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Winnie Wrote a Math Book 638

Posted by Zonk
from the why-isn't-that-a-textbook dept.
SoyChemist writes "Hollywood is not known for providing a wealth of positive female role models. Danica McKellar, the actress that played Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years and Elsie Snuffin on The West Wing, has written a math book for teenage girls. 'Math Doesn't Suck' is done in the style of a teen magazine. It even includes a horoscope, cute doodles of shoes and jewelry, and testimonials from attractive young career women that use math at work. It focuses on fractions and pre-algebra and uses mnemonics like calling a reciprocal a 'refliprocal', because you just take the fraction and flip it upside down. Wired interviewed McKellar about the new book and her crusade to eliminate the achievement gap between boys and girls in math courses. McKellar graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA. While studying there, she co-authored a proof and presented it at a conference. After she and Mayim Bialik — star of Blossom and a PhD in neuroscience — appeared in a 20/20 episode about intellectual actresses, several literary agents came knocking on her door."
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Winnie Wrote a Math Book

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  • by NJVil (154697) on Friday August 03, 2007 @12:59PM (#20103331)
    Back in 1994, Barbie thought differently.

    Math is hard!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by purpledinoz (573045)
      I applaud this effort. I really really wish there were more women in tech. It would have made my university life more enjoyable. And work would be more fun too....
    • by hal2814 (725639) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:39PM (#20104007)
      You should've seen what he thought back in 1944 [wikipedia.org].
    • by huckamania (533052) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:42PM (#20104061) Journal
      Hard and doesn't suck are two different things. Unless you are talking about basic math, it generally is hard. The only class I ever dropped at Uni was a math class.* I thought I was failing but the teacher was actually grading on a curve. She said I was one of the top students. Key word being 'She'. In fact almost all of my math teachers have been women.

      It's almost degrading to women that people keep bringing this stuff up. Condescending might be the right word. Like when someone feels the need to comment about how well Colin Powell speaks. There's an unspoken 'and he's black' that is left hanging for the listener to fill in by themselves.

      I get the same feeling everytime I see a story about how some person is the first X to do Y. I get an image of them being patted on the head and someone saying, 'Gee, you're a hero to X people every where, it only took all of recorded history for you Xers to get off your fat lazy assess and do Y, but golly, you finally did, great job. Now go find some other dubious achievement you Xers haven't got around too yet and be the first in that too.'.

      Still, Winnie was hot and I always knew she had brains.

      ---
      *I didn't need the credit and wanted to keep my grade point at the honors level. CS was put in with the Natural Sciences like interior decorating, who all seemed to graduate Summa Cum Laude, which blew out the GPA for everyone else.
      • by lymond01 (314120) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#20104629)
        It's almost degrading to women that people keep bringing this stuff up. Condescending might be the right word. Like when someone feels the need to comment about how well Colin Powell speaks. There's an unspoken 'and he's black' that is left hanging for the listener to fill in by themselves.

        In Engineering at a university down the road from Harvard, my only female engineering/math/physics teacher was for Statics. She was also one of the early lead engineers for the Big Dig (a marvel of engineering, despite its flaws).

        The thing with Colin Powell is that you expect either rambling bluster a la most politicians (he's more of a statesman though), or a James Earl Jones bass voice. Instead, he has this nice tenor voice delivering complete sentences. It's a rarity in the human race, especially with government and military figures, to have a voice and demeanor that gives the appearance of thoughtfulness. It's why people would vote for him if he ran for public office.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's almost degrading to women that people keep bringing this stuff up. Condescending might be the right word.

        No, what's condescending is including horoscopes and cute doodles of shoes and jewelry. WTF!?

        Like when someone feels the need to comment about how well Colin Powell speaks. There's an unspoken 'and he's black' that is left hanging for the listener to fill in by themselves.

        No, the unspoken thing is "in stark contrast to the president". His race has nothing to do with it. When your Comm

      • Re:Barbie disagrees (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:37PM (#20104959) Journal
        Like when someone feels the need to comment about how well Colin Powell speaks. There's an unspoken 'and he's black' that is left hanging for the listener to fill in by themselves.

        It's funny how people choose which races to recognize and which ones not. You could've replaced the unspoken with 'and he's Scottish', which is an equally valid statement [scotsman.com]. But you didn't, and why it seems obvious that you didn't is the heart of the issue.

        There's nothing wrong with marketing towards certain kinds of women though. There's been plenty of math and philosophy courses filled with sport metaphors to market to jocks. Why not one build one around fashion? Anything that gets people learning is good, whether or not I'd personally appreciate it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Applekid (993327)

          It's funny how people choose which races to recognize and which ones not. You could've replaced the unspoken with 'and he's Scottish', which is an equally valid statement. But you didn't, and why it seems obvious that you didn't is the heart of the issue.

