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Danica McKellar Talks Girl Power

Photograph by PacificCoastNews

Danica McKellar has got girl power down. Not only did she star in the classic TV series "The Wonder Years" alongside Fred Savage, she's also authored four books on math. And not just any math books (read: dry and unapproachable). With catchy titles like "Math Doesn't Suck" and "Kiss My Math," McKellar's books are opportunities to bring more middle school and high school girls into the equation.

The mother of 4-year-old son Draco—and newest spokesperson for Colgate's Smile for Picture Day campaign—McKellar caught up with Mom.me to talk about her books, how moms can their daughters interested in math and how she's going to teach her own son about girl power.

Besides your role as Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years," you're also known for your books on math. How do you think moms can get their girls more interested in math?

If they’re really young, I suggest pointing out math in everyday life. Take them to the grocery store—show them the unit price for what you’re buying, show them how much you’re buying and then show them how that results in the total, etc. Show them the math around them. If your daughter is 8 or 9 years old, then she’s old enough for my first book, "Math Doesn’t Suck." I’ve got four books and the thing I do in the books is not just teach math, but also encourage them to see themselves as smart and to aspire to be fabulous, knowing that being smart is something you can build by doing math. Doing math is like going to the gym for your brain, and that will lead to more success in life and more happiness.

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What would you say the challenges are for girls when it comes to pursuing math?

It’s not a matter of ability; it’s a matter of self-confidence and self-image. One of the main things I do in my books is get girls to see themselves as being good at math and to see that they really belong, so that when they get to a point where they’re wondering, "Is math cool? Am I going to be cool if I do math? Or am I going to be smart enough?" because they are so inundated with the stereotypes around them, they can say, "Oh, wait, look, see this book? That kind of looks like a teen magazine. And look at all of these examples of women who have fabulous jobs that use math in them. And hey, I understand how she’s explaining math and now I feel confident."

How are you teaching—or how do you think you will teach—your son about girl power as he grows up?

The most important thing that my son can see is that I am treated with respect by the men in my life. I think that serves as the best example for him about how to treat women correctly.

How did you get involved in Colgate's Smile for Picture Day campaign?

I’m a mom and I care a lot about kids’ smiles and their dental health. I’m thrilled that they asked me to be a part of their Smile for Picture Day campaign because I want to help educate families about how to prepare for picture day by keeping their kids’ teeth clean. Of course this is just a great excuse to help educate kids on tooth health year-round.

How do you get your son to smile for the camera?

He just turned 4 and that can be challenging because when I ask him to smile, he’ll give me this funny little fake, forced smile. But, if I tell him, "Don’t smile, whatever you do, don’t smile, stop, wait stop smiling," then I get a huge smile; it’s adorable.

You recently reunited with your "Wonder Years" castmates. What was the biggest surprise of that meetup for you?

That everyone looks the same!

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