute and smart is better than cute and dumb.â€

â€” The Associated Pressâ€œ[A] fun and accessible resource to help spark undiscovered math abilities in girls.â€

â€” Dr. Sally Ride, first American woman in spaceÂâ€œMcKellar is probably the only person on prime-time television who moonlights as a cyberspace math tutor.â€

â€”ÂThe New York TimesÂ

Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss

Stepping up not only the math, but also the sass and style,Â

Kiss My MathÂ will help math-phobic teenagers everywhereÂchill outÂ about math, and finally â€œgetâ€ negative numbers, variables, absolute values, exponents, and more. Each chapter features:â€¢ Step-by-step instruction

â€¢ Time-saving tips and tricks

â€¢ Illuminating practice problems with detailed solutions

â€¢ Real-world examples

â€¢ True stories from Danicaâ€™s own life as a student and actress

Kiss My MathÂ also includes more fun extras–including personality quizzes, reader polls, and real-life testimonials– ultimately revealing why pre-Algebra is easier, more relevant, and more glamorous than girls think.Â

â€” Amazon.com

I always had a crush on Winnie… And now I understand why! Think my cheesy math pick up lines would work on her??

Ahem…

“I wish I was a derivative so I could lie tangent to your curves…”

Making High School Maths interesting is true Herculean Labour. It’s pretty much Euclid and the Greeks with Decimals and Percentages included, really boring rote learning.

Until you reach The Calculus, Probability Theory and Mechanics at 16 there’s nothing much other than memorizing simple formula.

Unlike other subjects, Maths doesn’t get interesting until it gets hard.

Still, this must be an improvement, as apparently most STEM undergraduates don’t know how to calculate “2 to the power 10” at all, let alone in their heads like we were expected to “in my day” (yes, I went there, I’ve got a Zero-Ending Birthday coming up, so I can say that now)

The hell with the books, is she single?

@Detroitus: I don’t know about Winnie, but your line worked on me! And I’m a straight male!

I got this book for Christmas. It’s on 2009’s reading list. First Sagan, then Dracula, then Hobbit, then Winnie!

@russellsugden: Itâ€™s pretty much Euclid and the Greeks with Decimals and Percentages included, really boring rote learning.

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You learned Euclid by rote? I spent geometry class proving euclidian geometry from the axioms.

Im a 53 yr old curmudgeon. When I was in High school I really sucked at math partly due to a brain geared more towards the arts than math and also partly due to really crappy teachers. I never went to college unless you count art school.

All that being said, I wonder if those books would be good for me to read? Probably but the only problem is getting someone to go in the book store and buy them for me :)

My masculine pride would be at too much risk to buy them myself.

As a science student, I know I”m supposed to like math, but I find it somewhat boring. A useful tool, but so is a hammer and I don’t want to spend a lot of time studying the mechanics of a hammer. I just want to hit things with it and move on. That said, anything that furthers logical thinking is great as far as I’m concerned.

@Denver7M:

You could always buy them online.

i love love love that danica is doing this, but i must admit…i’ve always loved math. especially geometry and trig. i seriously will try and find excuses to use trig in my job (i got to the other day while drawing up a plan for a mitre box). i guess i’m some kind of freak, but whatever :)

clearly i’m the exception rather than the rule, so way to go winnie!

oh. and this website: http://www.calculator.com/calcs/calc_sci.html rocks my entire world. just so you know.

Every guy I know that’s my age has grown up watching The Wonder Years and has the hugest crush on Danica. It’s so awesome that she’s now getting to use that icon status for good.

@carr2d2: I used to tell the readers of my books that “there’s no such thing as knitter’s math, it’s just arithmetic” but then I discovered there’s a way to use trig to calculate the shaping for a sleeve cap! It’s going to be in my next book. :-)

@Denver7M: You could order from Amazon…. :-) And maybe they’d be willing to ship your books in a plain brown paper wrapper.

