The Wonder Years was easily one of the greatest shows of its time. It was relatable in ways that are hard to express. We all felt like we were part of this little family, and there was one person who we all loved more than anyone.
Winnie Cooper was the coolest kid on TV and we all were obsessed with her. Whether you wanted to be just like her, or if she was the first person you had a crush on, Winnie was everyone’s favorite. But not a lot of people kept track of the actress who played her after the show ended.
Danica McKellar popped up every now and then, in shows like Babylon 5, Walker Texas Ranger, and Working (which starred her former Wonder Years cast mate, Fred Savage). She also made a few made-for-TV movies on NBC that were part of the Moment of Truth series.
McKellar also found that she was extremely talented as a voice actor and played many parts in cartoon shows over the years. But there has been something going on behind the scenes that a lot of people may not realize about her…
McKellar isn’t only a talented actress, she is also basically a genius. After Wonder Years completed filming, McKellar decided to focus on her education so she enrolled in UCLA.
She graduated with the highest honors possible (summa cum laude) with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1998.
She had gone into school expecting to study acting, but she said that she missed the structure of math class that remembered from her high school days. “I felt my brain was getting mushy,” McKellar said.
She surprised herself with how well she did, especially because she hadn’t even expected to enjoy the math classes so much. “It wasn’t like I thought about it and thought, ‘No, I can’t do that,”‘ she said. “It just never occurred to me.”
She excelled so much that the professors even allowed her to take classes that she didn’t have the proper prerequisites for. Professor Chayes offered McKellar and her fellow student Brandy Winn an opportunity to do some original research to prove a property about magnetic fields.
It took several months of work, but the two women finally presented their professor with a paper that he couldn’t disprove. They titled their paper “Percolation and Gibbs States Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models on Z2” and the proof became known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorum.
Her former professor wishes that she had continued in mathematics, saying that she would have done well in grad school. “She certainly had the capability and talent to do that.”
Instead she returned to acting, but has found a way to work math into her life. She wrote a book called Math Doesn’t Suck and consistently takes part in events that help encourage high school students, especially girls, to pursue mathematics.
Pretty crazy that Danica McKellar is actually a math genius isn’t it?