Danica McKellar Trying to Teach Son the Quadratic Formula

08/14/2012 at 04:00 PM ET
Jennifer Carrillo/Pacific Coast News

Danica McKellar really loves math.

While she’s best known for playing Winnie on The Wonder Years, off-screen, McKellar’s reputation as a New York Times best-selling author has earned the actress just as many fans.

“Math is a challenge!” she tells PEOPLE. “[But] you want to embrace challenges. That’s how you get strong and smart. That is how you prove, that is how you feel good about yourself. That is how you build confidence.”

McKellar, 37, who most recently penned Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, credits the subject with boosting her self-esteem.

“Math for me [gave me the most confidence]. After The Wonder Years ended, here I was, this ex-child actress. You have to find your identity somewhere. For me, I found it in feeling smart and good about myself,” she says.

Even McKellar’s 23-month-old son, Draco, with estranged husband Mike Verta, is working on developing his math skills.

“We’re working on some things. He knows his colors and his shapes. He still gets seven when he counts the toes on one foot — he really likes seven right now!” she says. “He likes it when I recite Pi. And I’m trying to teach him the quadratic formula, he hasn’t quite gotten it yet. It’s sung to the tune of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’.”

— Maggie Coughlan

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Showing 52 comments

cris on

Wow….she’s still a cutie and a smartie…good luck Danica..you are inspiring.

Anonymous on

That’s actually a great way to teach a child math. I recite certain things to my daughter about calculus (my professor once told me to do this too). My daughter mastered her colors, numbers and all alphabets early. I do this for the fun of it and she follows so if it does her good, why not?!?! There’s definitely no harm in teaching kids at such an early age. Danica is still just as gorgeous!

Shaindy on

That’s the way to do it – get ’em while they’re young. It’s amazing the knowledge you can cram into a kid’s skull if you start early. Good for her – and what a role model she is for all kids.

lily on

-b + or – sqrt( b^2 – 4ac)? math is awesome

Kat on

All over 2-a

Kat on

Oops. I meant 2a 😉

Lindsay on

Singing the quadratic formula equation to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel is how I learned it in high school. 15 years later I still remember it. It works! Now I just have to find a reason to use it lol.

Cindy on

Lily – don’t forget to divide by 2a 🙂

whatever on

I read an article where this couple was together for 8 YEARS before marrying in 2009. Obviously, they know each other better than most of the commenters think. Sad for the baby, nonetheless. And sadder that she’s pushing the kid already — let him play; maybe he will like English better than math! 😛

whatever on

Excuse me — wrong thread. I had been reading her divorce story….

KLP82 on

Wow, good for her! She’s very inspiring. It’s amazing how fast babies/toddlers can learn things that even I (at 30 years old) can’t undersand! lol

Sharon on

Lily: All divided by 2a

Alia on

I saw her doing an interview on the Today show…so classy! It seems like she really wants to affect the world in a positive way…thank you for being strong!

Charli on

He is a cutie pie! I like that she is a sensible, grounded person.

Anonymous on

good for her! Great way to interact with her child.

me on

love her! she is beautiful and smart, very rare in hollywood it seems.

Cynnical on

Yea, too few people in the world are into math. As an adult, I wish that I would have pushed myself harder to pay attention in these subjects – my career would be a more stimulating place. Too few Americans are into math, our collective belief when it comes to children is “let them do what they feel like, they’ll find their own way”

Danielle on

I actually learned it that way in high school. I have yet to forget it!

Rose on

the little guy is so, so, so, so so, sweet. She’s quite impressive,too.

meghan on

i’m all for math, but let the kid be a kid! why do we, as a society, have to push kids so young!?

Anonymous on

whatever- Actually, learning and playing or otherwise “being a kid” can (and often do!) go hand in hand! Playing counting games, cooking together, and even building with blocks can teach kids math skills without it being “pushy”! 🙂

tilly on

23 months? This seems a little young and a little ridiculous to me!

