Square One Television

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Square One TV
The Square One Logo
Starring Reg E. Cathey
Beverly Mickins
Arthur Howard
Larry Cedar
Luisa Leschin
Cynthia Darlow
Cristobal Franco
Beverly Leech
Toni DiBuono
Joe Howard
Narrated by Cynthia Darlow
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 230
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Children's Television Workshop
Original channel PBS
Audio format Mono (1987–1991)
Stereo (1992–1994)
Original release January 26, 1987 (1987-01-26) – November 6, 1992 (1992-11-06), reruns aired until October 7, 1994 (1994-10-07)

Square One Television (sometimes referred to as Square One or Square One TV) is an American children's television program produced by the Children's Television Workshop to teach mathematics and abstract mathematical concepts to young viewers.

Created and broadcast by PBS in the United States from January 26, 1987 to November 6, 1992, the show was intended to address the math crisis among American schoolchildren. After the last episode aired, the show went into reruns until October 7, 1994. The show was revived for the 19951996 PBS season as a teacher instruction program, Square One TV Math Talk.[citation needed]

Square One was also shown on the U.S. cable television channel Noggin in syndication beginning in 1999, but was removed from its lineup along with other Sesame Workshop shows on May 26, 2003.



Square One comprised short sketches that introduced and applied concepts in mathematics such as counting, combinatorics, vulgar fractions, estimation, probability, and geometry. The sketches featured regular characters and were mainly parodies of pop culture icons, popular television commercials or popular television shows. Sketches were presented in various formats, including music videos featuring a particular subject in mathematics and taught the subject through song (e.g., Roman numerals, obtuse and acute angles, percentages, negative numbers, etc.) or comedic sketches (e.g., General Mathpital, a parody of General Hospital; Nobody's Inn, a parody of Fawlty Towers; Late Afternoon with David Numberman, a parody of Late Night with David Letterman; etc.). "Patterns", a polka about patterns that can be detected in daily life, was performed by "Weird Al" Yankovic. (Since Yankovic did not write this song, it is unavailable on any of his records, though bootleg versions have circulated.)

Mathman was a regular segment and a parody of Pac-Man. The skit helped viewers learn to recognize common mistakes while solving math problems, such as forgetting to carry a digit, or making errors with negative numbers. A blue tornado character named "Mr. Glitch" was Mathman's enemy.

Pauline's Perilous Pyramid was another sketch that spoofed arcade games. The heroine Pauline would jump around a pyramid similar to the one used in the game Q*Bert. Each square had either a positive or negative number on it. Her objective was to get to the very top of the pyramid, keeping the total of the squares she landed on between 25 and -25.

Backstage with Blackstone featured math-related magic tricks and performances by Harry Blackstone, Jr.. Each segment involved two cast members at a time (Reg E. Cathey portrayed Blackstone's assistant). After performing a trick, Blackstone explained how the trick worked.

Other animated segments included Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade, who often use his mathematical skills to help his friends and neighbors in everyday situations (in a similar vein to Roger Ramjet); The Further Adventures of Zook & Alison; and Fax Headful, a parody of Max Headroom.

Game shows[edit]

Several segments featured child contestants competing to win prizes.

  • But Who's Adding?/But Who's Multiplying?: the show's first original game, hosted by Larry Cedar. Two players captured spaces on a gameboard by adding or multiplying two digits at a time, trying to be the first to complete a row/column/diagonal.
  • But Who's Counting?: hosted by Monty Carlo (played by Arthur Howard). Two pairs of players (season 1)/two players (seasons 3-4) (played by the cast members) tried to make the smallest/largest five-digit number possible (seasons 1 and 3), smallest/largest pair of fractions in season 4, placing one digit at a time as it was spun on a carnival wheel.
  • Piece of the Pie (Introduced in season 2, lasted until season 4): a survey-based game similar to Family Feud, using pie charts and teaching percentages. The game was hosted by Cris Franco and Arthur Howard, and later by Beverly Mickins.
  • Close Call: a game about estimation, using "how many beans are in this big jar"-type of questions, and bearing a similarity to The Price Is Right. Arthur Howard was the original host, replaced at the beginning of Season 4 by Luisa Leschin (who was co-host for the previous season). Leschin's co-host was Reg E. Cathey.
  • Triple Play: players spun wheels to choose two digits, then had to add/multiply them in order to match numbers on the gameboard, trying to complete a triangle. The game was hosted by Cynthia Darlow, and only lasted one season (Season 2).
  • Square One Squares: a tic-tac-toe game similar to Hollywood Squares and To Tell the Truth. The game was later replaced by Square One Challenge. Both were hosted by Larry Cedar.


