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Mathman title.jpg
ITV Schools
First run:
21st September

28th November

Repeated until
1st December

(8 school years)
Episodes:34 episodes
Duration:10 minutes
Subject:Mathematics: Mathematics
Audience:Age 5-7
Language:In English
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5 images from this programme


Some mathematics for infants

Simple maths with a friendly robot for children just starting school - the series was always shown in the autumn term at the beginning of the new school year.

An absent-minded inventor called Mr Bumbleboots builds a robot - Mathman - to be a companion to his young niece. It's lucky that he does because a wicked witch is out to cause trouble and Mathman puts her in her place.

Mathman with Wickedwitch, Margaret and Wise Frog.

In the first series in 1971 Mr Bumbleboots' neice was a dark-haired girl called Margaret, and Mathman fought a witch simply called Wickedwitch, from over the hill, who used Spelljuice to cause trouble. A second series in 1973 was a slight variation on the first for a new generation of school starters.

A sequel series in 1974 called More Mathman was made in 1974 for children in their second year of school, introducing more advanced topics such as cardinal numbers and addition, and even some writing and spelling. Mr Bumbleboots' niece was now a redhead called Linda and Mathman faced two new witches, sisters called (I think) Gertie Bootles and Wally Wobbles. They can monitor the activities of Mathman and friends using a magic seeing bottle.

Finally, a new series of Mathman programmes for five-year-olds was made in 1977, once again offering a slight variation on the original series. This time Mr Bumbleboots' neice Sarah took part in the adventures and Mathman combatted a witch called Snitchywitch, who could spy on the friends through her magic screen. All of the concepts from the first series were revisited.

Mathman with a set of girls and a set of boys.

There have been other Mathmen in schools programmes over the years. One Mathman was an animated parody of the computer character Pacman in the mathematical sketch show Square One TV (based on an American series, the British version was screened by the BBC from 1992 to 1997). Meanwhile Maths Man was a student at Superhero School learning to solve mathematical crises in three TV series of Megamaths (screened by the BBC from 2000 to 2008).


A brief description of each episode, highlighting the mathematical content.

