VH1 recently started airing a comedy called Free Radio about a kooky intern, played by Lance Krall, in charge of a radio talk show that features interviews with celebrities. One of the recent guests was former childhood actress Danica McKellar, best known for her roles as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years and Elsie Snuffin on The West Wing. But on this episode, rather than plugging her latest film role, she came on the show to talk about her New York Times best-selling books about math. Yes, math.
McKellar wrote Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math to help middle-school girls succeed in math and make it more relevant to them. And while many celebrities have ghost-writers, McKellar didn’t need one. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and is the coauthor of a mathematical physics theorem called the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. But Free Radio character Krall wouldn’t have any of it.
During the segment, Krall was dumbfounded that a successful, beautiful celebrity such as McKellar would bother studying math—where does knowing about math get you when you have all the calculators and computers in the world? When McKellar tried to explain that math was the “language of the universe,” Krall responded that the true language of the universe was in fact "American." (Funny stuff—and I guess any publicity for mathematics is still better than no publicity.)
Curious, I visited my local library and checked out both of McKellar’s books. I must say I admire her for dispelling the myth that women are somehow less able than men to do math and for promoting math as a means to build confidence. Says McKellar, "It makes you feel smart when you walk into a room, prepares you for better-paying jobs, and helps you to think more logically... Most of all, working on math sharpens your brains, actually making you smarter in all areas. Intelligence is real, it’s lasting, and no one can take it away from you. Ever."
Speaking of smart young women, one of my athletes is Maegan Snodgrass, a gymnast at Utah State University who this June will be representing the United States in the Junior World Weightlifting Championships in Bucharest, Romania. Maegan is majoring in elementary education, and in two years she will be a positive influence in her chosen profession.
When I told her about McKellar’s books, she told me that when she was struggling in math in grade school, her teacher actually told her not to worry because girls are not good at math. Fortunately, Maegan’s math teacher the following year was more enlightened and helped inspire in Maegan a love for numbers. Oh, and did I mention that Maegan’s minor is in mathematics?
Comedy shows such as Free Radio naturally poke fun wherever there is opportunity, and anyone who watches the show realizes that Danica McKellar’s message about the value of math is intact. Unfortunately, other shows, such as Beauty and the Geek, promote the old stereotype that intelligence is incompatible with beauty or popularity. Hopefully, the increasing numbers of young girls who are developing an interest in math and science will make such thinking a thing of the past.
Regarding the July/August Issue of BFS Magazine, we have several great success stories that include our 2009 selection for the BFS High School Male Athlete of the Year. We are also introducing our position paper on strength training for young athletes, and there are great articles on helping your athletes fulfill their athletic potential.
Kim Goss Editor in Chief,