Danica McKellar

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Danica McKellar
At a book signing, October 2007
Born Danica Mae McKellar
(1975-01-03) January 3, 1975 (age 44)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors (summa cum laude)
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Actress, author, mathematician, education advocate
Years active 1984–present
  • Mike Verta (m. 2009–12)
  • Scott Sveslosky (m. 2014)
Children 1
Website danicamckellar.com

Danica Mae McKellar (born January 3, 1975) is an American actress, author, mathematician, and education advocate. She played Kevin Arnold's on-off girlfriend Winnie Cooper in the television series The Wonder Years, and later wrote four non-fiction books: Math Doesn't Suck, Kiss My Math, Hot X: Algebra Exposed and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, which encourage middle-school and high-school girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics.[1][2]

Early life

Born in La Jolla, California, McKellar moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was eight. Her mother Mahalia was a homemaker; her father Christopher is a real estate developer.[3] Her mother's ancestry is Portuguese (via the Azores and Madeira islands); her father's ancestry is Scottish, Irish, French, German, and Dutch.

Danica and her sister Crystal McKellar both maintained professional acting careers as children, but with a strong emphasis on education as a priority. As a result, Crystal became a corporate lawyer, while Danica majored in mathematics. Danica and Crystal also have two half-brothers, Chris Junior and Connor McKellar.[citation needed]

Acting career

The Wonder Years and early acting career

At age 7, McKellar enrolled in weekend acting classes for children at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles.[4] In her teens, she landed a prominent role in The Wonder Years, an American television comedy-drama that ran for six seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1993. She played Gwendolyn "Winnie" Cooper, the main love interest of Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) on the show. Her first kiss was with Fred Savage in an episode of The Wonder Years.[5]

She later said, "My first kiss was a pretty nerve-wracking experience! But we never kissed off screen, and pretty quickly our feelings turned into brother/sister, and stayed that way."[6] Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon has said that the character of Winnie Cooper "is the coolest girl in any TV show ever." [7]

Later career

McKellar has said that she found it difficult to move from being a child actress to an adult actress."[6] Since leaving The Wonder Years, McKellar has had several guest roles in television series (including one with former co-star Fred Savage on Working), and has written and directed two short films. She appeared in two Lifetime TV movies in the Moment of Truth series, playing Kristin Guthrie in 1994's Cradle of Conspiracy and Annie Mills Carman in 1996's Justice for Annie. She briefly returned to regular television with a recurring role in the 2002–03 season of The West Wing, portraying Elsie Snuffin, the stepsister and assistant of Deputy White House Communications Director Will Bailey.

McKellar appeared in lingerie in the July 2005 edition of Stuff magazine[8] after readers voted her the 1990s star they would most like to see in lingerie. McKellar explained that she agreed to the shoot in part to obtain "grittier roles".[6]

In 2006, McKellar starred in a Lifetime movie and web-based series titled Inspector Mom about a mother who solves mysteries.[9][10]

On the August 1, 2007, edition of the Don and Mike Show, a WJFK-FM radio program out of Washington, D.C., McKellar announced plans that the producers of How I Met Your Mother were planning to bring her back for a recurring role (she guest-starred on the show in late 2005 in "The Pineapple Incident" and again in early 2007 in "Third Wheel"). She also made an appearance on the show The Big Bang Theory, in the episode "The Psychic Vortex".[11]

In 2008, she starred in Heatstroke, a Sci-Fi Channel original movie about searching for alien life on Earth and in 2009 she was one of the stars commenting on the occurrences of the new millennium in VH1's I Love the New Millennium and was the math correspondent for Brink, a program by the Science Channel about technology. In 2013, she played Ellen Plainview in Lifetime's reimagining of the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film The Wrong Man.

McKellar has also found work as a voice actress. She is the voice of Miss Martian in Young Justice. She has also provided the voices for two characters in three video games: Jubilee in X-Men Legends (2004), and Invisible Woman in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006) and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009).[citation needed]

In 2012, she starred in the Lifetime movie, "Love at the Christmas Table" with Dustin Milligan.

On March 4, 2014, she was announced to be joining season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. She paired with Valentin Chmerkovskiy.[12] McKellar and Chmerkovskiy were eliminated on Week 8, finishing in 6th place.

