Lab News

  • WQED’s math iQ and “The Big Gig” Musical

    August 17, 2015

    A new program funded by Ready to Learn is yielding impressive results.

    A pilot math program developed by WQED and supported by a Ready to Learn grant and CPB is showing promising results after its first year working with pre-kindergarten to elementary students, and their families, in at-risk communities around Pittsburgh.

    The program, called math iQ, launched in September of 2014 with a unique approach to stimulating and building math skills in early learners. The program was designed for educators to meet with students monthly over the course of the school year. In each session, older and younger students were paired to work closely on structured activities, media and games, developed around PBS KIDS programming, Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The unique, mentoring piece to the program paired third graders, who were recommended by their teachers, with pre-k and kindergarten learners to encourage students to communicate what they had learned, and build confidence. A critical take-home component invited parents and students to work together on simple and fun math activities outside of the classroom to reinforce learning and empower parents around math.

    "The success of the math iQ program has exceeded my expectations of the outcomes when partnering high-quality digital media resources from Ready to Learn with hands-on experiences in a school setting,” said Cathy Cook, Manager of Digital Early Learner Projects and Professional Development at WQED. “Participation in math iQ has fostered gains in math skills, which I expected, but also in areas such as transition, collaboration with peers, family engagement, and English language acquisition. I am so incredibly proud of the impact of the math iQ program."

    Three schools in the Pittsburgh area were chosen to pilot the program, based on need. One hundred fifteen children (and their families) took part. The schools reflected the variety of exposure and experience that classrooms have with technology, and how teachers adapt. For example, one pilot school used media and technology frequently in the classroom, while the remaining schools had minimum to no access to technology. “math iQ was designed to be effective in all schools, regardless of the technological resources available to teachers,” explained Jennifer Stancil, Executive Director of Educational Partnership at WQED.
    Program toolkits were developed for the three pilot schools, and contained materials to support each of the nine monthly math interventions. Kits included nine learning modules and physical, color copies of the activities used. Many schools are unable to color-copy, and math activities often use color coding and shading to emphasize concepts, said Stancil. Nine additional toolkits were developed and will be distributed to chosen schools.

    Participating schools in the pilot program also received iPads and an Osmo, an educational gaming accessory for the iPad; ear buds, and a program toolkit.

    The program held community events to mark each phase, from a kick-off event in September, to a mobile media lab, “App-a-thon,” that allowed parents and kids to test iPads and games during the year, access training and free app codes, and download PBS materials to mobile devices.

    This first year of math iQ culminated in a hugely successful “Big Gig Musical” this past May. Kids wrote and performed their own mathematical musical incorporating their own ideas as well as songs from Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with WQED to study the effectiveness of math iQ, specifically the take-home component. The study will look at how the program influenced or augmented the math that students did at home, while also assessing the parents’ anxiety with math. The results of the study are expected to be published in the fall of 2015 and will inform future iterations of the program, said Stancil.

    For more information on math iQ:

    Watch: WQED Remake Learning: WQED's math iQ

    Read an overview of the math iQ program

  • KBTC Partnership Creates Free Summer Camp for Low-Income Youth

    February 13, 2015

    A Tacoma community comes together to make summer learning fun
    Watch a video produced by KBTC about the 2014 Summer Camp.

    Parents and caregivers in the Salishan neighborhood of Tacoma, WA, struggled to find enriching, summer learning activities for kids, until a partnership between KBTC and Tacoma Public Schools provided an opportunity to create an interactive learning camp for kids in the neighborhood.

    Families in Salishan, like many working-class neighborhoods, faced many barriers when trying to access camps and other summer-learning opportunities, such as affordability, lack of transportation, family responsibilities, and even how to find programs. The closure of the local library branch further limited what was available to the community.

    As part of KBTC’s Ready to Learn outreach efforts to promote early learning opportunities through PBS Kids programs, and work within the community, the station partnered with Tacoma Public Schools to create a free summer camp for Tacoma’s most economically disadvantaged youth. A Comcast grant awarded in 2014 supported the partnership. 

    The summer camp was held over a three-week period in July of 2014 at Lister Elementary School in the Salishan Housing Project. Each day, more than 25, K-3rd graders engaged in hands-on, PBS KIDS learning activities, games, and other online resources that spanned reading, science, writing, and social studies.

