Danica McKellar, 39, first caught the eye of America when she was 12 years old as schoolgirl Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. But instead of cashing in on TV fame when the series wrapped in 1993, she focused on her education—and numbers.
The result was a degree in mathematics from UCLA and the authorship of four books—the latest is Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape—to help young women master tough mathematical concepts in middle and high school. “Math teaches your brain important problem-solving skills,” McKellar says. “The more you study math, the more your brain gets good at looking at things logically.”
As someone who encourages young women to persevere, McKellar felt it was important that she practice what she preaches. So she agreed to participate on TV’s Dancing with the Stars earlier this year.
“It was scary. It was taking a lot of risks. I did end up breaking a rib, but it taught me how to push through.” Even with her focus on education, McKellar continues to act. She and the cast of The Wonder Years recently gathered for a reunion for the new DVD release of the series. She had a recurring role on How I Met Your Mother, guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory and starred in the Lifetime movies, Love at the Christmas Table and The Wrong Woman.