CBeebies Grown-ups

Monday 3rd February at 4.00 sees the return of CBeebies' very own numerical marsupials, The Numtums! There have been some big changes afoot since we last saw them so we caught up with the show's producer, Barry Quinn, to tell us all...


Numtums characters

So the Numtums are back with a new series – what can we expect from this one?

Well you can expect a lot of singing, dancing, and talking - yes, the Numtums now talk! Some of them talk a lot, and they have names, not just numbers. They’ve also got a brand new home, Gumnut Gorge and a giant termite shaped café where they hang out and eat ‘Termite Treats’.

We also have some new characters, a rock and roll echidna called Billy the Kidna, Larry, a mimicking lyrebird and Super Numtum has a new show and a new foe – A numerically challenged koala called Fluffy McTuffy who wants to take over the world before bedtime – the scamp!

There are six young Numtums, Bendy Go, Dar Dar, Champer, Humpty Do, Little Sandy and Coogee, they are also known as the Numpups. Lots of the adventures revolve around them, then there’s Flinders, Gladdy, Hobart and Nimbin - they are the older Numtums but they're not much more sensible!

 

What are Numtums based on?

I get asked this a lot, are they squirrels, meerkats, raccoons? Well they are based on Numbat, the state mammal of Western Australia. In addition to having ‘num’ in their names, Numbats are very endearing and just a little bit rubbish: they are marsupials but have no pouches, they are slow moving, they get up late, they have more teeth than any other mammal but they can’t chew - which is a problem as they need to eat 20,000 termites a day. Sadly there are less than 1000 Numbats left in the wild as they are preyed upon by just about every other animal around them including something called a carpet python.

 

Why did you decide to change the show?

We really loved the characters and were interested in introducing slightly more complex mathematical concepts into the show. After lots of research with children, teachers and carers we decided the best way to appeal to this older audience was to weave the number learning into fun adventures.

To make sure we pitched our learning goals at just the right level we worked closely with Liz Jackson, an early years Numeracy specialist, who really encouraged us to incorporate as much humour, playful narratives, recurring number counting and songs as possible into the show.

 

What do you hope children will take from the series?

It is fun, fast paced comedy adventure and it certainly had us laughing when we were making it, so mostly we want children and adults to laugh as well, but on another level we want the Numtums' love of, and interest in, numbers to rub off on the audience too.

 

Are there going to be new games to go with the series?

The Numtums already has a big presence on the CBeebies website, and there will be some brilliant new games to accompany this series - children will be able to help Super Numtum thwart Fluffy McTuffy's attempts to take over the world - and believe me, Fluffy’s got some fiendish plans involving giant jelly wombats and moles of mischief, but luckily can always be defeated by the power of the number!

We'll also have longer radio versions of the Super Numtum Show, along the lines of the old Dick Tracy adventures from the 1950s, these offer lots of opportunities for the audience to brush up on their numbers skills as well as being very funny.

Which Numeracy skills are tackled in this series of Numtums?

Well, as I mentioned, this series is tackling slightly more complicated mathematical concepts than the first series and this doesn’t just involve numbers: there’s estimating quantities and distances, counting up and down from 1-10, subtraction, recognizing 2D and 3D shapes, number bonds, and the concept of first, second and third. We also had to ensure the language was consistent and that we had a fairly equal share of different learning goals throughout the series. The irony is that I am not very good at maths so I learned quite a lot while making the series - things like ordinal numbers meaning first, second, third…

 

Why use cute characters like the Numtums to teach maths?

What really stuck with me while making the series was when our education consultant told us that if children fall behind in maths it is very hard for them to catch up, and one way in which they can have the chance to catch up is by watching shows that they love again and again.

 

Why is maths teaching important?

Maths is key to so much and yet people freely admit to not being very good at it in a way that they may not say about, say, reading. I looked at the findings of an OECD report in 2013 which showed that standards of numeracy in England and Northern Ireland (It didn’t include Scotland or Wales) are declining, which has serious consequences for the country and for people's personal wellbeing - that makes it really important for CBeebies to look for ways to engage children with maths from an early age.

 

Did you learn a lot about maths from making the series? What advice would you give to parents about the best way to support their child’s Numeracy skills?

I have never been good at maths so I have learnt quite a lot! I'm always reluctant to offer anyone advice, however our user testing showed that songs, chants and humour really seemed to stick with children. The feedback we had from the first series of Numtums was also phenomenal, I mean, every time I hear that song, 1, 2, 3… I’m singing it for hours – that, I think is how you learn.

 

Favourite Numtum moment?

One episode I watched recently that had me laughing a lot was Hiccupping Bird in which Larry the Lyrebird gets the hiccups. Now, lyrebirds in the wild are famous for imitating all kinds of noises like cameras and mobile phones and jack hammers, and Larry creates so much chaos by hiccupping random sounds that he decides to leave Gumnut Gorge. The Numtums really don’t want this to happen so they have to cure his hiccups so that he can stay – it was very funny, but had real heart.

