Math Doesn’t Suck…But Math Phobia Does

Today is Monday, so this post is on self confidence.

Danica McKellar was a child TV star.  She played Winnie Cooper on one of my favorite series, The Wonder Years.  At 32, she is all grown up and is still a TV star.  She had a recurring role on The West Wing. 

More importantly, she has written a great book for girls called Math Doesn’t Suck.  Her mission is to help girls realize that they can learn math.  An article in USA Today says “she uses beading to explain prime numbers, shoe shopping to describe multiples and tangled necklaces to explain complex fractions.”

Ms. McKellar says “Even if girls don’t become mathematicians, it’s still important for them to know they can do math.  Developing intelligence and logic skills will help them make good decisions beyond their careers.  Having studied the math and tackled it, they’ll have more self confidence to tackle other things and succeed – more than they thought they could.”

Man, is she right!  When I was a graduate student at Harvard, I came across the term “math phobia”.  It was bandied about by women.  Some of the smartest women I’ve ever met struggled with basic statistics because of math phobia.  A few of them were so afraid of math that they almost became paralyzed into inaction.  They simply believed they could not learn it.

I’m no math whiz myself.  I’m a language guy.  I like to write.  I got B’s and C’s in my undergraduate Calculus and Statistics courses.  However, when I got to Harvard, I decided that I was going to learn the math.  And I did.  I got a 97 on my statistics final.  Of course, I wasn’t suffering from math phobia.

That’s why I think that Ms. McKellar’s book is so important.  She is helping girls and young women learn the truth about math – it’s just another skill to master.  And in many ways, mastering it is not so tough.  Math is not ambiguous.  There are some hard and fast rules.  If you learn these rules, you’ll master math.  From what I can tell, Ms. McKellar is using some pretty innovative ways to teach the logic behind the rules.  And for that I say “bravo!”

The common sense point here is simple – face your fears and deal with them.  If you need help, find it.  If you’re a woman who struggles with math, read Math Doesn’t Suck. 

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website to subscribe to my monthly ezine and for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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