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Book Review 

by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER & r & Math Doesn't Suck

by Danica McKellar

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & ou're a seventh-grade girl. Math class is full of ratios and negative integers and solving for variables that make your head explode.

Stop worrying. Just buy a copy of Math Doesn't Suck and keep it in your backpack -- because this book really, truly will subtract from your stress and divide your panic in half.

You'd heard about how difficult upper-grade math is. But what do algebra and long division have to do with real life? OK, let's say you're out shopping with your friends and you see a really cool top on sale at 35 percent off. You only have just so much money with you. Can you afford to buy it? Or maybe you're having friends over for pizza and you want to make sure everybody gets enough food. How can you be sure? McKellar walks you through the steps to get the answer, then she shows you easy ways to make calculations even quicker.

That's the relatively simple stuff. But what about when you absolutely cannot wrap your brain around a math problem, even though the teacher has been over it a hundred times? Well -- and here's something you won't read in just any book -- did you ever think maybe it's not you? Maybe the teacher isn't explaining it in a way you can understand. So raise your hand, ask for help -- and keep on asking until you get the concept. Because math doesn't suck -- what sucks is not using your intelligence.

When I was in middle school, I wish I had had 10 books like this one. McKellar -- who might look familiar because she played Winnie on The Wonder Years -- holds a degree in math from UCLA. She's also the co-author of a mathematical physics theorem, so she knows her stuff. And in addition to math, she offers growing-up hints and encourages girls to display their intelligence.

As one of those adults who views numbers as a foreign language, I was stunned and delighted to see that McKellar had made math interesting before I could run away from it. By making math accessible and relevant, she turns her book into a must-have -- not just for middle-school girls, but for big girls too.

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