Peg + Cat
Once upon a time, a children’s booked titled The Chicken Problem inspired an animated children’s program called Peg + Cat. In the capable hands of The Fred Rogers Company, the result is a collection of appealing characters in a fanciful world reasoning through problems and coming up with math-related solutions.
Peg, a little girl with unrestrained good humor, a favorite blue marble, and a lively ukulele, is the star of this show. Her best friend is her cat, named, of course, Cat, and the feline serves as both inspiration for Peg’s ideas and a calming buddy when Peg gets overly anxious. Their neighborhood is inhabited by pigs, chickens, parrots, giants, among others, along with a trio of human neighbors who often exacerbate the very problem Peg is trying so hard to solve.
Each Peg + Cat episode includes two separate stories squarely focused on the mathematics mission. As examples: In “The Pig Problem,” a farmer wants to track how much corn is harvested so Peg helps him chart the productivity of the different corn-pickers. The solution relies on counting and comparing, and little viewers are introduced to the “greater than less than” symbols commonly used in math. In “The Mariachi Problem,” Peg needs to fit multiple musical instruments into a small car already crammed with a Mariachi band. What results is a tuneful lesson in spatial relations, with a healthy dose of counting thrown in for good measure. And in “Peg Meets Cat,” baby Peg wants her family to adopt a stray cat but her limited language ability makes that task more difficult. Thankfully, Peg has always been math-minded and she uses the number “two” to help convey her meaning.
The art direction in Peg + Cat is both stunning and subtle, using mathematics graph paper as an ever-present background. Shapes are fluid, colors are rich without being overwhelming, and mathematics symbols pepper the landscape. Music plays a key role in keeping the pace lively and whether it’s the pleasant musical bed, Peg’s peppy ukulele tunes, or a pig who performs with the skills of a perfect operatic tenor, kids will be carried along on a whimsical wave of energy.
In sum, the Peg + Cat numbers add up for the preschool crowd, branding math for what it is: A way to use both logic and creativity to address life’s daily challenges and turn them into delightful adventures.
Gina Catanzarite ©2018 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.