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Overcome Math Anxiety to Conquer Your Finances with Danica McKellar

In addition to her lifelong acting career, Danica McKellar is an internationally recognized mathematician and advocate for math education. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA with a degree in Mathematics, Danica has been honored in Britain’s esteemed Journal of Physics and the New York Times for her work in mathematics, most notably for her role as co-author of a ground-breaking mathematical physics theorem which bears her name (The Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem).

Today’s question for the Kwik Brain community is: how do you overcome math anxiety to the point that you can improve your finances?

You might know Danica from her role as Winnie Cooper in Wonder Years, but what you might not know is that in addition to her lifelong acting career, Danica is an internationally-recognized mathematician,New York Times best-selling author and advocate for math education.

Dealing with money and finances is one the most practical reasons to learn math—unless we are able to deal with numbers, institutions can take advantage of us without us even knowing it. Many of us have learned to avoid numbers after learning to fear math in school, but the good news is this can be turned around, no matter your age!

In this conversation, we explain why avoiding maths can derail your finances, and why learning math is a form of self-care. We’ll give you some ideas for bringing fun into your math learning, and simple steps you can take to get started. We’ll tell you how math can help you feel in control of your life and make dealing with your finances fun.

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"The whole point is to make math fun so it’s not scary."

Danica McKellar

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  • Money & finances are one of the most practical reasons to learn math.
  • Numbers run the world—it’s a second language everyone should know.
  • If you’re not comfortable with numbers lots of institutions would love to take advantage of that—whether it’s a contract you get into, credit card statement, your mortgage .
  • Tricky stuff like people offering to refinance your house but increasing the loan amount without you realizing will happen to you all the time unless you can deal with numbers.
  • Avoiding numbers comes from math phobia which begins at a young age.
  • Danica’s book mentioned: Goodnight Numbers.


  • Danica speaking at a middle school: how many of you have wanted to start your own business? What’s going to keep those doors open? Math.
  • We have two choices: get good at math or get ripped off. This affects everybody, we can all get ripped off and not even know it.
  • You don’t have to become a math lover, but Danica wants every kid growing up to say I can do it, I got this.
  • If you’re an adult it’s not too late for you. You can push past your fears, what’s the worst that can happen?
  • Danica’s book mentioned: Math Doesn’t Suck.
  • Study a little bit of math—do it in baby steps. Start with percents, fractions, decimals: how do they work together, what does it mean?
  • When you feel your brain shutting off due to emotional trauma you’ll recognize the moment from school fears about math. It’s not a rational fear, it’s an irrational childhood-based demon you can excise.


  • Resistance to numbers can manifest in avoiding your finances.
  • There are plenty of tips and stories in Danica’s books to make learning math fun again.
  • You don’t have to hold on to your math limitations—stop fighting for this limitation, don’t be proud of it, you can fix it and do something about it.
  • People almost delight in the comfort of saying: I can’t do math, but no-one would do this for something like reading.
  • Remember: it’s not about how smart you are, it’s how are you smart.
  • When you learn how you learn the best, you can apply it to any topic including math.


  • The idea here is that if you are bad at something, it doesn’t have to be permanent.
  • Episode mentioned: Imagination for Courage, Creativity & Change with Beth Comstock.
  • As Beth Comstock said: “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”
  • Change your thinking: there are no mistakes, they are just proof that you’re trying.
  • The struggle is part of the learning process, it’s how you get stronger.
  • Learning math will help with your problem-solving ability and every part of your life.
  • You don’t have to spend money on learning math. Most of Danica’s books are at the library, just spend time on it and give yourself the gift of learning.
  • Investment in knowledge always pays the best dividends.


  • If you have a fear of numbers this fear was learned. You can turn fear into fun by adding creativity, imagination, gamifying it for yourself and your children.
  • Easier to start early with kids than fixing it for adults: we all want them to have an easier time than we did.
  • You can check out Danica’s math books for all ages at mckellarmath.com.
  • Listening to this episode about finances might be a wake-up call for you, use it as an opportunity to turn things around—maybe the treasure you seek is hidden in the work you’re avoiding and maths will open a lot of things up for you.
  • Remember: a little becomes a lot and consistency compounds.
  • Learning math is a form of self-care too: go to the gym and look after your body, do a little math and look after your brain—the whole point is to make this fun so it’s not scary.
  • When math becomes fun it can then be fun to do your finances: saving and investing can be treated as fun, and you can feel in control of your life, CEO of your own company.
  • Math will give you the strength to say this isn’t a good investment or confront credit companies after you pay attention to numbers.
  • You can take the power back from institutions who take advantage of people who are not math-literate.
  • While you’re learning math remember: you don’t have to be perfect at this, it’s a process.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us both on social media (@danicamckellar & @jimkwik), share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us and tell us how you’re going with math!
  • Be sure to listen to our previous episode with Danica on how to keep learning fun, here.



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