          If GP is anything like me, he had no idea he's Scottish.

          The point I think that was trying to be conveyed was a suggestion. How about this: how about we judge a person on the person and not the lineage from which they descend? How about we judge a person on the person and not the gender to which they belong?

          Next thing you know they'll be targeting educational materials to fat people by using less word problems involving apples and more word problems involving Baconators.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Xtravar (725372)

            The point I think that was trying to be conveyed was a suggestion. How about this: how about we judge a person on the person and not the lineage from which they descend? How about we judge a person on the person and not the gender to which they belong?

            Next thing you know they'll be targeting educational materials to fat people by using less word problems involving apples and more word problems involving Baconators.

            Well, you see, that's how they maximize profits - by identifying groups of people and exploiting their desire and insecurities.

            It just so happens that women have gotten the worst end of it. You aren't pretty? You need some makeup like a clown! Still aren't pretty? Here are some diet pills! Still not? Show off your anorexic figure with these new clothes! What, men still don't love you? Then you need Cosmopolitan to teach you how to properly service and manipulate them.

            Marketing is EVIL and it destro

        • by mackyrae (999347) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:31PM (#20107529) Homepage
          Hey, I'm a teenage girl and there is a chunk of the teenage-girl-population that I swear speaks a different language. If someone figured out how to translate math into their language, good for them.
      • Re:Barbie disagrees (Score:4, Informative)

        by natedubbya (645990) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:44PM (#20107701)

        I'm still amazed at how people still push to help girls succeed. It makes me think it has become a larger political issue about advancing women's views, and not because they are actually struggling. All the recent evidence points to girls succeeding beyond boys, and yet, where are the pro-boy programs? You will always be able to point out a specific area of work that men outnumber women, or vice versa, but that doesn't mean we should rectify that "problem". There's a much larger issue where boys are being left behind.

        Women have outnumbered men at colleges for ~25 years now. Women outnumber men 58% to 42%. [nytimes.com]

        75 percent of girls aim for college degrees vs. 66 percent of boys [findarticles.com]

        The study found that not only are girls in the nation's 100 largest school districts graduating at a ">72 percent rate versus 65 percent for their male counterparts [slashdot.org], but that the gender gap is even wider among minority students.

    • by gatzke (2977) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:46PM (#20104145) Homepage Journal
      But is it NP-hard?
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#20104499) Journal

      Back in 1994, Barbie thought differently.

      Math is hard!

      ...only for sufficient values of "hard".

      /P

    • Re:Barbie disagrees (Score:4, Informative)

      by porcupine8 (816071) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:03PM (#20107125) Journal
      <barbienerd>

      Actually, the quote is "Math class is tough," and only 1.5% of all Teen Talk Barbies said that phrase. If you find one now, it's worth quite a bit of money. (And I'll bet more than 1.5% of the population actually thinks that math class is tough.)

      </barbienerd>

    • Math *is* hard (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Friday August 03, 2007 @06:12PM (#20108061)

      The best math always is. It's hard, gives you a headache, you lose sleep trying to figure it out. But once you do you are astonished at how elegant it is and how it all fits together so beautifully. And it doesn't matter in the slightest what anatomy you have between your legs, or what your 23rd chromosome pair looks like.

      I object to the word "mathematics" being debased to elementary-school arithmetic. But that's another matter.

      ...laura

      • Re:Math *is* hard (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak.eircom@net> on Friday August 03, 2007 @09:21PM (#20109635) Homepage Journal

        The best math always is. It's hard, gives you a headache, you lose sleep trying to figure it out. But once you do you are astonished at how elegant it is and how it all fits together so beautifully.
        Wrong. So wrong.

        Yes mathematics gives you a headache. Frequently you don't get it. Frequently you must spend weeks on a topic before getting it. Often it may elude you for years. Then you finally get it, and usually hard work and effort has absolutely nothing to do with that.

        The sad fact is, people think mathematics is hard because most mathematicians are lousy at explaining it. It's not explained properly and as a result people struggle with it until they finally come across a resource or idea or epiphany that allows them to realize the in retrospect blindingly obvious idea that lay behind the whole topic. What to know why it seems so "elegant" and obvious in retrospect. It's because it is obvious, as long as you were taught it correctly.

        Best example I can think of offhand is determinants? Remember those? I'll bet there's a lot of people here who went through the whole spiel with them over and over and all the while didn't have a clue what they were all about. Let me tell you what they are, or quote a better man than I on the subject. "The determinant of a matrix is an (oriented) volume of the parallelepiped whose edges are its columns." You see, that's what a determinant actually is, but most student are never taught that most essential fact. Once you get that, the rest is all just formulae around it. But most are just taught the formulae. Most of mathematics is taught like this. Form without essence. It's a tradgedy. The greater tragedy is people think all this incompetence is a result of mathematics being "hard". It's just hard to teach, not to learn.

