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McDaniel professor consults on Emmy Award-winning PBS series

McDaniel professor Francis “Skip” Fennell (second from left) with Paul Siefken of The Fred Rogers Company (left) and “Peg + Cat” co-creators Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson of 9ate7 Productions holds one of three Emmys the PBS series won.
July 10, 2014

The PBS series “Peg + Cat” topped the 41st Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts Emmys with three awards in the animation category and McDaniel professor and mathematics education expert Francis “Skip” Fennell couldn’t be prouder.

Fennell, L. Stanley Bowlsbey Chair in Education and Graduate and Professional Studies and professor of Education, has been involved with the show since its beginnings more than a year before its October 2013 debut. He consulted on scripts, apps and games for the animated preschool series created by Billy Aronson (“Rent,” “Postcards from Buster”) and Jennifer Oxley (“Little Bill,” “The Wonder Pets!”) of 9ate7 Productions, and a production of The Fred Rogers Company.

“Peg + Cat” won Emmys for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program, Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program to Hayley Faith Negrin who is Peg’s voice, and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation to Jennifer Oxley for production design.  

In each episode a spirited little girl named Peg and her sidekick Cat encounter an unexpected challenge that requires them to solve problems using important mathematics in order to save the day and ultimately develop foundational mathematics concepts and related understanding and skills. The show’s website features games, activities and adventures that support the mathematics concepts and problem-solving approaches developed in the show.   

As the educational consultant, Fennell verifies that the show’s math is correct and that it is coming in at the appropriate time not only within each episode of the show but at the developmental level of the mostly pre-school viewers. Fennell is also serving as educational consultant for PBS KIDS newest series, “Odd Squad,” which is in production and designed to help kids ages 5-8 learn math. 

“I like to think that ‘Peg + Cat’ is making a difference in the lives of young children just starting to think about mathematics,” says Fennell. “We want to get kids excited about learning mathematics, and Peg is not afraid to tackle math problems – daily.”

Since its premiere in October of 2013, the Peg + Cat television broadcast has been one of PBS’s top-rated programs with kids 2-5 and with young mothers.  In addition, the program has been streamed on the Web and on mobile devices more than 150 million times since October.  The games on the Peg + Cat Website have been very popular as well, with nearly 14 million page views.