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Should Math Books be More Like Teen Mags?

By Madeline Holler |

math is fun, math problems

Math is fun. No, really!

“The Wonder Years” actress Danica McKellar (remember, Winnie?) has another book out trying to convince girls that learning math is (1) not hard and (2) not bad for their image. Hot X: Algebra Exposed is, like her other two books, already a bestseller.

But in trying to get girls’ attention and keep it, you have to ask yourself, is she not trading in one sweeping generalization (that girls are bad at math) for another (that girls only care about being sexy).

Sara Marcus interviews McKellar over at Salon, where the UCLA graduate and co-author of a math theorem, makes a pretty decent case for how she’s selling math to girls and convincing them that math is fun. (She also defends her decision to pose scantily clad in Maxim, of all men’s magazines.)

McKellar is right. There’s nothing inherently contradictory about being smart and sexy. And if formatting a math book like a fashion magazine gets more girls to believe in their math abilities, than that’s a good thing.

Hopefully, we won’t always have to look at  math and females in these terms. I’m hoping that by the time my girls hit middle school, where McKellar says girls start believing they’re no good at math (despite evidence to the contrary), any vestiges of a stigma for smartness will have vanished.

What do you think of Hot X: Algebra Exposed? And of McKellar’s attempts to connect with females on behalf of her cause?

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “Should Math Books be More Like Teen Mags?

  1. Tanya says:

    I have heard Danica McKellar on Science Friday twice now. She starts out great, but then drives me cuckoo because she won’t let ANYONE else on the show speak.

  2. goddess says:

    I dunno- my 11 yr old daughter is gifted and has no problem amusing herself with a pad of papers and manipulating Pi to the 50th place. She just starts playing with those numbers in ways that make my head spin. But she’s always had a family and teachers who have supported her in her academics and let her shine.

  3. Andrew Rogers says:

    The whole girls are poor at math stigma is ridiculous (and this comes from a male point of view). My eldest daughter (11) excels at math and, thankfully, has never been faced with the stigma or with the “math is uncool” mantra. In fact, I think the fact that girls shy from math, and therefor may fall behind, is far more deeply rooted in the social stigma than the fear of failure.

  4. [...] Does Make-Up Have to do with Algebra? Should Driving While Pumping Breast Milk be [...]

  5. Lisa says:

    I think these books are stupid. She has a lot of stupid quizzes that have NOTHING to do with math.

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