Winnie Cooper Explains How Math Helped Her Move Beyond Winnie Cooper

Escaping child stardom with your sanity, self-worth and sense of reality intact is -- as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Corey Feldman could tell you -- nothing short of a triumph. It's probably not a coincidence that the former child actors who seem the most well-adjusted in adulthood are just that: former actors.

Case in point? Danica McKellar, the ultimate girl next door, who stole America's tender, pubescent hearts as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years from 1988 to 1993. McKellar, now 41, has authored four books for kids and teens about math -- with a special focus on convincing young women, who are still sorely underrepresented in math- and science-related careers, that math is cool.

In the video below, the latest in NOVA's "Secret Lives of Scientists" series, McKellar explains how being good at math helped the former child star reinvent herself once she got to college, and in so doing provided an invaluable source of self-esteem.

To most, of course, she will always continue to be Winnie Cooper. As a certified Wonder Years expert myself, I can tell you that this is partly because the role of Winnie Cooper was really quite well-drawn for a teenage love interest; both the writing and McKellar's performance hold up nicely more than 20 years after the show went off the air. (The whole series is on Netflix; the first four seasons are goddamn perfect; go watch "The Accident," season 4 episode 20, then come back and tell me if it doesn't make you cry I dare you.)

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But hey: self-esteem based on advanced calculus skills is pretty cool too. Maybe women really can have it all.

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