    A computer lab, and iPads that were part of a mobile learning lab funded by the Comcast grant, introduced kids to new technology and PBS KIDS apps, while triggering discussions on what it means to create content.

    One of four camp teachers, Katia Olmeda-Rosa, who is also a teacher at Lister Elementary, explained that positive experiences at summer camps like the KBTC program creates can change the way kids think about school.

    “I was happy when I waked up this morning because I wanted to know what we are doing in Fetch today.  It was fun yesterday, and I know it will be even funner today.” – Jasmine, Grade 2

    Kids like Jasmine received breakfast and lunch plus a full day of activities that were designed to be fun, encouraging, engaging and interactive, as well as educational.

    Camp classes were designed to prevent “summer slide.” Studies show that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

    As summer camp came to a close, parents were encouraged to attend a final party, where they participated in a workshop to discuss how free PBS resources can extend summer learning and build learning and literacy skills.

    The 2014 Summer Camp supports the Foundation for Tacoma Students’ Graduate Tacoma! initiative, which has been working to increase the Tacoma Public School District’s graduation rate since 2010.


  • New Live-Action Math Show Premieres on PBS KIDS

    November 25, 2014

    New Live-Action Math Show Premieres on PBS KIDS

    Calling all kids with a math-focused mind and a knack for solving the silliest, strangest and most odd goings-on in town – Odd Squad, the newest PBS KIDS series, premieres Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.

    Agents Olive and Otto, the two stars of the blob-chasing, centigurp-scooping squad, solve the strange in their city with sharp math skills, quick wit and seriously impressive dance skills. When Soundcheck, the chart-topping boy band with lusciously gelled locks and cut-off tees, “take away four” from a baker’s dozen bagels – and several other sets of objects around town – the  Odd Squad agents take the problem to the Math Room.

    With a little addition and subtraction, the two crack the case. The oddities don’t stop there, though. There’s a step-by-step interrogation of a unicorn, a prehistoric pal trapped in headquarters and, of course, some reindeer games. Each and every problem is solved with a lot of humor – which both kids and parents can enjoy! – and math skills suited for ages 6 to 8: numbers and counting, operations, geometry, spatial sense, measurement, data collection and analysis, algebra and patterns.

    Check out the Odd Squad site, where you can watch videos, play games and meet the agents.  There are six 11-minute case files (each half of an on-air episode), a tour of the incredibly cool Odd Squad headquarters and a collection of agent training videos.

    Catch the Centigurps, an arcade-style game, lets kids work with Agent Oscar and a few of the Squad’s prized gadgets to wrangle 100 bouncing centigurps.  Special carrying cases used to scoop up the fuzzy pink creatures hold sets of 2, 5 or 10.  With each level, you have to catch more.

    Down the Tubes, takes you into the complex system of tubes that transport the Odd Squad agents from case to case.  The system is broken, so kids have to use their measurement skills to reconnect segments by combining the correct number of units.


    We want YOU to be the agent!  On the site, you can Become an Agent, earn agent awards and even make the wall of agents.

    Coming soon to the Odd Squad collection of digital games are Pie-nado! and  Creature Duty online, and the  Blob on the Job mobile app.  There will also be a series of parent and educator resources that follow the case files theme, and activities for out of school time.

    Watch now, play now, and then tune in for the extra special premiere on Nov. 26.

  • PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Travel – Plus Reading and Math Skills!

    July 08, 2014

    PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Travel – Plus Reading and Math Skills!

    It’s finally July, the heart and heat of summer, filled with fireworks, long days at the neighborhood pool and trips to the sunny, sandy beach. No matter where your summer travels take you – on a plane, train, boat or crowded backseat of the family van – PBS KIDS is here to help keep reading and math skills sharp on the go.

    Now, whether you have a tablet (iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire), or you’re willing to let the little ones borrow a smartphone, we have some seriously fun math- and literacy-based mobile apps. 

    Our favorite Peg + Cat app, Big Gig, just rolled out an update that now includes Cat Dance. Kids can help dear little Cat achieve his dancing dream – complete with pink tutu! – while practicing ordinal numbers. That app, for ages 3 to 6, supplements the collection of Peg games available through your mobile browser: Chicken Blast-Off (that practices shapes), Chicken Dance (patterns) and Peg’s Pizza Place (counting, fractions and numbers).

