'Kiss My Math' Tries To Make Pre-Algebra Cool

More With Danica McKellar

Actress and mathematician Danica McKellar is on a mission to get middle-school girls to stop hating math. In her new book, Kiss My Math, — a follow-up to Math Doesn't Suck — McKellar breaks math into easy-to-digest concepts so girls can "show pre-algebra who's boss."

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Encouraging American Girls to Embrace Math

Danica McKellar

Actress and mathematician Danica McKellar is the author of Math Doesn't Suck. She proved her own theorem in 2006. Carlo Allegri/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Read an Excerpt

In a new book for middle-school girls, actress and mathematician Danica McKellar argues that being good at math can be cool. McKellar's book is called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail.

Also, a team of U.S. girls recently held their own in the China Girls Mathematical Olympiad. A coach and a competitor on the U.S. girls team discuss the competition.

Maria Klawe, a mathematician and president of Harvey Mudd College, talks about the best ways to boost the number of girls and women who succeed in mathematics.


Danica McKellar, mathematician and actress; author of Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail

Jennifer Iglesias, member of the 2007 U.S. Girls Team International Mathematics Olympiad; senior at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Melanie Matchett Wood, coach of the 2007 U.S. Girls Team, International Mathematics Olympiad; graduate student in mathematics, Princeton University

Maria Klawe, mathematician and president of Harvey Mudd College

Excerpt: Kiss My Math

Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss

Kiss My Math Book Cover

What Kinds of Math Will This Book Teach Me?

The chapters of this book are filled with things like breath mints, pandas, popularity, gift wrapping, and spas. By the time you finish reading them, however, you'll be a whiz at tons of pre-algebra topics, including integers, negative numbers, absolute value, inequalities, the distributive property, working with variables, word problems, exponents, functions, graphing, and tons of ways to solve for x. Yep! In fact, these are the topics that tend to be the most confusing, and if you don't understand them now, they can cause tons of trouble later in algebra. That's right—they don't just go away. So let's clear them up now, shall we?

And just to make sure you're never confused, every single problem has an answer at the back of this book, as well as a fully worked-out solution on the "solutions" page of kissmymath.com so you can see exactly how to do them in case you get a different answer. Sort of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, just knowing that, doesn't it? (Don't answer that.)

What's the Difference Between This Book and Your First Book, Math Doesn't Suck?

This is the next step in pre-algebra. In Math Doesn't Suck, I taught you prime numbers, factors, multiples, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, rates, proportions, and unit conversions, and introduced you to the idea of variables and solving for x—all stuff that prepares you for what is taught in this book. This is the next step up, as you move closer to algebra. You've graduated to the next level, ladies!

Just like in my first book, I've done some of the math in my own handwriting, because I want you to feel like I'm sitting right next to you, helping you to not be confused anymore. I mean, who likes being confused?

What Should I Already Know in Order to Understand This Book?

To get the most out of this book, you'll want to have a good understanding of the topics listed above, like factors, fractions, and decimals. But, I mean, what are the chances you're a total expert on all that stuff? Everyone forgets things!

To make sure that you never feel lost, throughout the book, I've included footnotes that say stuff like, "To review such and such, see p. –– in Math Doesn't Suck," so you can quickly flip to it. If you don't own MDS, that's fine, too; there are tons of other places to review those topics (like online—just do a search for your topic). This way, though, you're totally covered!

Do I Need to Read the Book from Beginning to End?

Nope! There are a few different ways to use this book:

  • You can skip directly to the chapters that will help you with tonight's homework assignment or tomorrow's test.
  • You can skip to the math concepts that have always been problem areas to clear them up for good!
  • Or you can, in fact, read this book from beginning to end and refer back to each chapter's TAKEAWAY TIPS for quick refreshers as you need them for assignments.

Does "Kiss My Math" Mean, Um, What I Think It Does?

Well, I guess you didn't read the section four pages earlier, now, did you?

What's in This Book Besides Math?

In addition to the math I teach, look out for these fun extras, and more!

  • Personality Quizzes: Are You a Stress Case? Do You Pick Truly Supportive Friends? Find out now on p. 77 and p. 231!
  • Quotes from real teens and famous celebrities.
  • What Guys Really Think . . . About Smart Girls and other polls taken by students like you. See what everyone's saying!
  • Real-life testimonials from gals who overcame their struggles in math and are now fabulously successful women! We've got everything from a fashion buyer to a TV weather anchor. And yes, they all use math in their jobs.

