Although most widely recognized for her roles in iconic television shows like “The Wonder Years” and “The West Wing,” Danica McKellar is an internationally recognized mathematician. In the wake of her bestselling book, “Math Doesn't Suck,” McKellar kicks it up a notch with “Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.” Here's an excerpt.
Math just got physical.
Look around— we live in a world of angles and curves. Geometry is responsible for the shape of the house you live in, the cars on the road, the shoes on your feet, and even the book in your hands. Diamond rings wouldn’t be nearly so sparkly without the study of angles, and your favorite dress wouldn’t fit nearly as well without the science of curves. But geometry does more than help us to master the physical world. Doing geometry— especially proofs— trains the logic center in our brains. And logic helps us stay clear and focused, which is helpful in all parts of life!
For example, imagine you and your brother are in an infuriating argument. Your emotions get the best of you, and you hear yourself saying, “You’re wrong because you’re just — wrong!” . . . which only makes him laugh at you. Or imagine an interview for your dream job, where the boss looks at you and simply says, “So, why should I hire you? You’re not as qualified as the other applicants.” Your cheeks flush as adrenaline shoots through your body. How do you handle it? Well, here’s where you could use logic to focus that surge of energy, charming her with a foolproof argument filled with passion and personality. But without that focus, you might get caught up in the assumption that she doesn’t like you, find yourself flooded with desperation, and end up blurting out, “Because I . . . I really want it. A lot. Please?”
Geometry can help.
Just by doing geometry— especially proofs— we train our brains to think more logically, to avoid making assumptions, and to create airtight arguments. Geometry will not only help you to be a better communicator, but also a more savvy citizen— one who is less prone to being lied to or taken advantage of. And that’s always nice.
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Look, it’s no secret that girls are often labeled as “emotional” and “irrational.” Of course we’re emotional — it’s what gives us energy and passion, and it’s one of the most beautiful, powerful parts of being a woman. But we don’t have to be irrational. No way! Being irrational happens when strong emotions cloud our minds, causing us to say or act in ways that don’t serve our goals. The logic we learn in geometry literally focuses our passion, giving us the power to keep our wits about us, even during emotional whirlwinds.
And this new power comes just in time.
Not only is the math changing and developing, but as young women, so are we. Our bodies go through some pretty massive changes, bringing all sorts of curves . . . and a whole new kind of power. This can be thrilling and scary at the same time— especially since our hormones are on a roller coaster of their own. Talk about an emotional whirlwind! These changes present us with a host of new challenges: How do we celebrate our curves without objectifying ourselves? And with the media plastering airbrushed images of “perfect” women everywhere, how do we find the balance of accepting our bodies while working to keep fit in healthy ways?Video: ‘Wonder Years’ star knows her math (on this page)
Believe it or not, all of these challenges can be made easier when we get good at geometry. Having logic at our fingertips keeps our energy and desires focused, which is crucially important not only for keeping a healthy self-image, but also for transforming our passions into success of all types.
Just as geometry is the tool humans have used to build the world around us since the beginning of time, it’s the tool that will help you build the life you dream of, whatever shape it might take. Go get ’em!
Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Girls Get Curves by Danica McKellar. Copyright © 2012 by Danica McKellar
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