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LA Times Festival of Books
posted on May 1st, 2011

I had a terrific time at the LA Times Festival of Books yesterday! It’s my third time speaking at the festival, but both previous times, it was held at UCLA (my alma mater – Go Bruins!). For the first time it was held at USC – my husband’s alma mater. And for the first time, my little baby boy was in the audience, too. :)

Arriving at the Festival

I was there to talk about my newest book, “Hot X: Algebra Exposed,” and as usual, I couldn't resist talking about the bigger purpose of my books, which is so much more than getting A’s. You see, my books have a hidden mission: To build that internal strength and pride we get from overcoming challenges and facing our fears. Sure, the books do teach math in totally fun, friendly ways and students of all ages see their grades improve by leaps and bounds (I have an inbox full of emails to prove it!), but there’s a bigger purpose here, too. And I love speaking about it.

Speaking on the stage! (Notice the notes under my water bottle!)"

I spoke on the Los Angeles Times main stage to a great crowd, and they were a truly a great audience. A few moments into my speech, I was talking about the confidence that can be gained by tackling a subject like math – that confidence that comes from feeling smart, and how that kind of confidence helps in all aspects of life. So there I was, walking the length of the stage and saying something like, “Overcoming your fears in math gives you the confidence to tackle other challenges…” and just around then, a gust of wind blew my speech notes off the podium and onto the stage floor. I continued, “…the confidence to give a speech without your notes…” It was pretty funny. You gotta love live performances – when stuff goes wrong it can make for the best moments and bonding with the audience!

Signing books at LATfob - pulled my hair back - it was a hot day!

I stamped my red heel on each of the 3 pages, put them under my water bottle on the podium, and continued on. I realized with that wind, there was no way to “use” my notes. The truth is, I rarely look at notes when I’m speaking – I guess they’re more of a security blanket than anything else. No such security blanket yesterday! But it didn’t seem to matter. We had a great time, and the Q&A session was awesome – I answered questions about the books, my current acting projects, even my involvement with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s “Math-a-Thon” program. And the book signing afterwards was great. I signed books for the audience, and I got to meet so many students – kids and adults – who are finding success in math from using my books.

My family with me at the signing! (That's my mother-in-law in the sunglasses; my mom and father-in-law are off-camera)

To have a seasoned teacher tell me he’s been using my books in his classroom and that it’s changed the ways girls approach him for questions – felt amazing. And in the next moment to meet a 12-year-old girl who tells me that because of my books, she finally feels smart and is proud of herself… felt amazing. And to hear this stuff again and again on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with my family sitting behind me...

...well, I don’t think life gets much better than that.      

(All photos by Getty Images and can be found on      


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