Team Umizoomi: Get the Inside Scoop

It’s possible that you have a math whiz on your hands, so help your little one learn the numbers game early. It’s easy: just turn on the TV. (You never thought we’d say that, did you?). Nick Jr’s Team Umizoomi is all about giving kids mighty math powers, so tune in weekdays at 8:3opm, Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 10pm. The creators of the show, Soo Kim and Jennifer Twomey, gave us a glimpse behind the scenes, and revealed some of the strategies that make the three mini math heroes so good at teaching tots.

What inspired you to create Team Umizoomi?
We wanted to create a show that combined exciting adventures and cool characters with a unique approach to math. Our shared childhood affection for old favorites such as The Borrowers, Thumbelina, and The Littles was behind our desire to dream up tiny characters who live in a human-sized world. Living in New York City inspired us to set the show in the colorful, urban environment of Umi City, where the streets are paved with patterns, and numbers can be found on buildings, taxis, street signs, and subways. The idea of little super heroes who could solve big math problems inspired us to make Milli, Geo, and Bot mini in size but mighty in math powers!

What are some strategies you use to give the show major kid-appeal?
We looked to engage preschoolers into the series by incorporating interactivity, designing an eye-catching world, and including catchy math music videos in each episode. Above all, we’ve created some loveable characters. Milli is a preschool fashionista with an eye for design, Geo is a ball of energy with a built-in set of wheels called Super Skates, and Bot is the loveable funny bone of the team (but behind his bellyscreen lies a Super Robot Computer).

Why did you choose math as the focus of the show?
While there are lots of excellent preschool shows, there wasn’t anything that focused on math. Our research showed that kids entering kindergarten who had elementary-level math skills were more likely to do well in math later on in school, while those who did not tended to struggle with math throughout their schooling. We also found that preschoolers love to show off their counting skills or their knowledge of shapes and patterns.

What are some ways that the TV show helps children learn?
They don’t think of Team Umizoomi as a “math show,” and that is exactly what we hoped to achieve! Math is the tool that helps navigate them through their adventures and overcome every obstacle they meet. By interacting with the team and helping them on their missions, kids develop self-confidence in their math abilities.

We hear from many parents that their Team Umizoomi fans are increasingly aware of math in their world. Young viewers are recognizing they are doing math when they count the number of blueberries in their cereal, press a button on the elevator, or when they remember what number bus to take to school. Some of our favorite comments from parents include one parent who told us her 3-year-old calls out from the back seat of the car, “Stop! That sign is an octagon!” Another told us her 4-year-old very proudly called out at the park “Mommy, that dog pee’d a triangle!”

 

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