Main article: Mathnet

Each episode featured a closing segment titled Mathnet, starring Joe Howard as George Frankly and Beverly Leech as Kate Monday. A parody of Dragnet, the story line of each skit featured the detectives attempting to solve a crime by using math. Each Mathnet story line spanned five episodes, or one complete broadcast week (Monday through Friday).

In season four, Toni DiBuono replaced Leech as Pat Tuesday.

Mathman Titlecard.
Genre Education, Comedy, Humor, Animation, Cartoon
Created by Jim Thurman
Presented by Jim Thurman (as the unseen Introduction Announcer)[1]
Starring Mathman
Mr. Glitch
The Announcer
Country of origin  United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Francesco Garri Garripoli[2]
Running time 1 to 2 minutes
Original channel PBS
Original release January 26, 1987[3] – November 6, 1991[4]


Main article: Mathman

Mathman is a video game segment on the PBS show Square One TV.

Segment Format[edit]

A parody of Pac-Man, Mathman was a fictional arcade game starring a character of the same name. Mathman's objective was to run around a Pac-Man-like maze board (the traditional dots were replaced with + and - signs) and eventually encounter a number or polygon. He would then have until the count of three to determine if that number/polygon was consistent with a given category (see examples below), and if so, eat it. If he made a mistake, his enemy Mr. Glitch would eat him, ending the game in a disaster.

During the later seasons, the format of the game was changed so that Mathman would have to decide if a certain statement (read aloud by the game's announcer) was true or false, and then eat the letter T or F. He would then have until the count of seven to make his decision. These were usually general-knowledge statements about math (e.g., "True or False? Mathematics and arithmetic are the same thing") rather than questions that required actual problem-solving skills.

If Mathman was able to eat all the correct numbers/polygons or answer his questions correctly, he was awarded a free game. However, Mathman accomplished this feat only a handful of times (i.e., "Multiples of 3," "Factors of 24," and "Symmetrical Polygons"). On at least one such occasion, a giant Mr. Glitch ate Mathman as soon as the free game began.

Occasionally, Mathman did not play the game himself, making Mr. Glitch the contestant. If he answered incorrectly, he would be eaten by Mathman (or on one occasion, Mathman's dog Mathdog.) Interestingly, on one occasion, Mr. Glitch got away with an incorrect answer, but on the second incorrect answer, he was eaten by a giant Mathman.


Mathman (left) and Mr. Glitch (right).


Mathman was a green, Pac-Man-like character with a big mouth, a winged football helmet patterned after that of the University of Michigan Wolverines, and a single foot on which he walked around the game maze. When he moved around the maze, he would repeat the phrase "Mathman, Mathman, Mathman," similar to Pac-Man's familiar "wakka-wakka-wakka".


Mathdog was Mathman's pet dog and wore a football helmet like that of Mathman. When he went around the maze, he would say "Mathdog, Mathdog, Mathdog."

Mr. Glitch[edit]

Mathman's nemesis was Mr. Glitch, a cranky tornado who was always described with a different adjective ("the 'inconsiderate' Mr. Glitch," "the 'ill-tempered' Mr. Glitch," "the 'fiendish' Mr. Glitch," "the 'unpleasant' Mr. Glitch," "the 'sinister' Mr. Glitch," "the 'evil' Mr. Glitch," "the 'reckless' Mr. Glitch," "the 'overweight' Mr. Glitch," etc.) He would appear whenever Mathman had to make a decision. If Mathman ate an incorrect number or polygon, answered a question incorrectly, or used up too much time, Mr. Glitch would "power up" (with lightning bolts and thunder crashing), chase after Mathman, and then eat him.

The Announcer[edit]

At the beginning of each sketch, an off-screen voice told either Mathman or Mr. Glitch what his mission would be. Then, a warning was issued to the playing character stating "He will eat you if you are wrong." He also congratulated Mathman and awarded him a free game if he finished the game perfectly.

Common categories used in the game[edit]


External links[edit]