    Dinosaur Train is another go-to for early childhood math skills – and, the property has three apps to make on-the-go summer learning that much easier. All Aboard the Dinosaur Train has kids practice measurement by placing dinosaurs in the right-sized train car, while Classic in the Jurrasic Jr. works in sorting and classifying skills, too. One of the most popular apps in the Ready To Learn bunch, Camera Catch, gives kids control over the camera while learning patterns.

    Older kids will love Creature Math, a Wild Kratts app that pulls together all the animal adventure of the series, addition and subtraction. Build an animal habitat for Spartacus the Moose and Torpedo the Peregrine Falcon while building those essential math skills – the game’s difficulty adjusts as the player’s proficiency increases, too!

    The Cyberchase 3D Builder, another app designed for ages 6 to 8, is another math favorite. It practices shapes, 2-D and 3-D, while allowing children to tap into their architectural and design skills.

    There is not one, but TWO Martha Speaks apps designed to boost summertime (or anytime!) literacy skills: Word Spinner and Story Maker. Both are designed for the older kids, again, and give kids the creativity to grow their love of reading into a love for creative writing and storytelling.



    For more on-the-go game suggestions, visit On the games tab, you can sort by mobile to see all the fun options available for your summer travels.

  • PBS KIDS Celebrates Writing, Arts and Creativity

    June 06, 2014

    PBS KIDS Celebrates Writing, Arts and Creativity

    It’s June, and to start off the summer, PBS KIDS and Ready To Learn are celebrating writing, arts and creativity. From cupcake math to stick puppets, Peg, Cat, Martha and few of our other favorite characters will help kids tap into their creative (and artistic!) sides this month.

    Peg is the shining star of arts and creativity – note those impromptu ukulele ditties and all the fun PBS KIDS crafts that have been created in honor of Peg and her uhhh-DOR-able pet, Cat. She finds the solution to any and every near-disaster, and swiftly writes a celebratory song. She’s spunky and savvy and always creative.

    Let’s start with the Peg + Cat games that celebrate arts and creativity, available online at Help Peg and Cat count their rock collection – full of striped, sparkling and polka-dotted rocks – in Rock Art, or paint your own e-picture in Paint-a-Long.  And, to test your fashion know-how, and explore the most creative side of a good wardrobe, dress Peg, Cat, Pig or Ramone with the Costume Box.

    The ultimate in arts, creative and Peg + Cat charm is, of course, the Peg + Cat Big Gig app. PBS stations, educators and community partners can order Peg + Cat Big Gig gift codes – a free download code that comes with an activity sheet – through our Mobile Learning Program.

    It doesn’t stop on the screen, though.  Peg + Cat have plenty more to offer to the arts through classroom and at-home activities like The Pirates’ “Great Banana” Fruit Salad, Peg + Cat stick puppets and the Incredibly Popular Honey Cake. Two of those three double as the perfect summertime snack, too!

    Martha, our resident literacy expert, is the go-to character for writing.  She also caters to an older audience, 6 to 9 year olds, to supplement that younger-skewed Peg + Cat creativity. Martha Speaks online and mobile games like Pup Talk, Story Maker and Word Spinner perfect writing and reading skills (and the latter two can also be ordered through the Mobile Learning Program!).

    After you download the two Martha Speaks apps, there are a few fun at-home activities to supplement learning time and support family time. Create story builder bags with Silly Story Builder, or use your local newspaper to build writing skills with Silly Sentences or Mixed-Up Headlines.   For little journalists-in-training, check out Town Crier , which lets them create a front page for their very own newspaper.

    Martha Speaks recently launched a series of very informative interactive storybooks – Martha’s True Stories – which foster a love for non-fiction and are also ideal for any well-rounded summer reading list.

    A few other PBS KIDS characters, like Cat in the Hat, Super Whyatt and Curious George, have their creative and artsy moments, too. Here are a few more online games to celebrate writing, arts and creativity in the month of June:

    •    Super Why: Cake Game
    •    Cat in the Hat: Sketch-a-Mite
    •    Cyberchase: Playspace

    And, a few extra home activities:

    •    The Cat in the Hat Can Map This and That!
    •    Cyberchase: 3-D Botopolis House
    •    Curious George: Hands Down!

    Also, be sure to visit the PBS KIDS video site, or the free PBS KIDS video player app to find the latest episodes and clips anytime. There’s always an episode that matches up with the skills and the themes featured in each of the online games and at-home activities.