 

What’s been the best thing about working on Numtums?

Working at CBeebies is amazing, and this series has been especially fun. I get to work with so many talented people who help bring everything to life: the TV, interactive and radio teams CBeebies in Salford, BBC Worldwide, all the writers and A Productions in Bristol who design and animate the series.

 

Comments

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by Rachel77

    on 20 Oct 2014 18:29

    Well just to be completely different to everyone else, the new series is fab it's my 3 1/2 year old's favourite and has been from the first episode of the new series. We currently have 39 episodes saved on 'our shows' and both him and my 18 month old are addicted (tho he can't count yet). My eldest can add, take away, count down, make ten in a few different ways and much more. I think it's entirely responsible for my boys love of numbers! He can also name all the characters (ok maybe not so useful!) Is there any chance of Numtum toys being available soon?

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  • Comment number 36. Posted by EmmaS

    on 16 Jun 2014 08:28

    I agree sorry, the new one is totally out of my little boy's league now (2yo). He can count and say his alphabet but in my opinion children don't need to learn the made-up names of 10 creatures, the numbers are more important! Their little squeaks are far more endearing and make him laugh. Thank goodness you still show the original.

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  • Comment number 35. Posted by Finknottle

    on 5 Jun 2014 10:49

    Thank you so much for showing the original Numtums once again. My 18 month old son (who's not a fan of the new series) has been glued to the episodes this week, squealing with delight and dancing along with the songs. We're very glad to see the ten flamingoes back on our screens at last!

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  • Comment number 34. Posted by TwistandTurner

    on 27 Apr 2014 13:07

    PS: the numbers on their bellies don't really have any purpose any more!? :-(

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  • Comment number 33. Posted by TwistandTurner

    on 27 Apr 2014 13:00

    I have to agree with over 90% of the comments. I am firmly in team 'old numtums'. My son is 3 in July and for as long as I remember it has been by far his favourite show on CBeebies. Through its simple, catchy repetition and direct teaching approach (reminiscent of the 'pin ball' segment of Sesame Street, but better) my son learnt to count to 10 at a very early age including backwards! Really miss the surreal genius of old numtums, particularly the cars/flamingo 1-10 song, which my son adores. The only saving grace is that we recorded about 4 of the old episodes which my son regularly asks for over and above the new numtums. Wouldn't say I hate the new one - it just feels a bit muddled in its message - my son is mildly amused by it, but REALLY misses the old one! the BBC has clearly spent and put a lot of effort into the new series, but I agree it might work better as a spin off for older kids? Just a crying shame the old one is not around any more for the 2-4 year olds. Bring back old numtums plleeeaaase BBC! x

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by VintageVixen

    on 16 Apr 2014 09:01

    Thoroughly disappointed with the new series of Numtums. You have managed to take something that was fun and educational and change it so drastically that it's not even recognisable as the same show! There are so many shows aimed at the older pre-schoolers with narrative and story lines, why would you ruin something so unique for the little ones. The previous series really focused on the numbers and was great at teaching my little one to count. This rubbish doesn't even hold her attention past the opening credits! All I can say is I hope you will still be showing repeats of the proper Numtums because we certainly won't be watching this again.

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by MA

    on 15 Apr 2014 12:47

    Hi my 17 month old grandson loved the old series of the numtums
    He's not interested in the new one and he would count with the old series
    Is there anyway that the old series can be viewed at anytime and is there
    a video going to be made of the old series, in the near future cause I know that I would buy one.
    I do think the numtums program is a great show for children as it teachers them their numbers and to count Carry on the awesome work

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  • Comment number 30. Posted by SMills

    on 24 Mar 2014 18:58

    My kids (ages 3&5) love both series. They have quickly picked up the songs & the character names. The new series has more content for the older children.

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  • Comment number 29. Posted by Loulou

    on 8 Mar 2014 17:40

    I hate to be negative but I agree with the majority Of comments here. My 20month old started watching the original num tums at 4months and could count by himself at 15months, forwards and backwards. I appreciate the logic behind the change in format but I don't agree with introducing an antagonist into programmes aimed at toddlers. I also think it would have made more sense to create a new show rather than completely altering a successful and positive show.my son hasn't engaged with this new show at all and I continue to use the original numtums from the internet to educate my 5 year old. Maybe the new show should have been a spin off called num pups?

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  • Comment number 28. Posted by Grandma

    on 28 Feb 2014 19:49

    What have you done to Numtums? The original format gave small children both visual and auditory opportunities to count and sequence. Now the programme has descended to cartoon drivel, with no predictable opportunities to join in. My two year old grandchildren showed real excitement at counting forwards and backwards with the old programme, now they show no interest in the programme and neither do I. Return to the old format please.

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