Anonymous on

I love her! What a smart gal and excellant role model for girls!

meghan on

How is he almost two already?! Man, time flies!

kat on

What little Winnie is 37???? Where does the time go?

notsosure on

I think she married her husband, just to have a baby. Why leave him a year after having the baby???? Sad!

Anna on

I caught her interview today on CNN. She was engaging; beautiful and smart. I urge all moms and dads of young daughters to get their hands on all four of her books, and read them together! This is a very positive role model for girls, don’t miss out!

Jen DC on

Well, she can’t exactly “push him” right now – he’s 23 months! Everything is a game to him, which is the perfect time to make learning fun. He doesn’t know he is learning; he’s just experiencing.

She’s beautiful and smart and that baby is adorable (old pic, though). She seems to be enjoying him – he’ll get past his love of seven eventually!

Cloudshoveller on

Get this girl a cameo on the Big Bang theory, stat!! 🙂

Jax on

She’s already been on BBT :/

Lisa on

I think that’s really cool. Most kids don’t like math because they are afraid of it, and then when they ask their parents, the parents are terrified of the subject. Danica’s crazy smart, I’m really glad she’s teaching her son early!!

Anna on

@WTF. She is incredibly smart and such a wonderful role model for young girls. I trust her completely with this. It’s not just “a few numbers”, she is truly showing young girls not only that they can master this (mathematics), but how to practicably apply what they have learned for their own use to make their lives the best it can be for them. To interpret otherwise would be sorely ignorant.

lily on

man its been a long time since the 11th grade

nicole on

Seems to me like her love of math is kind of ridiculous. If she loved math so much, why isn’t she actually doing some of it in her every day work? Why doesn’t she try working as an engineer, physicist, scientific researcher, computer programmer or other job that involves math or math related scientific or technical skills….it’s really easy to say how much you love math, when you aren’t doing it. Weird that she is a role model for math when her job doesn’t involve it.

Linda on

I still look at “The wonder years”…one of the best shows ever!

I Hate Math…but glad she likes it. I hope she finds happiness with a new man…her baby is cute just like she is.

Linda on

Always loved the Wonder years…great show!

I hate math..but glad she likes it.

Hope she finds true love one day… her baby is cute just like she is.

Alexandra on

@WTF They were together for 11 years before deciding to break it off. That’s a pretty long time, especially in Hollywood. I’m sure they tried to make it work.

Youknowdis@yourmom.com on

I think it’s inappropriate for people to comment on the state of her marriage when they don’t know her personally. If it’s none of your business, you should butt out. Only she and her husband are clear about what has happened between them. Although divorce is not ideal, no one is perfect and this is the real world.

I think it’s cute and awesome that she’s teaching her boy math at an early age. Sure, it may be more advanced than he’s ready for, but it’s a good foundation. Little kids love to learn through playing, so I think she’s doing a good job. Who knows how much he will learn in just a couple of years? 🙂

suzy diamond on

I’m curious…how could you have a child 23 mths ago and have no clue that your marriage was falling apart? Always a “good thing” for a child to have both parents together for raising.

Nerdy Woman on

BRAVO, DANICA! My 15 yo daughter is linguistically gifted to the max, but an early experience with a really bad teacher (even I couldn’t understand her explanations), had my daughter convinced she couldn’t do math. Most math textbooks assume teaching basic math operations requires one- or two-syllable words or silly scenarios (my daughter says math problems are the only place you can buy 60 cantaloupes or run a microwave oven for 4 hours and no one questions your sanity). DANICA’S BOOKS ARE FUN, ENGAGING, AND SO WELL WRITTEN, THEY’VE SAVED THIS HOMESCHOOLING MOM FROM MATH HELL. In a time when we see so many former child actresses make tabloid messes of their lives, it’s wonderful to see a mom who’s best wonder years are ahead.

