MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And with the new school year on its way, this week we're hitting the books and bringing you a bunch of stories and interviews about education and learning. From reading to writing to, as we're about to hear, arithmetic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER 1
We have me in front, you cannot begin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER 2
Would you listen to the ego on her?
I was versed through civilization and you're going to run. I'm truly the best.
Well, not arithmetic so much as just good old-fashioned numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER 3
She is number one.
She's just a big pest.
Okay. Some rather quarrelsome numbers perhaps, but they eventually learn every one of them counts in Cooking Up Numbers, an educational musical romp from the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival. It was the brainchild of Rebecca Klemm. She's a statistician and math teacher.
MS. REBECCA KLEMM
I've always been sort of a math geek.
Who's taking the cuddly singing numbers from the show.
The 10 numbers are Team 10 and they each have characters.
And making them the stars of "NumbersAlive," a brand she hopes will teach children the importance of numbers.
It's all one of my crazy ideas to teach numbers through elements.
Is that so crazy?
No, well, I'm the only one -- I mean, it's my idea. I don't think it's crazy at all, but they're supposed to be fun and engaging and you learn from them by connecting with them.
I meet Rebecca Klemm in her studio in D.C.'s Penn Quarter where the "NumbersAlive" team is hard at work. Klemm's enlisted local designers to create a colorful set of plush Team 10 toys.
But they're not just toys. They are to learn about yourself, the world and the relevance of math.
She's also locally publishing a series of picture books in which Team 10 shows how numbers apply in culture, history, architecture, even Shakespeare.
So, for example, so far, this is really in sketching areas until we work on it. Seven would talk about, as you like it, because that's the whole poetry of the seven stages of life, but we'll do that one in Iambic pentameter. So five will lead that.
The first book is called "Team 10 Tours Washington D.C."
I took them around Washington and I said, I don't want just a counting book. I want to show where numbers are relevant in everything you see and you become aware of your surroundings.
So for instance, you have zero leading us to the Hirshhorn Museum
Because if you look at it from the top, it looks like a circle. If you look at it from the side, it looks like an oval like zero is.
One brings us to the Washington Monument.
Because it sort of looks like a one and he was our first president.
Two takes us to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Because there's two walls and two is the empathy character and also because not only are there two walls, but part of Maya Lin's philosophy was you are giving the names of the people who are deceased, but you also reflect the living. So you have the two sides of life.
And we continue with three, four, five, six, seven, eight, all the way up to nine.
We go to the Supreme Court where there are nine Supreme Court Justices and that's an important nine in the city.
Rebecca Klemm is releasing the first run of the book next month at Arts On Foot, D.C.'s annual festival of arts and food. She's also premiering a film version, which uses handheld puppets and green screens, to take Team 10 on its D.C. tour. And during my visit to the studio...
MR. BARRY GORDIMER
All right. Let's go ahead and roll. We've got enough to roll on here. And action.
I get to sit in as the crew shoots one of the first scenes. In it, Team 10 visits the Lincoln Memorial to get inspiration for places to explore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER
Okay, team, time to march up the steps to the Great Emancipator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER 4
Wow, there's lots of steps.
Number factoid 57, from the road to the top.
It's okay if you stop there because this is all in voiceover from this point in this scene.
Barry Gordimer is directing the film. He says "NumbersAlive" is a great way to make numbers less daunting and more, well...
Fun. Numbers are fun, they're not intimidating. They're okay. They're your friends.
Though in Gordimer's case, not always.
Are any of the numbers especially difficult to work with?
I think we're going to have a problem child with two.
What's up with two?
I insert high hat crash here. Anyway, Andrea Schewe designed the prototype of the "NumbersAlive" plush toys and she says she agrees with Barry Gordimer. Not about two being devilishly duplicitous, but about Team 10 making numbers more enjoyable for kids no matter where they are.
MS. ANDREA SCHEWE
Kids will be able to buy them and play them and make up their own stories and take their numbers to discover different cities. I think Rebecca has the idea to have a website where people can take -- kids can take photographs of their numbers like at the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon and then kids can share online.
Yes, they all can share. It's really relevance of numbers everywhere in the world.
Because, says Rebecca Klemm, numbers are pretty much a universal language, which is why at the end of this first book, Team 10 poses a question.
We've had so much fun touring Washington D.C., where in the world should our next visit be? So you get to lobby in the website where we should go and if we select your place, you get to work with us on the next books and films.
And that collaboration will be paid for out of Klemm's own pocket. While she is applying for a number of grants, right now, she's funding the entire "NumbersAlive" project herself. But she says she doesn't mind. After all, she's helping young people understand and appreciate her beloved numbers and apply them to everyday life and the way this self-declared math geek sees it, that's what really, truly counts.
You can check out "Team 10 Tours Washington D.C.," the book and the movie, at the 19th Annual Arts On Foot, September 10th and 11th. And you can learn some number factoids of your own, like why seven is so popular at the craps table and what makes six the first perfect number on our website, metroconnection.org.
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