        Here's a link to a much longer rant [uni-muenster.de] which shows just how big a problem the teaching of mathematics has become in some quarters.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @12:59PM (#20103333)
    But the judge says I'm not allowed within 100 feet of her.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday August 03, 2007 @12:59PM (#20103339) Homepage Journal

    "If the man of the house gets home from work at 5:30 and dinner takes 1.25 hours to prepare, at what time should you start making it?"

    "If your makeup costs $40 and you put it on once a day, how much does it cost per application if the makeup runs out after 70 days?"

    "If the cake recipe calls for the oven to be at 400 degree fahrenheit but the oven only has celsius....

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Teifion (1022083)
      Considering the target audience, those examples are just about right. I find that it's far easier to learn something when I can apply it to an everyday situation or at least something I am familiar with. If the rest of the examples are as good as those then the book seems very good. I find it odd that your post was modded Funny rather than Informative.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by happyemoticon (543015)

        I detect a bit of irony in GP's post. One example assumes that a woman is a homemaker who should be cooking dinner for her man; two assumes that a woman should be wearing makeup; three assumes that women should, again, be cooking. That this is framed in the context of something which supposes to emancipate women from underachieving in math, science and engineering is what creates the irony.

        Myself, I wouldn't say that being feminine in this highly traditional sense is an innately bad thing, but that other

        • by hazem (472289) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:58PM (#20104363) Journal
          Myself, I wouldn't say that being feminine in this highly traditional sense is an innately bad thing, but that other role options should be presented and accepted by people at a young age so they can decide for themselves how to identify.

          I don't know. It seems her target audience is the teen girl who'd be into magazines about makeup and boys. I think she's trying to show these girls that they can be into makeup and boys and still be good at math. I think she's blurring the roles by adding a component that is normally kept out those roles.

          Clearly the book is not for everyone but I like the nontraditional approach.
        • by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:06PM (#20104493) Homepage Journal
          There's nothing wrong with being a home maker. Kids are enough work that they can keep two parents busy. The problem with early feminism is that they treated women badly who wanted to raise their own children.

          If cooking dinner makes you inferior that's issues that are in your head and have no real bearing on reality. Look at all the famous chefs, nobody thinks they are inferior for cooking!

          On the other hand I think if I were to have kids, I would want them to be raised by a mother who is educated and knowledgeable. It can be extremely beneficial to introduce children to science at an early age, they seem to really take to it if presented properly. And we all know that public school alone just does not cut it for giving a kid the education they need to succeed. Parents that have the ability and will to home tutor their kids in addition to going to school are going to have kids who have a competitive edge when it comes time to enroll in college or get a job.

          Also staying home does not mean you need to be stupid, just like having a paying job doesn't make you intelligent.

          The Economist had an interesting article on women in the work place, and that companies are learning that women's careers tend to be non-linear, and that this non-linearity can be a barrier to upper management. And the ability for many of us to telecommute 1 or more days a week is having a dramatic impact on improving the wage inequality between men and women, because it is keeps women from having to choose between career and family.

          Things are moving in a positive direction, but that said, books that encourage young girls to be interested in math, science, and technology are beneficial because as we move to a society where it is possible for both parents to work. We will find that it may become impossible for most single income families to live at an income level they are comfortable with. Women may have no choice but to join the work force and establish long term careers in addition to having a family. That's the dark side of all this progress and equality.
        • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:55PM (#20105261)

          One example assumes that a woman is a homemaker who should be cooking dinner for her man; two assumes that a woman should be wearing makeup; three assumes that women should, again, be cooking. That this is framed in the context of something which supposes to emancipate women from underachieving in math, science and engineering is what creates the irony.
          ]

          Wait, you mean this book is targeted at girls who read fashion magazines? So the context is predefined? Namely the context of talking to girls who like this sort of thing? Oh...well I guess we should just assume shes being condescending, or ignorant, instead of realizing that she is a girlie girl hottie with a frigginErds-Bacon number [wikipedia.org] who might have some personal experience and investment in getting more girls like her to become feminine intellectuals!

          This book doesn't make the assumption that it emancipates anyone. It tries to use a damn effective vehicle for communicating material that is often not desirable to consume. If you think I'm wrong, how do you explain the high number of women who purchase fashion magazines who at the same time blame the media for the false image they have to live up to. Thats a magic trick in and of itself, getting people to pay to hate themselves, to be fed tailored insecurities.

          Maybe Danica McKellar put some of her UCLA brains to work and found a vehicle that she could co opt to educate and empower these girls.

