“Peg + Cat”: A new PBS Kids cartoon about math (and ukuleles)

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This week, PBS Kids debuted a new cartoon, “Peg + Cat” (pronounced “Peg plus Cat”), a show aimed teaching basic math concepts to a young audience.

The show features Peg, a young girl, and her talking pet cat/best friend named Cat. The two engage in various outings (pretending to be knights, going to another planet, visiting a farm, etc.) that eventually require the use of basic math skills. Said skills include basic geometry (the difference between a sphere and a circle), counting by twos or tens, and so forth. While the show’s aimed at preschoolers/early grade schoolers, the targeted math skill range to me seemed slightly above (or different from) that of “Sesame Street,” where basic counting and shapes are the goal, but definitely below that of “Cyberchase,” where concepts like pre-algebra, averages, graphs, predicting future events based on rates, etc. are taught.

The backgrounds of the show are drawn as if on graph paper, including the erased outlines of various math/algebra equations obviously well past the show’s target audience, though their parents might find the look interesting. The show itself is produced by the Fred Rogers Company (of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame).

Along with the math lessons comes plenty of musical numbers, as each episode has some amount of singing. This is accompanied by Peg’s signature skill of playing the ukulele, as seen in the show’s theme song, and one of the nicer parts of the show. Another recurring theme is Peg, during a stressful situation, counting backwards after saying “I’m freaking out!” to calm down, something I’m sure parents might appreciate.

Recurring characters include Ramon, an African-American boy who’s an inventor and musician; a pig that sings with an operatic voice; various chickens (who’re smart enough to build spaceships, apparently); and a monster named Big Mouth that eats anything small and yellow. And yes, I’m sure having the show’s star be female is intentional, as a way to combat the stereotype that girls aren’t interested in (or do terrible at) math… likely a similar reason two of the three human characters of “Cyberchase” are female (Jackie and Inez), as well as the existence of the science-and-engineering-oriented show “SciGirls.”

Overall, boys and girls of a certain age, as well as their parents, should like “Peg + Cat.”

Here’s the opening title sequence, ukulele and all:

(Updated 11/14/15)


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