Can This Book Help Me Improve My Test Scores?

Yes! In addition to clearing up any math confusion you might have, I've included a Math Test Survival Guide! at the back of the book. Taking tests is a skill unto itself, and over my many years of math classes in high school and college, I gathered tons of tricks to make the whole thing smoother.

Say good-bye to test anxiety—be sure to check it out on p. 305!

Alright, ladies—let's get started!

Excerpt: 'Math Doesn't Suck'

Math Doesn't Suck Book Cover

Math Used to Totally Suck

I was terrified of math.

I remember sitting in my seventh grade math class, staring at a quiz as if it were written in Chinese — it might as well have been a blank sheet of paper. Total brain freeze.

Nothing made sense, I felt sick to my stomach, and I could feel the blood draining from my face. I had studied so hard, but it didn't seem to make any difference — I barely even recognized the math problems on the page.

When the bell rang and my quiz was still blank, I wanted to disappear into my chair. I just didn't want to exist.

If you had told me that ten years later I would be graduating from college with a degree in mathematics, I would probably have told you to get your head examined.

As it turns out, though, no head examination necessary! I did in fact develop a love of math through the eighth grade and into high school, and made up tons of cool tricks and ways of remembering things along the way — tricks that I'm now going to share with you in this book!

In the pages that follow, you'll hear my adventures as a terrified math student, a confident actress, and everything in between. Best of all, you'll see how sharpening your brain will put you on the fast track to feeling fabulous in all areas of your life.

Oh yeah — I'll help you ace your next math test, too.

But Math Doesn't Suck!

Let's get a few things straight: Acne sucks. Mean people suck. Finding out that your boyfriend kissed another girl? That would totally suck. Too much homework, broken promises, detention, divorce, insecurities: suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.

But math is actually a good thing. Here are a few reasons why: Math builds confidence, keeps you from getting ripped off, makes you better at adjusting cookie recipes, understanding sports scores, budgeting and planning parties and vacations, interpreting how good a sale really is, and spending your allowance. It makes you feel smart when you walk into a room, prepares you for better-paying jobs, and helps you think more logically.

Most of all, working on math sharpens your brain, actually making you smarter in all areas. Intelligence is real, it's lasting, and no one can take it away from you. Ever.

And take it from me, nothing can take the place of the confidence that comes from developing your intelligence — not beauty, or fame, or anything else "superficial."

When I was in middle school, I had insecurities like everybody else. It didn't help that I was on a TV series (The Wonder Years) at the time. Don't get me wrong — I loved acting, but it didn't take long for me to learn that when you are acting in front of millions of people you get a lot of attention that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with who you really are. Every day, walking down the street, people would come up to me, ask for my autograph, and tell me how much they loved the character I was playing. Great, right?

Well, after a few years of this, I started to wonder if people would still like me if I weren't on television. Eventually, whenever someone would tell me how much they liked my character, I would say "thank you," and then feel kind of empty inside. I started to question my self-worth.

I had a friend in high school who had beautiful, long, naturally red hair, and for years, everywhere she went, everyone told her how much they loved her long, red hair. Finally, she showed up to school with her hair cut short — and dyed jet black!

She was tired of people complimenting her hair, and she needed to know what people liked about her. She had that same empty feeling on the inside that I did when people talked to me about being on TV. She wanted to be valued for what was on the inside. Of course, she was smart and funny and interesting — she just needed to figure that out for herself.

The good news is that the things that really matter, like our intelligence and personality — the things that feel good to be valued for — are things we have the ability to improve ourselves. While it's fun to focus on being fashionable and glamorous, it's also important to develop your smart and savvy side.

One of the best ways to sharpen your brain, and develop intelligence, is to study mathematics. It challenges and strengthens your mind in a way that very few other things do. It's like going to the gym — but for your brain!

I even took a break from acting for four years to go to college and major in mathematics, and it was one of the best choices I've ever made. These days, I've returned to acting, but with a new sense of confidence that came from developing my intelligence.

Excerpted from Math Doesn't Suck by Danica McKellar. Excerpted by permission of Hudson Street Press, a division of the Penguin Group.

Books Featured In This Story

Kiss My Math

Showing Pre-algebra Who's Boss

by Danica Mckellar

Hardcover, 335 pages | purchase

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Kiss My Math
Showing Pre-algebra Who's Boss
Danica Mckellar

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Math Doesn't Suck

How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail

by Danica Mckellar

Paperback, 296 pages | purchase

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Math Doesn't Suck
How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
Danica Mckellar

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