          You know, you may not like it, but there is a class of women out there who are effectively super women. Beautiful, intellectual, empowered, employed in high paying and influential positions, and raising kids. Its just that most MEN, and I use that term referring to genetic makeup, can't handle the realities of being with them. Their pathetic mirror to female insecurity creates this never ending fountain of emasculated feelings. Or, even worse, the hubris laden egos of most technically proficient males can't cope with the fact that their mate can equal, or best them, in an aspect he uses to define himself in.

          Thats why you people come up with terms like this:]
          Myself, I wouldn't say that being feminine in this highly traditional sense is an innately bad thing, but that other role options should be presented and accepted by people at a young age so they can decide for themselves how to identify.

          You NEED to feel at some point in a female's life cycle that they are vulnerable for no other reason than they are female. That a female couldn't possible see the forest for the trees and separate content from context. The worst part is, your closet superiority complex is what is giving you the biggest problem relating to people.

          The reality of the matter is its called Marketing 101. Get someone to PURCHASE the book for their daughter, thinking its a good idea. I don't know about you, but many young people don't go out and purchase any raw math text books when they weren't required or directed to. I think someone with a Degree in Mathematics from UCLA could figure this out and perhaps work around it.

          Just a thought. Or you can continue on with the asinine idea that every demographic variant needs to be presented with every option represented in every light for every possible socio-economic combination of factors in order to validate itself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by happyemoticon (543015)

      1: Ideally, one should wait a half an hour to an hour after settling in to eat. Most people have rituals they go through upon getting home from work (petting the dog, sitting down and watching some television, having a martini), and after those are completed they will be amicable enough to properly enjoy dinner.

      2: Surely this is an oversimplification of the problem. First, you need both day makeup and evening makeup (bolder colors to stand out more in lower light conditions), and you might only wear your

      • by Otter (3800) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:15PM (#20103589) Journal
        I'm not sure of the physics behind it, but my oven needs to be turned down about 25 degrees from whatever the recipe says.

        I'd guess that your thermostat is miscalibrated, Dr. Maxwell.

    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#20103693)
      It's a funny post, but it also illustrates one of the core problems with recruiting girls into math and engineering: a lot of them aren't interested. My sisters don't care about getting into a really intensive job because they know that they're going to get married and become homemakers. It's not that there's a problem if they do differently, it's that they've chosen that path to happiness. How many girls like my sisters are skewing the results of math/engineering studies?
      • by microTodd (240390) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#20105005) Homepage Journal
        But maybe this book can show them that by knowing math and being well-educated can make you a *BETTER* homemaker. I try to get this concept across in my freshman college algebra course I teach.

        -Doing taxes
        -Understanding mortgages (not getting screwed by a baloon payment ARM)
        -Not getting ripped off by sales prices and percentages
        -Budgets (again, percentages and ratios)
        -Understanding the world and the media (statistics)
        -Etc
      • by shalla (642644) on Friday August 03, 2007 @03:45PM (#20106047)
        It's a funny post, but it also illustrates one of the core problems with recruiting girls into math and engineering: a lot of them aren't interested. My sisters don't care about getting into a really intensive job because they know that they're going to get married and become homemakers. It's not that there's a problem if they do differently, it's that they've chosen that path to happiness. How many girls like my sisters are skewing the results of math/engineering studies?

        I just had an urge to rewrite this from the other perspective:

        It's a funny post, but it also illustrates one of the core problems with recruiting boys into math and engineering: a lot of them aren't interested. My brothers don't care about getting into a really intensive job because they know they're going to get married and become homemakers. It's not that there's a problem if they do differently, it's just that they've chosen that path to happiness. How many boys like my brothers are skewing the results of math/engineering studies?

        (If you're too culturally ingrained to picture a man as a homemaker, you can insert "permanent English grad student" in the above paragraph.)

        Maybe your sisters aren't interested because they never thought it was cool to be? See, that's kind of what the book is trying to address. There are a number of people who believe that more women would be interested in math and science if they encountered more books like Danica McKellar's and fewer books like The Rules or some of the schlock I've had sent to me by relatives of friends. (Seriously, it takes a lot of nerve to send your 20-year-old nephew a book to give to his female friends which directs them that the only true Christian woman is the wife who unquestioningly follows her husband's orders and stays at home and realizes that when he isn't speaking to her, it's her fault. That was an eye-opening book for me. I felt for that woman's daughters, who had absolutely no interest in math and science or anthing aside from finding a husband. It might possibly have been related to their upbringing.)

        And there are a lot of men who aren't interested in math or science either when you ask it like that, but if it has to do with something they do, it's more interesting.
    • by anonicon (215837) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:46PM (#20104151)
      Answers:

      A. 4:15.
      B. $0.5714285714 per application, or $0.57.
      C. 204 celsius = 400 fahrenheit.

      I am all woman.