I have a preteen skepchick-in-the-making. The kind that wears “Darwin is my homeboy” shirts to school. :) I love Danica’s books, we have both of them … but to be totally honest my child has not yet fallen in love with them. The way it works is that I read the books and use what I learn to teach it to her. I wish I could put the book in her hands but she needs me to be the interpreter. She’s only 11. I’ll get back to you on this.

Danica has done a couple wonderful interviews on NPR, in which she also points out that smart girls are sexy. She would be a living example. One of my (religious) friends thought there was too much cleavage on her book cover, which is probably one reason I liked the book.

@ Detroitus: â€œI wish I was a derivative so I could lie tangent to your curvesâ€¦â€ That would send me screaming though. Maybe it works better on dudes.

Any way we could get Danica McKellar to wrestle Danica Patrick in oil and/or mud?

russellsugden:

I’ve never thought about it like that before, but its true. That’s really quite profound. Until you have taken university-level mathematics, you can’t understand just how much fun mathematics can be.

@sylvan.nak: Well, there are others… like this charming line:

“I wish I was your problem set. Because then I’d be hard and you would do me on the desk…”

As far as pick-up lines go, none of them work nearly as well as the classic, “Excuse me miss, but does this rag smell like chloroform to you?”

:-)

@Detroitus: The Math Geek’s love song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTby_e4-Rhg

@sylvan.nak: too much cleavage on her book cover…

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I understand all the words but they don’t make any sense.

@James K: Until you have taken university-level mathematics, you canâ€™t understand just how much fun mathematics can be.

————-

This is totally not true. Basic logic (which is about as simple as math gets) can be a lot of fun. Pick up “The Lady or the Tiger” or any of Smullyan’s other puzzle books. Discrete math is math. And it’s a blast. And I learned the very basics in middle school.

Hey, Denver7M,

Here’s another 53-year-old curmudgeon. Math ain’t my thing, either. I tell people I took three years of algebra in high school: Algebra I & II.

@sethmanapio: Yes, you learnt the axioms by rote!

@ writerdd- lol, Great idea, thanks :)

@mikespeir- thanks hilarious. I actually took Alg I in 9th grade in Wisconson. Then we moved to Denver for my 10th grade year and I took Alg II thinking I knew what I needed. WRONG! I had to either drop it or flunk. I then went back and took the more remedial math courses where 2+3=6 is good enough to pass. I filled my one required year of math with a couple classes like that and never touched the stuff again until I started working for a living. What is ironic is that I got a job as a Drafter for a manufacturing company some years later and was required to know geometry and trig. I went to a book sale at the public library, bought a couple good books, bought a fancy calculator, and I was off and running.

Here is the ironic thing; Once I had something to apply the math to that I could see and touch, it was both easy and completely understandable. I have always felt that the problem with math classes for school kids is that they don’t give them enough practical applications for why they need to learn it. Here is what you need to know and here is how you are going to use this in real life…know what I mean? How something is taught is just as important and what is taught don’t you think?

I was talking to my 12 year old daughter about these books (I was trying to come up with an excuse to buy them) she told me that she didn’t need them becuase she already liked math and wasn’t have any trouble. Damn.

@w_nightshade: That was brilliant!

Holy crap! I’m gonna have to buy these, once they’re both out in paperback. I teach math, so I have the best excuse ever.

A few months ago I bought these books for my friend’s teenage daughter. They were a hit all around.

Just one datapoint – but hey, it is data.

Y_S_G

@russellsugden: Yes, you learnt the axioms by rote!

————–

Right. So that was the first day. After that, we actually tried to prove things about geometry. So, no, we did not learn Euclidian geometry by rote. You are denigrating a whole area of proofs that are fascinating, challenging, and lead to everything else.

@sethmanapio: I’m impressed. My old text book in I have in front of me (Problems in Geometry by Posamentier and Salkind) contains “A selection of the most important 73 Axioms taken from Euclid’s 13 Books”

I mustn’t have been as smart a kid as you because it took me more than a day to learn the likes of “The measure of an angle formed by two secants, or a secant and a tangent line, or two tangent lines intersecting outside a circle, equals one-half the difference of the measures of the the intercepted arcs”

Denver7M

Yep. I always thought I could have an aptitude for math. My problem is that my mind always strayed. When they were trying to teach me how to plot points on a graph I was thinking, “Wow! You could plot a whole picture just by using mathematical formulas!” Years later I was a computer programmer and doing just that.