Nerdy Woman on

My 15 yo daughter is linguistically gifted to the max, but an early experience with a bad teacher (even I couldn’t understand her explanations) had my daughter convinced she couldn’t do math. After 2 years of homeschooling battles, I discovered Danica’s books. YAY! HER BOOKS ARE FUN, ENGAGING, AND RELEVANT (my daughter says math scenarios are the only place you can buy 60 cantaloupes or run a microwave oven for 4 hours and no one questions your sanity). In a time when we see so many former child actresses make tabloid messes of their lives, it’s wonderful to read about a woman who’s true wonder years are ahead.

Kat on

Of course, you could let a two-year-old play with blocks?

Sandy on

smart lady! anything stimulating for the brain is a good thing- especially in babies and toddlers. Read, read, read too. I love the idea of singing songs to teach concepts. Smart and beautiful! Wonder what happened with her husband? I didn’t know they weren’t together.

ViviWannabe on

@WTF Seriously? You know, studies show that fighting constantly and being angry and bitter toward your spouse is MORE psychologically damaging to your children than divorce. I don’t believe in that “stay together and be miserable for the chyyyyldrun!” bullcrap. They need to see you happy more. If her marriage was miserable it was way better for her son to divorce than to stay in a shitty marriage.

Cassie on

I think this is awesome! I personally don’t feel you can ever teach your child too much, but you can always teach too little. Why not start earlier? If children absorb so much that early on and is easier than later, I say go for it!

In today’s society where you often see so many children taking the easy way out of things and not pushing themselves through challenges – this is refreshing! I hope more parents follow suit and understand the importance of the fundamentals instead of the latest and greatest flashy toy.

Sherri on

I love that she decided to boost her self-esteem by becoming smarter and attempting to excel academically, rather than making a sex tape or trying to remain relevant by making some idiotic reality show.

Mommytoane on

Actually, shes right on track. Did you know that children do their most influental learning prior to the age of three? Of corse, those bashing her didn’t. There is NOTHING wrong with educating a child. Absolutely nothing. I began teaching my daughter fractions at the age of 1. Why? Fractions are everywhere in cooking. Its so easy to teach a kid to make fractions while they bake a cookie with you.

IMHO….anyone who refuses to educate a child shouldn’t have them. Kids are sponges. They NEED education, they thrive on it.

K on

I think its a little silly that she’s teaching this already. I like her as an actress but let the kid learn things from educational toys. Quit forcing math on kids, the private schools did that to me and its not good.

meghan on

I agree, K! How dare a mother try and educate and enrich her own child! Next thing you know she’s going to be reading books to him!

Catca on

She’s not teaching her son to apply the quadratic formula, she’s teaching a song to him to the tune of pop goes the weasel making it entirely age appropriate. The actual formula will stick in his head for a time later on in school (and perhaps life if he does something with math) to retrieve from his memory banks.

As far as the comments about if she loves math so much why isn’t she doing something with it – she is. She’s writing books geared to teaching math to kids. By doing so, she’s potentially reaching hundreds of thousands of children and helping them to master math as an aid to their teachers. She may inspire the next great scientist or mathmetician. I can’t think of many things more laudable than that.

I find it quite surprising that this is generating so many negative comments.

His on

So basically, you need to be a married, straight, Christian person with more than one child to get any sort of praise on this website? Because that’s what it seems like to me…

This woman told a sweet story about enriching her young sons life with something that will be useful to him in his later years and she still gets bashed… not for anything relevant to te article, but because she and her husband aren’t together any more. Despite the fact that they were together for many years before actually deciding to have a baby, some silly people are convinced that she only stuck with him for a baby? She’s getting bashed for teaching him something (in a fun, age appropriate way) instead of letting him veg out in front of the TV? Okayyyy.

Y’know, sometimes I’d like to live in these perfect houses. Because, we all know, gay families, single parents families, divorced families, well, they just can’t produce productive members of society because some commenters on People’s website bad mouth them *eyeroll*

This is an adorable article about a woman teaching her son something she loves, something that will benefit him when he needs it. Why can’t some people see that..?

MiB on

She makes maths sound like so much fun! I don’t think I was bad at maths as a kid, but I developed an aversion to it after a bad experience with a horrible maths teacher in junior high. Maybe I should get some of her books!