Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Odd Squad

Odd Squad

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Rating: TV Y

Remember the movie Men in Black? How about the TV show X-Files? They involved exceedingly clever agents with a knack for solving otherworldly cases. Well, those two cult classics can make room for a new PBS kids' series that puts a fun twist on a similar premise: Odd Squad, a live-action half-hour program for kids in their early-elementary school years. The program debuted in November of 2014, brought to you by the production team at The Fred Rogers Company (yes, that Fred Rogers, as in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood).

The twist here is that solving cases involves analysis, data evaluation, logic, measuring, grouping, pattern recognition, geometry, and a whole host of other higher-order thinking skills that encompass mathematics education.

In each program, the Odd Squad agents tackle two oddball cases. Sets, special effects, and costumes are slick without overtaking the storylines; the young actors pull off credible and comic tongue-in-cheek performances; and the plots are challenging without being overly complex, for instance, multiple versions of the same person start showing up around town; or, a time-traveler causes havoc and has to be sent back to her own era; or all of the zeros start disappearing from the city's signs, drastically impacting finances. Many episodes, including "Zero Effect" and "The Trouble with Centigurps," explain numbers operations. "Bad Luck Bears" requires the agents to apply algebraic theory to save the basketball team in time for the big game. And in the episode "Soundcheck," the agents use subtraction skills to figure out why items are disappearing around town.

This TV series is outfitted with a number of games, apps, web-extras, and bonus content available across PBS's multimedia platforms and users can use them to join the Odd Squad team and solve puzzles and crack cases. According to the PBS website, Odd Squad

"is part of a multiplatform media experience that will include free interactive content online and on mobile." Parents may have mixed feelings about multiplatform programming but Odd Squad and all of its attendant digital and mobile media feel like an innovative way to use new media in the education process, as opposed to using it as sales and marketing bait.

The Odd Squad can continue to tackle its mysterious cases but when it comes to the TV program itself, there's no mystery about it. This one's a winner.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

Look for this product at:
The Fred Rogers Company

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