Transmedia Approach to Early Math Launches Outreach Phase

“They’ve successfully hidden the peas in the mashed potatoes.” That’s how Andy Ackerman of the Manhattan Children’s Museum describes the creative way that UMIGO—yoU Make It GO—successfully combines entertaining media with the concepts and practices of math for elementary-aged children. Parliament Funkadelic music legend Bootsy Collins joined children and their parents on Oct. 4, at the Manhattan Children’s Museum to introduce this first-of-its-kind transmedia (using multiple media platforms to advance a fictional story with characters and events) venture and to announce its national outreach launch in 10 cities.

BootsyMusic legend Bootsy Collins helped to launch UMIGO's transmedia approach to early math learning at the Manhattan Children's Museum. (photo courtesy of UMIGO/Scott Gries for AP) UMIGO, which is supported by a Ready to Learn Television grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement, is designed to engage children between the ages of 6 and 8 in the exploration of math concepts. Animated music videos, featuring music written and performed by Bootsy Collins and Biz Markie, are combined with interactive games to inspire kids to invent, build, and create as they develop math, science, and technology skills. As an example, at the Manhattan Children’s Museum outreach launch, children watched “Rocket Box,” an animated music video about a cardboard box that becomes a spaceship that introduces the math concept of measurement (in this case, time) and then construct their own Rocket Boxes using empty milk cartons, construction paper, and glue. Another hands-on game, Stack Attack, can be played using either a board game or an iPad. As a transmedia property, there are multiple entry points into the world of UMIGO, including computers, touch screen devices such as tablet computers and smart phones, print and digital books, board games, and trading cards.

UMIGO’s dual goals are to “educate while it entertains,” said its creator, Michael Polis, and the current outreach effort is being accompanied by extensive research and testing of the curriculum-based UMIGO content to meet the dual goals. The idea, according to Polis, is to engage children “in fun and interactive ways where they live, learn, and play.” And, like other efforts supported by Ready to Learn Television, another goal is to foster increased student academic achievement for elementary-aged children by working with organizations that target low-income children to promote school readiness. 

Beginning this fall, children and their parents will participate in UMIGO workshops at children’s museums, community-based organizations, and similar venues with the help of public television stations in outreach market cities that include New York City; Bangor, Maine; Bozeman, Mont.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; New Orleans; San Jose, Calif.; and Tacoma, Wash.

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