She had a guest appearance in the Impractical Jokers season four episode six titled "The Blunder Years"


McKellar studied at UCLA and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with highest honors (summa cum laude) in 1998.[13]

As an undergraduate, she coauthored a scientific paper with Professor Lincoln Chayes and fellow student Brandy Winn entitled "Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on \mathbb{Z}^2."[14] Their results are termed the 'Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem'.[15][16]

Referring to the mathematical abilities of his student coauthors, Chayes was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "I thought that the two were really, really first-rate."[17] McKellar's Erdős number is four and her Erdős–Bacon number is 6.[18]

Personal life

She married composer Mike Verta on March 22, 2009, in La Jolla, California; the couple had dated since 2001.[19] They had their first child, a son named Draco, in 2010,[20][21] McKellar filed for divorce from Verta in June 2012,[22] with the dissolution becoming final in February 2013.[23]

On July 16, 2014, she was engaged to her boyfriend Scott Sveslosky, a partner in the Los Angeles legal firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton. On November 15, 2014, the two wed in Kaua'i, Hawai'i.[24]


McKellar has authored several mathematics-related books primarily targeting adolescent readers interested in succeeding at the study of mathematics:

  • McKellar, Danica; Mary Lynn Blasutta (2008). Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. New York: Plume (publisher). ISBN 9780452289499.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McKellar, Danica (2009). Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss. New York: Plume. ISBN 9780452295407.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McKellar, Danica (2010). Hot X: Algebra Exposed. New York: Plume. ISBN 9780452297197.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McKellar, Danica (2012). Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. New York: Hudson Street Press. ISBN 9781594630941.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Her first book, Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, was a New York Times bestseller,[1] and was favorably reviewed by Tara C. Smith, the founder of Iowa Citizens for Science and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa.[25] The book also received a review from Anthony Jones, writing for the School Librarian journal, who described the book as "a trouble-shooting guide to help girls overcome their biggest maths challenges," noting what he described as "real-world examples of great mathematics in action."[26] In an interview with Smith, McKellar said that she wrote the book "to show girls that math is accessible and relevant, and even a little glamorous" and to counteract "damaging social messages telling young girls that math and science aren't for them".[27]

McKellar's second book, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss,[28] was released on August 5, 2008. The book's target audience is girls in the 7th through 9th grades. Her third book, Hot X: Algebra Exposed![29] covers algebra topics, while the previous two titles were intended as "algebra-readiness books."[30] Hot X was published on August 3, 2010. Her fourth book, Girls Get Curves – Geometry Takes Shape,[31] focuses on the subject of geometry, and attempts to make the subject more accessible.[32]

Three of McKellar's books were listed in The New York Times children's bestseller list.[33][34]

Published papers

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Awards and honors

McKellar was named Person of the Week on World News with Charles Gibson for the week ending August 10, 2007. The news segment highlighted her book Math Doesn't Suck and her efforts to help girls develop an interest in mathematics, especially during the middle school years.[35] In January 2014, she received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM) Communications Award. The citation credited her books, blog, and public appearances for encouraging "countless middle and high school students, especially girls, to be more interested in mathematics."[36]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Sidekicks Lauren
2001 Good Neighbor Molly Wright
2001 XCU: Extreme Close Up Sarah
2001 Speechless... Dana Woodman Short film
2002 Sex and the Teenage Mind Debbie
2002 Black Hole Rachael
2002 Reality School Sexy Sally Short film
2002 Jane White Is Sick & Twisted Tiffany
2002 Year That Trembled, TheThe Year That Trembled Pam Hatch
2002 Hip, Edgy, Sexy, Cool Sissie
2004 Raising Genius Lacy Baldwin
2004 Intermission Sleepwalker Short film
2004 Quiet Kill Pet Shop Girl
2007 Hack! Emily
2008 Heatstroke Caroline
2009 21 and a Wake-Up Jenny Valentine
2010 Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo Madelyn Dinkley (voice) Video
2010 Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam Sally (voice) Video
2012 Flatland 2: Sphereland Aero Video
2012 Mancation Rebecca
2012 Love at the Christmas Table Katherine "Kat" Patton TV movie
2013 The Wrong Woman Ellen Plainview TV movie
2014 Where Hope Grows Susan Malcolm
2015 Perfect Match Jessica Summers TV movie
2015 Crown for Christmas Allie Evans TV movie


