Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Danica McKellar is probably best known for her long term role as Winnie Cooper on television's The Wonder Years. She's all grown up now, and has a degree in mathematics. Math Doesn't Suck; How to Survive Middle School Mathematics without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail is McKellar's book aimed at middle school girls who may have math anxiety.
The cover is designed to mimic a teen magazine. Captions on the front include, “Do you still have a crush on him?” and “horoscope inside!” It's definitely not for every ten to fourteen year old girl, but for the young fashionista who loves to shop, this is a great resource. There are many references to boyfriends and shopping, which surely will appeal more to some girls more than others. Danica states, “While it's fun to focus on being fashionable and glamorous, it's also important to develop your smart and savvy side.” Her mission seems to be to let girls know that it's ok to be smart, and that smart girls can be attractive too. Quotes from various celebrity teens reinforce this view. Actor Devin Werkheiser of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, says, “I love smart girls. It always helps when a girl can hold up an intelligent conversation.” It's nice to see the math geek stereotype being cast aside.
The book's chatty style is very casual and friendly, and explanations are memorable. McKellar describes prime numbers as being, “Like monkeys swinging on the lowest branches of factor trees.” Common denominators are discussed using the analogy of what qualities two friends might share. Another example involves figuring out if a sundress can be afforded after a percentage markdown.
Because of the slightly mature language and all the references to boyfriends, bikini waxing, and shoes, I'm not really comfortable presenting this book as a resource for girls younger than ten. But I do think it has a market for bright girls ten and up, who have a bit of math phobia. Danica's a great role model for girls who think they have to dumb down to be appreciated.