      Chuck
    • by monomania (595068) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:47PM (#20104161)
      "If your ex-husband, who was earning $45k per year, looses his job but now collects 30% of that in unemployment, and your alimony was calculated at 67% of his net salary while employed, what differential (minus child-support) must now be applied in order that he may loose his other testical?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by why-is-it (318134)
      <sigh>

      I know that this was meant to be funny, but it really isn't.

      Although I would like to think we have evolved a bit, there are a few too many guys around here that view slashdot as their private tree-house, and are afraid that girls will give them cooties.

      I was going to give this post a pass, but the misogyny in some of the comments in this thread is simply unacceptable.

      I don't know about the rest of you, but if I had a daughter, I would want her to be able to choose the career she wants, rathe

  • Oh Boy... (Score:4, Funny)

    by teknopurge (199509) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:00PM (#20103353) Homepage

    It even includes a horoscope, cute doodles of shoes and jewelry, and testimonials from attractive young career women that use math at work. It focuses on fractions and pre-algebra and uses mnemonics like calling a reciprocal a 'refliprocal'
    Time to put the plastic back on the Slashdot couches...
  • Nice try, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weak* (1137369) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:01PM (#20103377)
    I don't think one book, even if it looks like the rest of the teen girl trash rags, is going to overcome a decades of social pressure to avoid being seen as "nerdy." What we really need is to have high schools that don't go out of their way to reinforce the perception that going to state for ****ball is the pinnacle of achievement.
    • by GweeDo (127172) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:05PM (#20103437) Homepage
      Good point...they should just stop trying.

      (btw, great attitude to take towards solid progressive thinking that will help women out)
      • by nuzak (959558) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:08PM (#20103491) Journal
        Obviously then they should soldier on and continue doing the same lame ineffective thing, because to do otherwise would be "to stop trying". You sound like a certain president.

        I suggest they give it a try, see how badly it flops, then try something else. Like not having to make everything "hip" and "edgy" and "way cool cowabunga dudes with jittery neon triangles". Yes, I'm showing my age -- but I bet the producers of this material are too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Great point. Instead of writing a book, Winnie should have changed social norms in every high school in America.
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#20103689) Homepage Journal

      What we really need is to have high schools that don't go out of their way to reinforce the perception that going to state for ****ball is the pinnacle of achievement.

      OK, I'm dying to know: what sport at your high school is so unspeakably vulgar that you have to censor the name?

      And are any videos online?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by adisakp (705706)
        OK, I'm dying to know: what sport at your high school is so unspeakably vulgar that you have to censor the name?

        I don't know but it obviously involves getting a bunch of guys together and playing with their balls.
    • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#20103699)
      I don't think one book, even if it looks like the rest of the teen girl trash rags, is going to overcome a decades of social pressure to avoid being seen as "nerdy."

      I think it's more of society as a whole reducing to the lowest common denominator. It's no longer trying to strive to be educated and to better oneself, but it's now to act dumb, not try hard, talk like a moron, and become famous somehow and get the easy money. Paris Hilton is what kids strive to be: not Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein or Jack Kennedy (or whoever your favorite statesman is).

      Do kids want to dress well? No, they dress like bums. They get piercings and tattoos like bikers, strippers, drug dealers and other lowlifes. Do they try to refine their communications skills? Hell no! They talk like some ghetto uneducated slob.

      It was the same when I was growing up. The kids who dressed well and worked at school were called "preppies". Of course now, most of those "preppies" are MDs, JDs, engineers, etc.... The others, are waiting tables.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Broken scope (973885)
        Less and less often does clothing have any bearing on someones work ethic. The last time the clothing was washed is a better indicator.

        I've met goths with tats and piercings who are the most affable and pleasant people. I've met pressed, tucked, combed frat boys who leave me with the urge to burn down frat row, and for good measure every sorority to.

        Clothing and looks in general don't tell you much. Attitudes and other things you mentioned do.
      • Re:Nice try, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by plague3106 (71849) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:08PM (#20104515)
        I was with you until you started on your sterotyping rant. Preppies aren't the kids that were doing well; they were the ones who had well off parents and never had to work. Kinda like the Paris Hilton you seem to hate.
    • Re:Nice try, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sage Gaspar (688563) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:59PM (#20104389)
      I haven't read it, but I think the fundamental premise of the book is sound. One of my little cousins is a bit too advanced for this now, but she's one of the smartest kids I've ever met and also one of the girliest. More role models that demonstrate that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive can only be positive. Kids are more likely to take their cues from celebrities than high school teachers with the media saturation we have these days. It's the attitude that there is a necessary gulf between academics and football, academics and celebrity, or academics and being "girly" that hurts the most. In my high school we had a state championship football team, and the captain was also a lead band member and a good student. It doesn't have to be football players versus nerds... and in fact the way our society is going it might be better to encourage everyone to participate in sports more.