@sethmanapio: The measure of an angle formed by two secants, or a secant and a tangent line, or two tangent lines intersecting outside a circle, equals one-half the difference of the measures of the the intercepted arcs

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My bad. We learned the postulates. Then we derived the rest.

I stand ashamed of my poor memory for exact terminology.

@russellsugden:

My point is that we did not learn Euclidian Geometry “by rote”. We started with the five postulates and we spent the rest of our time building the geometry.

Obviously, we were heavily coached, or we wouldn’t have been able to prove anything. But walking through proofs and then exploring their implications is not rote learning.

Again, you are attacking an entire branch of math that is not only foundational, it is fascinating. The basic skills you learn when you learn Euclid can get you through every math class you’ll ever take. And the beauty of the system is undeniable. Middle School math is just as valid and interesting as more advanced math. For that matter, if you don’t know geometry, it

isadvanced math..sethmanapio:

OK,

Ididn’t learn how fun maths could be until I got to university. That’ll teach me for overgeneralising.@sethmanapio: I’m not attacking Middle School Maths, in fact I often like to waste an hour or so at weekends doing the Geometry/Arithmatic puzzle in the paper.

However what I am saying is that I personally didn’t find Maths exciting/interesting until Uni and it only blew my mind when I was introduced to Cantor, Set Theory and Transfinites.

High School Maths pretty much falls into the “Useful Tool” catagory of Maths : What’s the rate of acceleration? What’s the volume the shape formed by rotating this line around the X axis? How much interest is paid on this loan? Are these two samples drawn from the same population?

All handy things to be able to work out, but not really interesting. High School Calc goes up to finding the area of a 3D surface, Undergrad Calc has you playing about with more-than-3D surfaces and is much more interesting.

Before: @russellsugden: Making High School Maths interesting is true Herculean Labour. Itâ€™s pretty much Euclid and the Greeks with Decimals and Percentages included,

really boring rote learning.@russellsugden: High School Maths pretty much falls into the â€œUseful Toolâ€ catagory of Maths

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Sir, step away from the geometry, and put the pipe wrench down.

I’m sticking to my guns here: geometry, algebra, and trigonometry are interesting, and they don’t have to be learned by rote. Some people actually like useful tools–and

all mathis a useful tool–and might actually find mathmoreinteresting when they see it applied.Math snobbery is not attractive or accurate. When you first find out about the square root of two, if its properly presented, it should be just as mind blowing as anything you find out about later. (Sorry to add a greek, but Pythagoras is definitely relevant to a discussion of middle school math).

It’s also the introduction to set theory, which can be introduced in middle school and should be. It was when I took algebra.

I mean, Christ on a party boat, man, 2^(1/2) is a great introduction to civilization, skepticism, the folly of man and the tragedy of dogma. Rote learning? Boring?

Yeesh.

@sethmanapio: >> Sir, step away from the geometry, and put the pipe wrench down. <<

It’s a nerd-off!

@Denver_7: Who cares who sees you buy a book or what you borrow from the library? You may well make some new friends. :-D

I was force fed high school math, therefore I have a life-long hatred of it. I did love the geometric proofs, however.

When I went back to college (Denver_7, take note!) in my mid-to-late 40’s (2000 – 2003), I was in the math help center every day without fail and got a pity “C” in College Algebra. I have the same issue with math that Denver_7 does…If I can relate it to the physical world, I can eventually understand it. Example: From my years in airline operations, I can do aircraft weight & balance in my head and have it come out close to perfectly correct…because I know what it is and what I’m “doing” with the numbers. If that makes sense?

@sylvan.nak: I can assure you and your daughter that

manysmart men find smart women attractive. Smart men are looking for a lifepartner,not alife-long burden.