Thursday, April 26, 2012

Team Umizoomi

Image courtesy (Source)
Boy have I watched a LOT of this show lately. My son is downright OBSESSED. In fact, I don't think there is an episode of Team Umizoomi (pronounced "ooh-me-zoom-e") that I haven't seen. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to my son's three favorite cartoon characters in the known universe: (from left to right) Geo, Bot, and Milli, aka Team Umizoomi.

If you have never heard of Umizoomi, the first thing you need to know is that the show is all about math. Every possible aspect of basic mathematics is covered. I think, honestly that the show covers well into second and third grade level mathematic abilities. If you never thought your kid would go manic for math, then maybe this show is for you (and them).

The show has three main characters, all animated. Geo wears blue. His "mighty math power" (oh yeah, get used to THAT phrase) is that he can make anything using shapes from his magic shape belt. By "make anything", I really do mean just that. If they need a bulldozer to help clean trash out of a sandbox, Geo conjures up some blueprints featuring rudimentary shapes to create that object. Your child is encouraged to call out the shapes needed (if you're curious, apparently a bulldozer requires a rectangle, a bunch of circles for wheels, and a crescent for the scoop... and yes, now my nearly-3 year old knows--and points out profusely--crescents). When the shapes are all filled in, your child yells "Super Shapes!" and the shapes magically become the necessary item.

Milli wears pink, and is the sister of Geo. She has a few "mighty math powers". Her primary one is that her dress magically can duplicate any pattern by exclaiming "Pattern Power!". If you need a pattern of sandwich toppings, her dress will transform to have a pattern of bread, lettuce, pickle, and cheese on it, so you can fill in the blanks of the pattern. The other power Milli possesses, and where she gets her name, is that her pigtails can magically grow and turn into measurement devices for units of length or temperature, just by chanting "Milli Measure!". These come in handy for measuring lengths of chain or water temperature for seahorses in distress.

Bot is the third member of the team. He's (obviously) a robot. His abilities include a Belly Screen (or rather, a "belly, belly, BELLY screen!") that can "show you anything". The opening song demonstrates him pulling up a skyscraper, taxi, and traffic light. He also has a Bot-o-mat, which unless you're over 30, you may not understand the reference to an automat, which was a kind of rotating still of various shelf-stable or refrigerated food items. Bot does not supply food items to people with spare change (although I'm sure he could keep food in there), but rather might have a useful item or two inside for their mission, or just keep something else safe, such as when they are trying to locate pieces of a stomping dinosaur toy. Interestingly enough, Bot is voiced by none other than Donovan Patton of Blue's Clues fame (although you might know him better as Joe).

The three reside in Umi City, which is populated with live-action actors, who are then green-screened into the show. The acting is... well, somewhat akin to watching a junior high skit. But not really all that bad, considering some of the other shows I've seen. They also have a somewhat anthropomorphized vehicle named UmiCar, who has occasionally gotten into his own adventures, but isn't seen often and only speaks in "vroom" noises.

The end of each show also culminates in a fun "celebration" for being able to use Mighty Math Powers, where everyone does a dance called the Crazy Shake. It's fun to get up and shake like a wet dog, although be advised your kid might disown you. Mine has on several occasions, and he's not even three.

The show airs on Nick and Nick Jr., both are cable/satellite channels so please check your local listings for availability. Episodes are available for purchase on iTunes as well, and there have been a couple double-length episodes. Finally, if your child is like mine, there are Team Umizoomi Preschool Math Kits to purchase that not only include a DVD of the show (one episode each), but work books, coloring books, a story book, Math Mission Cards (fun games you can play with your child using math), pencils and an eraser. Your first purchase also includes a super cool Team Umizoomi backpack. We use ours as a sort of diaper/travel bag, and I would swear it makes us toddler royalty when we are spotted with it. Parents from here in Ohio to Disney World probably hate us for flaunting our Umizoomi-awesomeness, as I often hear "Mommy! Look! They have the Team Umizoomi backpack I saw on TV! I want one!" from behind. Sorry, random parents.

What your child learns:
  • Mathematics: All aspects of early math education, including...
    • Numbers
    • Counting
    • Addition and Subtraction
    • Patterns
    • Colors
    • Logical thinking
    • Problem Solving
    • Categorizing
    • Shapes
    • Measurement
  • Social and Emotional Development: Helping friends and neighbors, recognizing and assessing feelings, living in a community, responsibility to the world around us.
Age ranges for this show I think are a lot more broad than they give themselves credit for. Some of the math might go over the head of a two year old, but be exactly what is being learned in a first grade classroom. However, a first grader might be insulted by having to count over and over, which they probably already know how to do. Still, I think there is a lot of value for ages 2 to 6 or even 7. The math kits, while branded for Preschool, I think are great tools for homeschooling parents (which we plan to be/already are) up through the first couple years of formal education in mathematics.

As a parent watching, you will probably find much of the show absurd and slow paced. However, watching your child be engaged in learning a real life skill such as counting money or finding shapes in the world around them, you will be endlessly entertained and amazed. I think it's a fair trade-off. The integration of the math kits I think is genius as far as Nick is concerned. It's not another useless plastic toy, but real education that is fun for your child, and I think fun in education is paramount to keeping a love of learning throughout a lifetime.

Overall, I can't say enough good things about this program, honestly. My son has learned SO much more than I thought a two year old was even capable of, and is interested in learning more about math, numbers, money, counting, adding and subtracting, patterns, and everything this show encompasses. The characters are likeable, the colors are bright and happy, and above all else, my child adores it. It's a win in my book!

1 comment:

  1. This show is a disgrace to math and good children's programming. And this is from a math HONORS student.