ODD SQUAD -- New Live- Action Math Show Coming to PBS KIDS This Fall
By Chloe Gould
Two math-savvy special agents, 11-year-old Olive and 9-year-old Otto, are stamping their strange-crime-fighting team seal on PBS Kids this fall in a new live-action series: ODD SQUAD.
It’s a world full of the oddest occurrences. There are unicorns, dinosaurs and wizards that have escaped from the pages of the most magical storybooks, and days when all the zeroes disappear from town (the kind of problem that puts a 10-year-old back in diapers). There’s only one team in town, the ODD SQUAD, that’s equipped to set everything straight.
The new series, funded in part by Ready To Learn, follows Olive, Otto, their 7-year-old boss Ms. O and a few other quirky characters through the most bizarre of special cases, each one focused on a challenging math concept. The ODD SQUAD experience will extend beyond the screen as well, with opportunities for kids to join the Squad themselves and take on the math-based challenges online, at home and on mobile devices.
The show, designed to help children ages 5 to 8 learn math, was created by Tim McKeon (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Adventure Time, The Electric Company) and Adam Peltzman (The Electric Company, The Backyardigans, Wallykazam!) and produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and The Fred Rogers Company. Each episode includes two 11-minute cases, with each case followed by an agent training video, a guide to ODD SQUAD headquarters or a demonstration on how to use some of Olive and Otto’s odd gadgets, like the “Pudding-Inator” or “The Make-Anything-Within-Reason-Machine.”
There’s no case too nutty for this strange-fighting duo (including one where it’s raining nuts in town!) and each of the crazy and kooky days on the ODD SQUAD job is packed with some seriously challenging math problems, too. In one 22-minute episode, “Crime at Shapely Manor,” Olive and Otto test their geometry skills while solving a crime with Lord Rectangle, Lady Triangle, Professor Square and General Pentagon.
The ODD SQUAD works from a 25,000 square-foot headquarters, with a second-story, octagon-shaped office for the boss lady, Ms. O. A bullpen houses work spaces for the agents, including Olive’s very tidy desk and Otto’s very, cluttered set-up that’s big enough to host a prehistoric guest star in one episode. A complex underground system of tunnels allows the pint-sized agents to almost instantly travel from town to headquarters, and the futuristic “Mathroom” stores all the tools Olive and Otto need to solve the most overwhelmingly strange scenarios.
It’s a show that packs core math skills into some very funny – for adults, too! – storylines. The characters are active problem solvers – they think out loud, ask questions and experiment. Supplemental resources for educators and parents, as well as apps and online games that follow the wild stories from the show, will help foster the same qualities in all ODD SQUAD viewers and fans.
Chloe Gould is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism, and is working as an intern for the Ready To Learn Program at PBS.
PBS KIDS Celebrates Math in the Outdoors
April is Math Awareness Month and Keep America Beautiful Month, so PBS KIDS is celebrating Math in the Outdoors. This month is dedicated to the green, green grass, the big blue sky, and all the creatures and critters in between – from National Wildlife Week (that starts April 14) to Earth Day on April 22 – and we want to help you celebrate in Ready -To- Learn style.
Whether you’re planning a celebration for a classroom full of kindergartners, or an at-home family night, Ready To Learn has the online games, apps, activities and episodes to make it a fun, math-centered party in, or just about, the outdoors.
Let’s start with a few math games set in the outdoors – some available to play online, others for mobile, and a few for a classroom’s interactive whiteboard!
Curious George is a monkey with a lot of questions, and a champion of the great outdoors. He counts each budding bulb that pops up in Flower Garden and practices number sequencing in Apple Picking. He swipes the biggest, or the smallest, hot pink and yellow buzzing bugs in Bug Catcher, and tallies each carrot he scoops up in Bunny Ride. To brush up on his addition and subtraction skills, George checks in with the croak-croak-croaking frogs in Ribbit, and on his slower days, he divvies out biscuits to his favorite pups in the park in Fair Shares.
All those Curious George adventures are perfect for kids ages 3 to 5, and if you’d prefer Peg and Cat, Sid, or the Cat in the Hat to be your outdoors tour guide, we have a few more games perfect for 3- to 5-year-olds:
• Cat in the Hat’s “Do You See My Seahorse?”
• Peg + Cat’s “Magical Shape Hunt”
• Peg + Cat’s “Hungry Pirates”
• Peg + Cat’s “Adventures”
• Sid the Science Kid’s “Vegetable Harvest”
The always entertaining Kratt brothers and their wild animal friends are probably the biggest fans of the outdoors, and their gaming adventures are best suited for older kids, ages 6- to- 8. In Flower Flier, players have to use fractions to help the Kratts lap up just the right amount of nectar to keep their hummingbird power suits in the air. Their daredevil ways extend far beyond nectar-powered flying suits, though. The brothers measure the temperature of nested crocodile eggs in Croc Hatch! and dig underground holes to create just the right habitat in Aardvark Town.
Wild Kratts has some of the coolest outdoor adventures, with sorting and classifying in Frogfish Feast, and lots of addition and subtraction while kids create their own animal habitats in Wild Kratts Creature Math, a popular Ready To Learn mobile app. To order free gift codes for this iPad app for your classroom or organization, visit the Mobile Learning Program website at pbskids.org/giftcodes. You’ll also be able to order gift codes for all the other RTL apps, for both iOS and Android.
Beyond all those fun, educational games that celebrate Math in the Outdoors, there’s a nice collection of off-screen activities for at-home or in the classroom. On the Wild Kratts track, for kids ages 6- to- 8, there is Adding Up Animal Habitats, Bird Feeder Fractions, and Temperature Scavenger Hunt. Each of these activities includes a short list of supplies, simple instructions and suggestions for a few related books to read.
For 3- to 5-year-olds, we have three scavenger hunts and one hide-and-seek activity that encourage kids to put their math skills to use outside:
• Cat in the Hat’s “Shape Hunt Adventure”
• Cat in the Hat’s “Hunting for Treasure Up, Down, All Around”
• Cat in the Hat’s “Thinga-ma-jigger Hide-and-Seek”
• Dinosaur Train’s “Shape Scavenger Hunt”
If you’re looking for videos themed around math or the outdoors, check out the Math and Earth Day topic pages in the PBS KIDS video player.
All of the Ready To Learn resources, including each of the games and activities that will help you celebrate Math in the Outdoors, are available on PBS KIDS Lab.