Num Title Broadcast
1. Programme 1 21 Sep 1971
  Mathman introduces himself to some children and sorts out various objects into sets - including the viewers.
2. Programme 2 28 Sep 1971
  The children sort out solid shapes, including cubes, cuboids and cylinders. They construct Mathman from these shapes, and then Mathman constructs his car.
3. Programme 3 5 Oct 1971
  Margaret plays with her dolls' furniture and tries to amuse her young brother Michael. Mathman explains that objects in sets can be sorted into sub-sets.
4. Programme 4 12 Oct 1971
  While Wickedwitch plots a kidnapping, Mathman helps Margaret to investigate correspondence by matching the members of different sets using string.
5. Programme 5 19 Oct 1971
  Mathman tries his magic and goes to find Wickedwitch. Wise Frog helps him by making simple patterns.
6. Programme 6 2 Nov 1971
  Mathman, Margaret and Wise Frog rescue Michael from Wickedwitch. They use all of the mathematical experience that they have gathered so far, and make a pictorial representation of sets.
7. Programme 7 9 Nov 1971
  Wickedwitch is furious that her kidnap plot has been foiled and plans her revenge. The mathematical concepts already introduced are used in new ways, such as pattern making.
8. Programme 8 16 Nov 1971
  Wickedwitch changes her ways and everybody lives happily ever after. A pictorial record of what has happened is made.
9. Series 2 Programme 1 18 Sep 1973
  Mathman is built, and he sorts out various objects into sets - including the children viewing in the classroom.
10. Series 2 Programme 2 25 Sep 1973
  Margaret plays with solid shapes including spheres, cubes, cuboids and cylinders. Mathman catches Wickedwitch up to no good and chases her away.
11. Series 2 Programme 3 2 Oct 1973
  Margaret discovers that sets can be arranged into sub-sets, for example a set of cars can be divided into different types of cars. Wickedwitch tries to make herself invisible.
12. Series 2 Programme 4 9 Oct 1973
  Margaret investigates correspondence by linking the items in two different sets with pieces of string, and finds that the sets contain the same number of objects. Wickedwitch makes herself invisible, but receives a spanking from Mathman!
13. Series 2 Programme 5 16 Oct 1973
  Mr Bumbleboots gives Margaret a puppy for her birthday, but it is stolen by Wickedwitch. The magic in the witch's flying broomstick runs out, but she still gets away. The episode covers basic patterns.
14. Series 2 Programme 6 23 Oct 1973
  Mathman builds a pictorial representation of the puppy-napper and Mr Bumbleboots recognises that it is Wickedwitch. Wise Frog devises a plan to rescue the dog.
15. Series 2 Programme 7 6 Nov 1973
  Wickedwitch plots her revenge on Wise Frog. The mathematical concepts already introduced are used in new ways, such as pattern making.
16. Series 2 Programme 8 13 Nov 1973
  Wickedwitch changes her ways, and changes her name to Wizzywitch. A pictorial record of what has happened is made.
17. More Mathman 1 24 Sep 1974
  The programme covering sorting, matching and one-to-one correspondence.
18. More Mathman 2 1 Oct 1974
  Introducing cardinal numbers. Linda sorts out sweets in the shop into sets of a certain number of each type.
19. More Mathman 3 8 Oct 1974
  Counting and addition.
20. More Mathman 4 15 Oct 1974
  Taking away, finding the difference between two numbers.
21. More Mathman 5 22 Oct 1974
  Using a balance to weigh objects, and sums with money.
22. More Mathman 6 5 Nov 1974
  Sharing out objects, and finding the capacity of containers.
23. More Mathman 7 12 Nov 1974
  Larger numbers above ten, and making tiling patterns of squares and rectangles.
24. More Mathman 8 19 Nov 1974
  Revision of various number situations.
25. Series 4 Programme 1 19 Sep 1977
  Mr Bumbleboots plans to build a robot friend for Sarah, and begins sorting out the objects that he needs. Over the hill, Snitchywitch is also sorting things out.
26. Series 4 Programme 2 26 Sep 1977
  Snitchywitch needs a wooden spoon for a spell and sneaks into Mr Bumbleboots' house to steal one. Sarah plays with solid shapes including spheres, cubes, cuboids and cylinders. There is a rendition of Mary, Mary Quite Contrary.
27. Series 4 Programme 3 3 Oct 1977
  Mathman interrupts Snitchywitch before she can find a wooden spoon, and her spell fails. She swears revenge on Mathman and his friends. Sarah discovers that sets can be divided into sub-sets, and there is the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
28. Series 4 Programme 4 10 Oct 1977
  Mathman and Sarah link the objects from two different sets with pieces of string and find that the sets contain the same number of objects (correspondence), while Mr Bumbleboots invents an ice cream machine. Snitchywitch makes herself invisible and visits the house. There is a song, Harh, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark.
29. Series 4 Programme 5 17 Oct 1977
  Mathman traps the invisible Snitchywitch and makes her visible again with his magic ray. Mr Bumbleboots gives Sarah a puppy called Pepper for her birthday, and Snitchywitch sees an opportunity for revenge. The friends discover patterns and hear Little Bo Peep sung.
30. Series 4 Programme 6 24 Oct 1977
  While the Mathman and friends are finding out about matching and sorting, Snitchywitch steals Pepper the puppy. Mathman and Mr Bumbleboots work out who the culprit was and set off in pursuit, while Sarah goes to visit Wise Frog but ends up getting captured by Snitchywitch herself. Old King Cole is performed.
31. Series 4 Programme 7 7 Nov 1977
  Mr Bumbleboots, Mathman and Wise Frog manage to rescue Sarah, but Snitchywitch still has Pepper and threatens to make him into puppy pie. There are two songs, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and Girls and Boys Come out to Play, and pattern experience.
32. Series 4 Programme 8 14 Nov 1977
  Mathman shows Sarah plane shapes including squares, rectangles and circles. Mr Bumbleboots invents a plan to rescue Pepper using numbers 1 to 3 for the stages of the plan. Meanwhile Snitchywitch captures Wise Frog while he is playing with his friend Cheeky Chick, and she throws him down the well in a glass jar. Sing a Song of Sixpence is sung.
33. Series 4 Programme 9 21 Nov 1977
  Sarah is captured by Snitchywitch, who uses matching and comparing, and the numbers 1-4 to put her in an appropriate cage. Mathman and Mr Bumbleboots set a trap for Snitchywitch. The song is This Old Man, He Played One.
34. Series 4 Programme 10 28 Nov 1977
  Snitchywitch is captured and Pepper is rescued. The witch promises to change her ways and is transformed into a good witch. The friends make a pictorial record of different sets with simple bar graphs.

