07/15/2020 / Review

Math Doesn't Suck: How to survive middle school math without losing your mind or breaking a nail by Danica McKellar

I'll admit that the title of this book is both catchy and a bit shocking. I guess I'll also have to admit that is what got my attention years ago when I purchased this book. Today, while I was rearranging books in one of my four bookcases (yes, I adore being surrounded by books), I came across this title and took some time to glance through it again. I quickly remembered how much I enjoyed this book.
If the author on the cover looks familiar, then you probably grew up watching the television series The Wonder Years as Danica played the character of Winnie in the show. What would this actress be able to teach us or our kids about math? As the book jacket states, "[Danica McKellar] is a summa cum laude graduate of UCLA with a degree in Mathematics. She has been honored in Britain's esteemed Journal of Physics and The New York Times for her work in mathematics, most notably for her role as coauthor of a groundbreaking mathematical physics theorem, which bears her name (The Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem)". Her credentials are impressive, and the book is a New York Times best seller. It is very well written, especially as it is geared toward middle school aged girls. 

The math concepts that are explained in the book include factors and multiples, fractions, decimals, percents, word problems, and pre-algebra. Each is broken down in a very kid-friendly manner with great real world examples to use as practice. This book also offers a "Trouble Shooting Guide" with topics such as "Where to Turn When You Don't Know What to Do" and "The Smart Girl's Resource Guide". 

The layout of the book also offers advice on pre-teen and up topics such as "Role Models" and "Testimonials" which are written by girls about how they used to feel about math and what they've accomplished. Quizzes are also include, but not the traditional type of quiz you may expect in a math book. For example, quiz number one asks "Are you a Mathophobe?" which is from expert psychologist RobynLandow, PhD, and is designed to help girls realize their inner feelings about math. The book is not meant to be a read from the beginning type of book. However, it really is a fun read, and I think it very well could be a help to any girl (I'd even say any pre-teen) to see math in a whole different light. 

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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and writes education articles for Middleweb. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.