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Danica McKellar
Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Danica McKellar

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Actress Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on 'The Wonder Years.' She has also written a series of best-selling mathematics books and starred in numerous television movies.

Who Is Danica McKellar?

Danica McKellar is an American actress and author who shot to stardom at age 13 when she landed the role of Winnie Cooper on the hit drama The Wonder Years. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in mathematics, and in 2007, she published her first book, Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail

Early Life and Child Stardom

Danica Mae McKellar was born in La Jolla, California, on January 3, 1975. From the time she was 7 years old, McKellar was raised in Los Angeles. Her father, Christopher, was a real estate developer and her mother, Mahalia, was a stay-at-home mom. McKellar has a sister named Crystal who also became an actress. As a child, McKellar took acting classes at a performing arts school called the Diane Hill Hardin Young Actors Space.

In 1984, when McKellar was just 9 years old, she started acting in television commercials. By 1987, she had appeared in two episodes of the revamped TV show The Twilight Zone.

At 13, McKellar landed her big break with a part on the popular television series The Wonder Years. She was cast as Gwendolyn "Winnie" Cooper, starring opposite Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold. McKellar played Kevin's first love and was central to the show's coming-of-age storyline. Her sister, Crystal, appeared on The Wonder Years as well, in the recurring role of Becky Slater— Kevin's spurned and vengeful romantic interest. The Wonder Years ran for five years, ending in 1993. 

Over the course of the show's lifespan, McKellar earned several award nominations for her work as Winnie Cooper. In 1989, she won a Young Artist Award for best young actress in a featured, co-starring, supporting or recurring role in a comedy or drama series or special.


After The Wonder Years ended, McKellar took a break from acting to attend college. She enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in math. When she ambitiously signed up for a complex analysis class in her senior year, she found a mentor in the course's teacher, professor Lincoln Chayes. Impressed with McKellar's mathematical prowess, Chayes recruited her and a fellow student named Brandy Winn to help him with a research project. The result was a new mathematical proof named the Charles-McKellar-Winn theorem. McKellar graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from UCLA in 1998.

Return to Acting

After receiving her undergraduate degree, McKellar considered going to graduate school but decided to return to acting instead. From the early 1990s on, McKellar made a long string of guest appearances on television shows, including Babylon 5, Sirens, NCIS, NYPD Blue, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and The West Wing. From 2006 to 2007, she wrote and performed on the Lifetime web-based miniseries Inspector Mom.

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GLENDALE, CA - AUGUST 23:  Actress/mathematician Danica McKellar arrives at a signing for her new book 'Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape' at Barnes & Noble at The Americana at Brand on August 23, 2012 in Glendale, California.  (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Danica McKellar

Beginning in 2010, she provided the voice for M'gann M'orzz in the animated superhero series Young Justice, winning a string of BTVA Television Voice Acting Awards for best vocal ensemble. McKellar also donned her dancing shoes to compete on Dancing With The Stars in 2014, and the following year was seen on TV in such shows as King of the Nerds and Impractical Jokers

Ph.D. and Math Author

Eventually, McKellar decided that her other passion, math, had been on the back burner long enough. Picking up her education where she left off, McKellar enrolled in graduate school. In 2005, she received her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago.

Her reignited enthusiasm for math spurred McKellar to start a personal website, which she uses to give tween and teen girls advice about math. She enjoyed the endeavor so much that she was inspired to expand on her advice in a book. In 2007, she published Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail

McKellar's appealing, teen-friendly style of writing took a lighthearted pop-culture approach to what otherwise might be considered a dry subject. The well-received book was then expanded in an entire series of New York Times bestsellers, including Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss (2008); Hot X: Algebra Exposed! (2010); and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape (2012).

Personal Life

In 2012, McKellar filed for divorce from her husband of three years, composer and visual effects artist Mike Verta, citing irreconcilable differences. McKellar and Verta share custody of their son, Draco. In 2014, she married lawyer Scott Sveslosky.

Aside from acting, math-related projects and motherhood, McKellar enjoys ballroom dancing and doing yoga in her spare time.

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