      As far as hooking people a little more substantively, I think she hit it on the head in the interview when she mentioned that one of the fascinations that drew her into mathematics was the infinitely large and the infinitely small. I've started off a ton of lengthy conversations introducing basic set theory and stuff to non-mathematicians just by challenging them on things like what is infinity, how do we define infinity, how do we add infinity to other numbers, matching up cardinalities with the natural numbers... The Monty Hall problem is a great one for thinking about probabilities. Kids get fascinated by imaginary numbers just because it's the first "weird" thing everyone emphasizes, so it's easy to get them playing around with some algebra like that. A high schooler taking their first "proofs" geometry can enjoy doing some non-Euclidean stuff, up to the big reveal when you tell them they're working on the surface of a sphere or whatever hehe.

      I was watching the Daily Show the other day when they interviewed the astrophysicist hosting Nova, and the guy had an infectious enthusiasm (to lift Jon Stewart's language directly hehe). If you've ever watched the Feynman lectures, it's the same sort of thing, at least for me. The more people out there from all walks of life enthusiastically promoting the accessible parts of math and science, the better.
    • Re:Nice try, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by neutralstone (121350) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:03PM (#20104457)

      What we really need is to have high schools that don't go out of their way to reinforce the perception that going to state for ****ball is the pinnacle of achievement.
      Right. I suspect that a huge step in this direction would be the dissociation of organized sports teams from schools.

      A friend of mine from Belgium was telling me that's how they do it over there. In a single high school you'll find about the same proportion of students who are athletes as in a school in the U.S., but they represent lots of different local (competing) teams.

      Apparently, it goes a long way towards preventing formations of mob mentalities and everything that goes with it.

      So e.g., there's no such thing as a school pep rally in support of one sports team and they don't even have anything like the divide between "jocks" and "nerds" (or at least, not to the extent seen in schools in the U.S.).

      I don't see it happening in the U.S. anytime soon, but who knows? It could start small, in a place with semi-rational school administrators trying to free up budgets, for example. With the promise of tax reductions, many things can gain political support. (:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:01PM (#20103379)

    If one were to bring ten of the wisest men in the world together and ask them what was the most stupid thing in existence, they would not be able to discover anything so stupid as astrology.
    - David Hilbert
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rossifer (581396)
      Your horoscope for today:

      Aries - certain deficiencies in your education and upbringing will lead you to the sadly mistaken belief that the location of celestial bodies can influence events in your life.

      (paraphrased from memory, originally in "The Onion")
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:02PM (#20103397)
    If it ain't 90% Greek then it isn't a math book.
    Actually this is a good idea the problem is that today there are reports that boys are trailing girls academically. Part of the reason is if they make an All girls school or make programs that are designed to help girls they do so sometimes at the expense of the education of the boys. But if such programs or All boy public schools are made then there is a community cry. Boys and Girls think differently, they need to be taught differently.
    • by DeepHurtn! (773713) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:24PM (#20103739)
      I'm not so sure I buy your "reverse-sexism" argument. In my time at secondary school, many of the guys were too caught up in drugs, booze, and trying to get laid than academic performance. From what I noticed, girl's peer groups were more accepting of high academic performance than were groups of boys, where the social line between jock and nerd were much more strongly defined and enforced.

      Boys will never do well as a group academically as long as academic performance is seen as a social stigma.

  • More importantly (Score:3, Informative)

    by proverbialcow (177020) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:03PM (#20103411) Journal
    There's a hot female geek [danicamckellar.com]

    Rock-paper-scissors will have to decide this, guys.
  • by gargletheape (894880) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:05PM (#20103439)
    ...that a book aimed at increasing numeracy has horoscopes? What next? Feng Shui in geography texts?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      Perhaps the horoscopes give some advice on studying - we all know horoscopes give random good advices based on random data.

      Or perhaps it was just a stupid decision.
  • My six-year-old daughter is currently enthralled with Cyberchase [pbskids.org], a PBS cartoon that actually does a pretty respectable job teaching basic math concepts. Her singing of its repetitive and insanely peppy themesong is driving my out of my mind, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MollyB (162595) *
      > Her singing of its repetitive and insanely peppy themesong is driving my out of my mind, though.

      Clearly so, but it could be worse: "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" is illustrative of subtraction, but somewhat tedious if one is not an actual red-eyed participant.
  • TTIWWP (Score:4, Funny)

    by El_Smack (267329) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:10PM (#20103521)
    This tread is worthless without pics... of hot, math using girls. /whaddaya mean, wrong website?
  • There'd be Olympic medalists and ex-porn actresses in your sections, retired musicians joining your lab, grad students selling their screenplays and quitting the lab...
  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:10PM (#20103533) Homepage Journal

    My first impression of the book review was - "Oh gawd, a math book went 'OMG Ponies !!111'".

