Danica McKellar is becoming so famous as an author that we might have to stop mentioning that she was once adolescent heartthrob Winnie Cooper on TV's The Wonder Years. This bona fid math wizard (she graduated summa cum laude from UCLA) has become recognized as a peerless of tutor of numerical skills. Following in the shelf steps of two McKellar bestsellers (Kiss My Math; Math Doesn't Suck), Danica's Hot X lands in our stores this month, bursting with style, sass and, not least, superb step-by-step lessons on every daunting aspect of algebra. Word problems, polynomials, and quadratic equations have never seemed so easy.
This book's cover features the author and looks like a teen magazine. A self-described math nerd, McKellar graduated summa cum laude from UCLA after starring in The Wonder Years and epitomizes her mantra that a girl can have both beauty and brains. Continuing the format of her two other books (Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail [Hudson Street/Penguin, 2007] and Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss [Hudson Street/Penguin, 2008], Hot X: Algebra Exposed picks up where Kiss My Math left off and focuses on algebra. McKellar's tour through Happyland (her euphemism for algebra) sprinkles humor and personal insights through a plethora of useful illustrations, graphics, reviews of pre-algebraic concepts, testimonials, questionnaires, inspirational quotes, and real-life advice that actually teach the reader algebra. The book convinces that competence in math means confidence in life. Students can read the book straight through or use its tips, definitions, step-by-step guides for solving equations, and sample problems as a reference for specific topics. McKellar's humorous yet effective approach to algebra, a "gatekeeper" to success in a variety of scientific and professional majors, is a must for any teen's (especially girls) library. Reviewer: Christina Miller
McKellar, a professional actress, is also an honors graduate of UCLA, who majored in mathematics. This newest book is the third in a sequence aimed at encouraging middle-school girls to study mathematics with confidence and enthusiasm. It is a very worthy goal, since American women are underrepresented in mathematical higher education and research. The author employs a chatty and humorous style calculated to engage the attention of her teen girl target audience. Her earlier books dealt with prealgebra mathematics; this volume introduces typical first-year algebra topics such as linear and quadratic equations, exponents, word problems, etc. McKellar also steps aside at times with brief essays to help her readers deal with various challenges relating to young men, especially the tendency of some women to "dumb themselves down" so they won't scare them away. Also quoted are statements from various adult women whose strong backgrounds in mathematics have enabled them to advance to significant high-level professional employment. VERDICT This book should prove very helpful for many middle-school girls. Recommended.—Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI
"A cross between a math class and a slumber party, and a perky, self-affirming slumber party at that: interspersed among the math are anecdotes about boys and testimonials about struggles and triumphs with math... McKellar exhorts her readers to be smart and confident... I found myself wishing that Ms. McKellar, who makes math relevant without dumbing it down, would cover the rest of the high school math curriculum."—Kenneth Chang, The New York Times
"A must-have for any teen or tween girl who feels nervous about algebra class this year."—The Washington Post
"McKellar... may well have done more to encourage girls to stick with math than any government task force... the wildly enthusiastic response [her books] have received speaks to the effect that can be achieved by reworking the contents of standard math and science problems and countering the perception that boys won't like girls who are smart."—Eileen Pollack,The New York Times
"As far as math goes, McKellar knows her stuff... Facing down a 432-page book devoted to algebra could give even math whizzes pause, but McKellar makes it work, taking the textbook-meets-Seventeen approach by mixing the explanations and equations with boy talk, quizzes, and testimonials from successful women. While a tutor might use this title as a teaching aid, teen girls will want to explore iton their own. Navigation is easy; students are encouraged to hop from chapter to chapter as their homework demands. The breakdown of equations is effective and certainly unconventional—explaining functions in terms of sausage factories, for example, or exponents in terms of whip-bearing female executives (makes sense in the book, promise)—and while McKellar keeps her focus on how to solve math problems, her approach is both readable and even entertaining."—Courtney Jones, Booklist