The Learning Company

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Not to be confused with The Learning Channel.
The Learning Company
Founded 1980; 37 years ago (1980) (as The Learning Co.)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Founders Ann McCormick
Leslie Grimm
Teri Perl
Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Key people
Warren Robinett (co-founder)
Parent Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Learning Company (TLC) known briefly as Mattel Interactive is an American educational software company, currently owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It produced a grade-based system of learning software and tools to improve productivity. Products for preschoolers through second graders include Reader Rabbit, and software for more advanced students include The ClueFinders. The company is also known for publishing licensed educational titles featuring characters such as Arthur, Scooby-Doo, Zoboomafoo and Caillou.

Founding and ownership[edit]

The learning company was founded in 1980 by Ann McCormick, Leslie Grimm, Teri Perl and Warren Robinett, a former Atari employee who had programmed the popular game Adventure. They saw the Apple II as an opportunity to teach young children concepts of math, reading, science, problem solving and thinking skills. Part of the original funding for the company came from a National Science Foundation grant.

TLC produced launch titles for the PCjr, announced in late 1983.[1] From 1980 through 1984 it created a line of 15 widely acclaimed children's educational software products, which were sold through the U.S. retail and school computer software channels.

The leading families of products were the Reader Rabbit series for ages 2–8, the Treasure Mountain Reading-Math-Science series for ages 5–9, the Super Solver series for ages 7–12, the Student Writing & Publishing Center for ages 7–adult and the Foreign Language Learning series for ages 15–adult.

TLC went public on April 28, 1992 in an IPO led by Morgan Stanley and Robertson, Stephens & Co.

Softkey acquisition[edit]

In 1995, TLC was acquired by Softkey for $606M.[2]

Subsequent to the acquisition, TLC was reformed from the merger of WordStar, Spinnaker and SoftKey Software. Prior to that, SoftKey was a Canadian company that was founded by Kevin O'Leary and traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. During the years following the three-way merger, the combined company was led by Michael J. Perik as CEO, Kevin O'Leary as President and R. Scott Murray as CFO. TLC acquired many leading brands through acquisitions of such companies as Broderbund, MECC, Mindscape, and Creative Wonders. The company held some of the best-known educational, entertainment and home productivity brands in the market. These included Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego, The Oregon Trail, Myst, Riven, The Print Shop and PrintMaster.

The software sold in retail chains and in direct mail channels across Europe, and in the OEM channels as well as creating one of the first online imaging models in the market. In 1996, SoftKey changed its name to "The Learning Company".

Mattel acquisition and rapid devaluation[edit]

In the fall of 1998, Mattel agreed to acquire The Learning Company in a stock-for-stock merger valuing the company at approximately $4.2 billion. In 1999, the company name was changed to Mattel Interactive, which published not only educational games, but licensed titles from brands like Barbie.[3]

Mattel sold The Learning Company in 2000 at a loss to Gores Technology group. The total financial losses to Mattel have been estimated to be as high as $3.6 billion.[4]

Mattel's acquisition of The Learning Company has been referred to as "one of the worst acquisitions of all time" by several prominent business journals.[4][5]

As of 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is offering the Super Solvers, MindPower, and Starflyers brands as a licensing opportunities on its website.[6]


Alternate TLC logo used from the mid-1990s until 2007

Reader Rabbit / The ClueFinders series[edit]


Super Solvers series[edit]

Super Seekers games[edit]

Fisher-Price series[edit]

  • Fisher-Price: Big Action Garage (1998)
  • Fisher-Price: Big Action Construction (1998)
  • Fisher-Price: Great Adventures: Castle (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Great Adventures: Pirate Ship (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Great Adventures: Wild Western Town (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Outdoor Adventures: Ranger Trail (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Rescue Heroes: Hurricane Havoc (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Toddler (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Preschool (1999)
  • Fisher-Price: Kindergarten (1999)

Carmen Sandiego series[edit]

Mindpower series[edit]

  • Mind Power Math: Basic Math
  • Mind Power Math: High School
  • Mind Power Math: Pre Algebra
  • Mind Power Math: Calculus
  • Mind Power Math: Geometry
  • Mind Power Math: Algebra 2
  • Mind Power Math: Middle School[7]
  • Mind Power Science Grades 7-12
  • Mind Power Science: Biology, Light & Electricity

Other games[edit]

  • Prince of Persia 3D (1999)
  • Real World series
    • Operation Neptune (1991)
      • Note: This game was eventually added to the Super Solvers series.
    • Time Riders in American History
    • Math For The Real World
  • Adventure/puzzle games
  • Achieve! games
    • Achieve! Math & Science: Grades 1-3
    • Achieve! Phonics, Reading & Writing: Grades 1-3
    • Achieve! Math & Science: Grades 3-6
    • Achieve! Writing & Language Arts Grades 3-6
  • Trail games
  • Tools and other programs
    • All-Star Typing
    • The American Girls Premiere
    • Read, Write, and Type
    • MetroGnomes' Music
    • The Children's Writing & Publishing Center
    • The Writing Center
    • Student Writing Center
  • Starflyers series
    • Starflyers: Royal Jewel Rescue
    • Starflyers: Alien Space Chase
  • Other early educational programs
    • Magic Spells
    • Bumble Games
    • Bumble Plot
    • Moptown Hotel
    • Moptown Parade
    • Wordspinner
    • Juggles' Rainbow
    • Juggles' House
    • Caillou's Magic Playhouse
    • Zoboomafoo Animal Alphabet
    • SpongeBob SquarePants Typing
    • Some PBS Kids games


  1. ^ Wiswell, Phil (January 24, 1984). "Coming Soon: Games For The PCjr". PC. pp. 142–145. Retrieved January 26, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Softkey Reaches Agreement to Buy Learning Company". 8 December 1995. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Profile: Mattel Interactive". IGN Games Newsletter. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Cave, Andrew (September 30, 2000). "Mattel sale ends $3.6bn fiasco". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved October 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ Rosenbush, Steve (October 4, 2007). "When Big Deals Go Bad—and Why". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Licensing Opportunities". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  7. ^ " - Review Corner". Retrieved 2017-01-17. 

External links[edit]