    But I've sort of realized that form follows emotion and in a world where Math is not consider cool (not in India though), something like this which stands away from the boring beige world of mathematics would get more eyeballs into the basic subject. Not that I'd consider some of it boring [xkcd.com], by any stretch of imagination. And who hasn't rewritten math problems into "real" problems [xkcd.com] ? (xkcd has become lame of late - I suspect after his visit to MIT).

    But such wedges into the insular cracks of things could be nice - to let people burn through the "Thou Suckest" [dotgnu.info] phase of learning anything new. Especially when the field is full of elitist fifty year olds ("elite" is good, "elitist" is bad).

    So if it makes a bunch of girls pick up math, good - just the same way Asterix&Obelix makes me want to learn French ... we all just need a reason, to make whatever we're doing cool (ah, the tyranny of cool).

  • by siwelwerd (869956) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:10PM (#20103537)

    It even includes a horoscope, cute doodles of shoes and jewelry, and testimonials from attractive young career women that use math at work.

    So what, the ugly ones don't use math?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lawpoop (604919)
      Do you *ever* see ugly people in any kind of media or presentation? Or, do you ever see ugliness in any kind of presentation that is successful?

      Who would want to identify with that photo as the target audience, anyway? "Oh, I'm ugly, just like the woman in that photo. I should study harder in math!"
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:25PM (#20103767) Homepage Journal

      So what, the ugly ones don't use math?

      You're looking at this backward. Girls are told they're supposed to aspire to beauty above all else. The idea here is to show them that you can have that without giving up intelligence.

      A single voice isn't going to tell girls that they shouldn't want to be pretty. One well-spoken voice might convince a few that they can be pretty and smart.

  • by cthellis (733202) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:16PM (#20103613)
    I'd also generalize HER polylogarithm!
  • Gap? What gap? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myrkridian42 (840659) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:19PM (#20103673)
    When I graduated high school, the top ten students that year were girls. That was true at 3 other high school graduations I went to that year. When I graduated college, the valedictorian and salutatorian were female. I don't believe these were rare cases. So what's this "gap" they talk about? Seems to me the guys are falling behind.
    • Re:Gap? What gap? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shalla (642644) on Friday August 03, 2007 @03:16PM (#20105605)
      So what's this "gap" they talk about? Seems to me the guys are falling behind.

      Let's see. This was a while ago, but of the top ten in my graduating class, two were male. They both had science and math majors. Of the eight women, only four of us did. Both of the guys have gone on into science and math heavy fields (MD and engineer). Of the women, only two did (veterinarian and dentist). So there is a gap in achievement when you look at that for math and science.

      Why do I think that is? Well, I graduated high school with majors in math, science, social studies, and French. In college, I ended up with a history major and minors in anthropology and religious studies, but I took a number of math and science and comp sci courses for fun. I still love math and science. Numbers still are magical to me, and playing around with them to see what they can do can waste hours... But looking back, I realize I ended up focusing on areas where my abilities were treated less like a fluke and more like actual talent. I had higher science and math GPAs and took more science classes than the guys in my high school class (and helped them with studying and homework) and they got the science and math awards. I got the English and Humanities awards. (English? Have you seen my grammar? Seriously, it got lost somewhere around second grade.) The same thing continued in college, with certain professors (not all) handing out puzzles in math classes where I was one of two girls and acting surprised when I worked them out. Like I hadn't aced the last four tests in the class while quietly passing notes to my friends and keeping the freshmen in front of us quiet when they started to get bored and act up.

      So women can achieve all they want, but it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't going to face subtle discouragement along the way that eventually does end in a gap. I'm a librarian who works with computers, which I guess is my way of compromising and getting to handle a wide variety of topics while still playing with math and science a bit. I play with my little electrical kits at home and build my own computers and whatnot, and I'm happy with my life, but I also suspect that had I been male, I might have gone for math or science as a career instead of a hobby because I wouldn't have been constantly getting the overlooked treatment.

      Or maybe not. Still, it's hard for me to discount 20-some years of subtle discouragement in some areas and encouragement in others as having no impact on my life choices.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:33PM (#20103907) Journal
    Some of you might already know this, but slashdot-favorite Natalie Portman (birth name Natalie Hershlag) in 2002 was apparently co-author on a paper in the research journal NeuroImage, stemming from some research she did when she was an undergrad at Harvard. The paper is titled Frontal Lobe Activation during Object Permanence: Data from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy [harvard.edu]. Here's the abstract:

    The ability to create and hold a mental schema of an object is one of the milestones in cognitive development.
    Developmental scientists have named the behavioral manifestation of this competence object permanence.
    Convergent evidence indicates that frontal lobe maturation plays a critical role in the display of
    object permanence, but methodological and ethical constrains have made it difficult to collect neurophysiological
    evidence from awake, behaving infants. Near-infrared spectroscopy provides a noninvasive assessment
    of changes in oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin and total hemoglobin concentration within a prescribed
    region. The evidence described in this report reveals that the emergence of object permanence is related to
    an increase in hemoglobin concentration in frontal cortex.
    Also, a few choice Natalie Portman quotes:

    * "I loved school so much that most of my classmates considered me a dork."

