Winnie does math

Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years,” helped prove the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem on “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller models on Z2” (pdf) as a math major at UCLA. She loves “continuous functions” but is returning to her acting career. Her web site includes a math tutoring page. She shows how to answer a supposedly impossible question from “Boy Meets World.”

Hm, unanswerable? That’s TV for you. 🙂

In response to a GED student who thinks he knows concepts but can’t get the right answer, she writes:

It seems that in our ever-increasingly fast paced information age, we are more and more often finding shorter and faster ways to do every day tasks: Abbreviating whole phrases in emails to “lol” and “imo”, our computers type in our own addresses for us on websites, etc. We are accustomed to skipping steps. One of the unfortunate results of this, is that students are more and more often, skipping steps in solving math problems– skipping the act of writing down every step along the way. And no matter how well they understand the concepts, they believe they cannot “do math” because they so often get the wrong answer.

You would be AMAZED, truly amazed, at how much more often you would get the *right* answer, if you took the time to write down every step when you are solving problems. We ALL make careless mistakes, but the chances of making careless mistakes goes up at least tenfold when we skip steps.

She’s a spokeswoman for St. Jude’s Math-a-Thon. She could promote a whole new image for math aces.

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  1. P. Abel says:

    Wow, doing all the steps & advocating others to do the same, HURRAH!

    I teach students to move down a line with each step & make any textual or comment notations in a column to the side. They have been allowed to find the answer without really showing all the work for too long. If I have to search through cross-outs, work down on the right, then left, then above, then below & the answer isn’t boxed in, how can they possibly back-track to correct their mistakes?

    Good for you Danica to advocate procedures that work! 🙂 That’s news to make this math teacher smile :)Awesome!

  2. SuperSub says:

    Wow, an actress that really deserves her degree (when she gets it).

  3. I write down every step and I still get the wrong answers. I failed pre-calculus twice at UC Santa Cruz (even without grades) – but I kind of fell through a crack between nearsightedness in 5th Grade overseas, and SMSG and logic around 6th grade – and emerged in 7th with not much to show for it apart from some minor skill at shape-based geometry.

  4. TangoMan says:

    Danica was runner up to Hedy Lamarr in an on-line poll I ran for “The Most Intelligent Actress.”