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Twilight Zone, TheThe Twilight Zone Nola (age 10) Episode: "Her Pilgrim Soul"
1987 Twilight Zone, TheThe Twilight Zone Deidre Dobbs Episode: "Shelter Skelter"
1988–1993 Wonder Years, TheThe Wonder Years Winnie Cooper Main role (98 episodes)
1989 Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, TheThe Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Patty Episode: "Day of the Orphan/King Mario of Cramalot"
1990 Camp Cucamonga Lindsey Scott TV film
1992 Captain Planet and the Planeteers Lisa (voice) Episode: "A Formula for Hate"
1994 Babylon 5 Aria Tensus Episode: "The War Prayer"
1994 Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy Kristin Guthrie TV film
1994 Walker, Texas Ranger Laurie Maston Episode: "Stolen Lullaby"
1994 Sirens Alison Trent Episode: "Victims"
1996 Justice for Annie: A Moment of Truth Movie Annie Mills Carman TV film
1998 Love Boat: The Next Wave Mary Dutton Episode: "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
1998 Working Jolie Episode: "As Bad As It Gets"
1999 Working Jolie Episode: "She Loves Me Yeah, Yeah, Yeah"
1999 Random Play Daughter Episode: "1.4"
2000–2004 Static Shock Freida Goren (voice) Recurring role (14 episodes)
2001 Division, TheThe Division Wendy Episode: "Don't Ask"
2001 Even Stevens Sandrine Episode: "Sibling Rivalry"
2002 Justice League Sapphire Stagg (voice) Episodes: "Metamorphosis: Parts 1 & 2"
2002–2003 West Wing, TheThe West Wing Elsie Snuffin (8 episodes)
2004 King of the Hill Sharona / Misty (voice) Episodes: "My Hair Lady", "Cheer Factor"
2004 Game Over Elsa / Renee TV series
2004 Century City Sally Episode: "Without a Tracer"
2004 Eve Claudia Episode: "Friend or Foe?"
2005 NCIS Erin Kendall Episode: "Witness"
2005 Jack & Bobby Keirsten Episode: "And Justice for All"
2005 NYPD Blue Rosemary Episode: "Moving Day"
2005 Strong Medicine Natalie Pascal Episode: "Feeling No Pain"
2005 Path of Destruction Katherine Stern TV film
2005 How I Met Your Mother Trudy Episode: "The Pineapple Incident"
2006 Inspector Mom Maddie Monroe TV film
2006 Cyberchase Wanda (voice) Episode: "Designing Mr. Perfect"
2006–2007 Inspector Mom Maddie Monroe Regular role (10 episodes)
2007 Random! Cartoons Katerina 'Kat' Metropoulos (voice) Episode: "Girls on the Go!"
2007 How I Met Your Mother Trudy Episode: "Third Wheel"
2010 Big Bang Theory, TheThe Big Bang Theory Abby Episode: "The Psychic Vortex"
2010 Generator Rex Claire (voice) Episodes: "Hermanos", "Operation: Wingman"
2010–2013 Young Justice M'gann M'orzz/Miss Martian, Tuppence Terror, Marie Logan (voice) Regular role (40 episodes)
2011 Generator Rex Claire (voice) Episode: "Haunted"
2011 G.I. Joe: Renegades Sister Leia / Woman (voice) Episode: "Brothers of Light"
2012 Nerdist: Tribute to Science, TheThe Nerdist: Tribute to Science TV film
2012 Love at the Christmas Table Kat TV film
2013 Tasmanian Devils Alex TV film
2013 Secret Life of the American Teenager, TheThe Secret Life of the American Teenager Herself Episode: "Interference"
2013 Nerdist: Course of the Force Bounty Hunter Episode: "Michael Rooker & CM Punk: Lighstaber Hunt"
2014 Transformers: Rescue Bots Hayley (voice) (2 episodes)
2014 Dancing with the Stars Herself Contestant on season 18
2015 King of the Nerds Herself Judge
2015 Impractical Jokers Herself Episode: "The Blunder Years"
2015 Project MC² The Quail Netflix original series
2015 The Miss America 2016 Competition Herself Judge
2015 Crown for Christmas Allie Evans TV Film

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2004 X-Men Legends Jubilee
2004 EverQuest II Lolla Cotgrove / Pona
2006 Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams Additional Voices
2006 Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Invisible Woman
2009 Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Invisible Woman
2013 Young Justice: Legacy M'gann M'orzz / Miss Martian, Barbara Gordon / Batgirl

Music videos

On August 20, 2013, Canadian singer Avril Lavigne released her music video for new single "Rock N Roll" from her upcoming self-titled fifth album, which features McKellar as "Winnie Cooper".[37]