    * "Smart women love smart men more than smart men love smart women."

    * "I'm going to college. I don't care if it ruins my career. I'd rather be smart than a movie star. "
  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:46PM (#20104139)
    Every time any adult tries to be cool in order to get kids to pay attention to a subject in school that they hate, they fail miserably. This is not (only) because adults simply aren't cool, but because the ploy is blazingly obvious. The funny thing about teenagers, is that they are the way they are in no small part because they've grown intellectually to the point where they can recognize lies and propaganda. This sort of thing only reinforces the idea that adults are clueless and generally to be ignored. See also: public service announcements by MC Hammer or Flava Flave.

    I'd have to admit though, that she does have one important ingredient in the textbook. That she demonstrates that you can be simultaneously pretty and intellectual (and includes other examples). If she could lose the cheesy teen-mag look, I'm sure we'd see some progress.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by greg1104 (461138)
      This sort of thing only reinforces the idea that adults are clueless and generally to be ignored. See also: public service announcements by MC Hammer or Flava Flave.

      That's why those fools should leave the educational lessons to Mr. T [youtube.com]!
  • by hey hey hey (659173) on Friday August 03, 2007 @01:48PM (#20104187)
    Tara Smith, a Professor of Epidemiology, and author of the science blog Aetiology [scienceblogs.com] (which I like) reviewed the book here [scienceblogs.com], and has a short interview [scienceblogs.com] with Danica.
  • oh, great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greywire (78262) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:17PM (#20104647) Homepage
    lets create a dumbed down, silly math book with purposely misspelled words just so we can appeal to little girls.

    How insulting to girls.

    Lets make a similar math book for all the boys who aren't interested in math. It should feature GI Joe's using math to kill each other, aliens, and anything gross or violent. For the older boys lets throw in some soft core porn to get their eyes on the page (males are after all more visual, right?).

    Come on! This is rediculous. While I applaud her good intentions, I have to wonder why such a thing was not necessary for girls like her to be interested in math? I am all for making learning fun, and math books are about as dull and boring as it gets, but I see no reason why it has to be dumbed down and made gender specific.

    My 9 year old girl is great at math, without this.

    There are better ways to get kids to learn. Or, rather, to not turn them off to learning, since they start off wanting to learn and then we destroy that desire later on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FleaPlus (6935)
      Lets make a similar math book for all the boys who aren't interested in math. It should feature GI Joe's using math to kill each other, aliens, and anything gross or violent. For the older boys lets throw in some soft core porn to get their eyes on the page (males are after all more visual, right?).

      Hey, when I was in the book store the other day I came across Kaplan-brand Warcraft graphic novels [amazon.com] with SAT vocab words and definitions inside.
  • by stevemm81 (203868) on Friday August 03, 2007 @02:43PM (#20105071) Homepage
    Who is the target audience for this book? Kids who are already into math will be embarrassed/disgusted with the teen mag layout, and kids who aren't won't read a math book even if their parents buy it for them and say "look, this actress you may have seen on Nick at Nite wrote a math book!" I think just about anyone would wince at the "breaking a nail" cliche in the title, although I suspect Ms. McKellar's not to blame.

    Many of these kinds of efforts look like they were produced by someone who is more concerned with being on record with supporting women going into science and math than actually having a real effect. That's why we end up with textbooks crammed with mini-biographies of Sophie Germain and Ada Lovelace that nobody will actually read and that anyone with enough brainpower to do basic algebra will recognize as tacit admissions that a woman mathematician is an odd duck indeed.

    McKellar looks like her heart is in the right place - she's presumably wealthy and is a professional actress, and yet she still devoted serious time and energy to studying math. Presumably she wants others to share her enthusiasm for an interesting and potentially lucrative field of endeavor. But I very much doubt that she was "turned on" to math by a book like this. I imagine that her supportive family and the confidence boost that came from being a TV star helped overcome the anti-math stigma.

    Of course, as much as the stereotypical mathematician is not feminine, he's not particularly masculine either, not an effeminate man precisely, probably more of a modern-day eunuch. Certainly no young men go into mathematics to impress their peers, so I think a more important question would be why young women are more influenced by "peer pressure" than young men.

    Is it low self-esteem? Women think they can't get ahead except by being "cheerleader" types? Or high self-esteem? Women think they *can* become cheerleader types if they wear uncomfortable enough clothing and enough makeup, while nerdy guys figure they couldn't make the football team in a million years?

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