Danica McKellar: Billy Joel Helped Teen Stress

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You may remember Danica McKellar as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years. Today, the actress is also a math advocate and the author of Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. In Tell Me More's 'In Your Ear' series, McKellar talks about the songs that helped her beat stress as a teen and inspire her as an adult.


Now, it's time for the occasional series we call In Your Ear. That's where we ask some of our guests to tell us more about the music that keeps them going. This time we're checking in with actress and math advocate Danica McKellar. She's the author of "Girls Get Curves," and several other books meant to help girls in particular overcome hesitation about math.

Let's take a listen to some of the songs that inspire her.


DANICA MCKELLAR: Hi, this is Danica McKellar. You might remember me from "The Wonder Years" or "The West Wing," and I also now write math books for girls.


BILLY JOEL: (Singing) Slow down, you crazy child. You're so ambitious for a juvenile. But then if you're so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?

MCKELLAR: One of the song that's playing in my ear is "Vienna" by Billy Joel.


JOEL: (Singing) You'd better cool it off before you burn it out. You've got so much to do and only so many hours in a day.

MCKELLAR: Growing up as a teenager, I found that I got stressed out a lot and the song "Vienna" always made me think of things in a different perspective. I thought, you know what? Just chill out.


MCKELLAR: And it just really helped. I just love the way he communicates. And that song has meant a lot to me and I played quite often.


JOEL: (Singing) And you know that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old. You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through. Oh-oh. Why don't you realize, Vienna waits for you. When will you realize, Vienna waits for you.


MCKELLAR: In a completely different direction, another song playing in my ear is "Miss Independent" by Kelly Clarkson.


KELLY CLARKSON: (Singing) Miss Independent. Miss Self-sufficient. Miss Keep-your-distance.

MCKELLAR: I think it is such a fun song and I love to ballroom dance. It's one of my hobbies, so I like to do cha-cha routines to this song. It's just, it gets my blood pumping and it makes me feel energized and all like empowered and just silly fun. And I love it.


CLARKSON: (Singing) What is this feeling taking over? Thinking no one could open the door. Surprise. It's time, yeah, to feel what's real, what's real. What happened to Miss Independent? Yeah. No longer need to be defensive. Yeah. Goodbye, old you, when love is true. When Miss Independent...


ELTON JOHN: (Singing) When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?

MCKELLAR: Another song playing in my ear is "Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John.


JOHN: (Singing) ... the blues, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah.

MCKELLAR: I love this song. I just love it. It makes me feel happy and sort of like vaguely sentimental and nostalgic. Even though I'm not really sure what for. I just feel all wistful.


JOHN: (Singing) You can't plant me in your penthouse. I'm going back to my plough. Back to the howling old owl in the woods. Hunting the horny black toad. Oh, I've finally decided my...

MARTIN: That is actress and math advocate Danica McKellar. To listen to our previous conversation with her, just go to our website,, click on the Programs tab and hit TELL ME MORE. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.


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