Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Odd Squad’ aims to make math fun for kids

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(PBS)

(PBS)

TV show writer and University of Massachusetts alumnus Tim McKeon recently created a new children’s series, with longtime friend Adam Peltzman, aimed to make learning math fun. The new live action series, “Odd Squad,” premiered on Nov. 26 on PBS Kids and features two young agents who use math to solve problems that occur in each episode.

The show’s plotline, according to McKeon, is geared to make learning math fun and interactive for children between the ages of five and eight without being condescending.

“One way we avoided (talking down to children) was by creating a world where kids are in charge and grown-ups are the ones with the problems,” McKeon said. “From there, Adam and I sort of stumbled on this idea about this kid-run agency that solves odd problems.”

He continued, “As far as the math goes, we came up with a saying in our writers’ room – odd is the problem, math is the solution. So in every episode something odd happens and that’s hopefully the funny part. But the odd thing is (that it is) really a sneaky way of teaching kids math.”

In addition to “Odd Squad,” McKeon has worked on other children’s TV shows, most recently “Adventure Time” for Cartoon Network and “Gravity Falls” for Disney XD.

He credits his experiences with Peltzman in high school as well as his time at UMass as sources of inspiration. The University, said McKeon, provided him with academic and extracurricular opportunities that led him to discover his desire to become a creator.

“I didn’t know that I wanted to work in TV (in college) but I knew I wanted to be a writer for something,” McKeon said. “While I was pursuing an English degree, I also acted in plays with the UMass Theatre Guild every semester for fun. I loved that it was completely student run and it’s interesting that TV production really isn’t that different – things are just on a bigger scale, but all the roles are the same.”

He added that “around junior year, I figured out I could combine those two interests and write drama. I didn’t know anyone who made a living writing plays, but I had heard of people making a living writing for TV and so that’s where I set my sights.”

After graduating from UMass, McKeon said he went on to study screenwriting at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After several internships and writing assistant positions for TV shows, McKeon was hired as a TV show writer for Cartoon Network after a fellow classmate turned the position down.

“My scripts were good enough by then and I got the job,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to be consistently working since.”

McKeon hopes that his newest work, “Odd Squad,” will make children laugh and inspire them to want to learn more about math.

“So many people – adults and kids – say that math is boring, but I don’t think that’s true,” he said. “I think there are boring ways to talk about math. But there are also funny, action-packed, weird, character-driven ways to talk about math, which I hope is what ‘Odd Squad’ does.”

Elizabeth Kane is a Collegian correspondent and can be reached [email protected]

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