McKellar was featured in Debbie Gibson's 8th single from the Electric Youth album, "No More Rhyme", which was released in 1989. She plays the cello in the beginning of the video.[38]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Math Books". Danicamckellar.com. Retrieved August 23, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Danica McKellar Biography (1975–)". Film Reference. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  4. Randle, Nancy (January 23, 1991). "Mirror Image: It's No Wonder Danica Mckellar Is A Winsome Winnie". Chicago Tribune (January 23, 1991). Retrieved May 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Danica McKellar". Maxim. February 1, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Where are they now? – Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years[dead link]
  7. "Jimmy Fallon Explains the Meaning Behind Baby Name Winnie (Hint: It's Not About a Pooh)". Retrieved August 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Yahoo OMG! article published online August 13, 2013. Quote: "'Nancy, my wife, and I got engaged in New Hampshire at this lake house that her family's had forever. It's on Lake Winnipesaukee.' . . . It didn’t hurt that one of the most famous Winnies in pop culture ― Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years ― 'is the coolest girl in any TV show ever,' added the new dad."
  8. "Danica McKellar pictures and bio". Stuff.[dead link]
  9. "Winnie Cooper Goes Digital:McKellar to star in movies, webisodes for Lifetime". Zap2it. 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2007-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Cherkezian, Megan (November 17, 2006). "Wonder Years' Danica McKellar Fights Crime as Inspector Mom". TV Guide.
  11. "The Psychic Vortex" episode, air date 2010-11-01
  12. "Dancing With the Stars Cast Revealed! Cody Simpson, Nene Leakes and James Maslow Are Among the Names—See the Full List!". E! Online.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Frazier, Kendrick (2008). "Mickelson, McKellar tout science, math, and being smart". Skeptical Inquirer. 32 (6): 12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  15. "USNews.com: America's Best Colleges 2006: College Flashback: Danica McKellar". U.S.News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2010-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Blog post by mathematician Terence Tao, a former instructor of McKellar's, complimenting her book and explaining the theorem.
  17. Kenneth Chang, "Between Series, an Actress Became a Superstar (in Math)", The New York Times, July 19, 2005.
  18. "There's not much separating her from Bacon, Erdős", USA Today, August 14, 2007
  19. Danica McKellar is Married! People, March 22, 2009
  20. Danica McKellar is Pregnant! People, March 17, 2010
  21. "Danica McKellar Files for Divorce". People. 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2012-06-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "'Wonder Years' actress Danica McKellar files for divorce". suntimes.com. 2012-06-12. Retrieved 9 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Watkins, Jade (February 23, 2013). "It's official: The Wonder Years star Danica Mckellar 'finalises divorce from her husband of three years Mike Verta'". Daily Mail. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Danica McKellar Is Married!". People. 2014-11-20. Retrieved 20 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Smith, Tara (2007-07-24). "Aetiology:Danica McKellar's "Math Doesn't Suck"". Aetiology. ScienceBlogs. Retrieved 2007-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  27. Smith, Tara (2007-07-25). "Interview with math whiz, author, and actress Danica McKellar". Aetiology. ScienceBlogs. Retrieved 2007-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Danica McKellar (2008). Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1-59463-049-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Danica McKellar (2010). Hot X: Algebra Exposed. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1-59463-070-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Actress Danica McKellar Solves For 'X' : NPR". National Public Radio. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 2013-07-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Danica McKellar (2012). Girls Get Curves – Geometry Takes Shape. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1-59463-094-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Lichtman, Flora (17 August 2012). "Actress Danica McKellar Helps "Girls Get Curves"". Science Friday (Interview). National Public Radio. Retrieved 2013-07-05. Unknown parameter |city= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Schuessler, Jennifer (August 22, 2010). "Children's Chapter Books". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Best Sellers: Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "ABC News: Person of the Week: Danica McKellar". Retrieved 2007-08-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. American Mathematical Society, January 2014 Prizes And Awards, p. 35,
  37. http://965tic.cbslocal.com/2013/08/28/avril-lavigne-talks-rock-n-roll-music-video-kissing-winnie-cooper/
  38. No More Rhyme

Further reading

  • "The Wonder Kid" by Liz Belilovskaya, Brain World magazine, Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 2013, pages 42–45. Publisher: International Brain Education Association, New York City. Interview of Dania McKeller with a full-page color photo.

External links