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.