Theme Tune

Mathman's theme tune was a remarkable, funky piece of instrumental music which easily rivals the BBC's famous Radiophonic theme tunes. It was probably a library track but I don't know who composed or performed this music - if you can help identify it please get in touch by email or on the forum.

Here is a fairly low-quality microphone recording of the opening to episode 2 of More Mathman:

The animated opening titles involved the word "MATHMAN" being broken down into a series of triangles and rectangles, which rearrange themselves into the shape of a robot.


Mathman was "prepared" for Grampian Television by Ronald Sawdon of Aberdeen College of Education[1].

I do not know any of the other credits for the series and I don't know who the actors were. If you have any information please get in touch by email or on the forum.


Mathman poster.jpg

Grampian Television was well-known for working in close partnership with local education authorities, teachers and parents in developing their schools programmes, and this is demonstrated in the transmission patterns of Mathman.

When the series began in autumn 1971 there were three transmissions per week (all within 24 hours of each other). First, late on Tuesday evenings at 11:30pm in a special preview for teachers and parents. This preview screening included an additional 10-minute discussion segment about how the series could be used educationally. The schools transmission was then on Wednesday at 11:35am, and finally there was a late afternoon screening at 3:45pm on Wednesdays "when children may watch at home with mothers."[2]

In autumn 1973 the late afternoon home transmission was dropped, but the late night adult preview continued. The series was broadcast for schools on Tuesdays at 10:27am and Thursdays at 10:35am.

More Mathman in autumn 1974 kept almost the same pattern - a late night preview followed by schools broadcasts on Tuesdays at 10:47am and Thursdays at 10:35am.

In autumn 1977 the schools broadcasts were on Mondays at 11:05am and Wednesdays at 10:48am, and finally in autumn 1978 on Wednesdays at 10:31am and Fridays at 10:40am. Both years also included a late night preview run for adults.


Teachers' notes
Each year's broadcasts were accompanied by a card-cover booklet of teacher's notes containing a brief summary of the content of each episode and extensive suggestions for classroom follow-up.

The front cover had the same basic design as all of Grampian's teacher's notes - a large box containing a ring of children, with a symbol for the programme in the centre. In this case the symbol was the stylised Mathman robot design constructed from rectangles and triangles.

Over the years the teacher's notes were accompanied by photographs, work cards, a colouring-in poster and instructions for games to be played in the classroom.

Sources & References

  • Grampian (1971) Mathman Teacher's Notes Autumn 1971. Grampian Television.
  • Grampian (1972) Mathman Teacher's Notes Autumn 1972. Grampian Television.
  • Grampian (1974) More Mathman Teacher's Notes Autumn 1974. Grampian Television.
  • Grampian (1977) Mathman Teacher's Notes Autumn 1977. Grampian Television.
  • Grampian (1978) Mathman Teacher's Notes Autumn 1978. Grampian Television.
  • Visual Education (1971) 'Grampian Television Series for Infants' in Visual Education August/September 1971 p.7
  • Weltman, Joseph (1978) 21 Years of Independent Television for Schools, 1957 to 1978 as published with Independent Broadcasting no 16, May 1978, London: IBA p.17
  1. Visual Education (1971) said "Ronald Sawdon, of Aberdeen College of Education (...) has prepared a series of programmes for Grampian Television entitled 'Mathman'. These eight ten-minute programmes attempt to introduce mathematics to infants by means of pattern, picture and story.
  2. Grampian (1971) p.4 explains that "in addition to the schooltime transmissions, there will be a repeat at a time when children may watch at home with mothers. Before children see the programmes, there will be an opportunity in the late evening for adults to preview them and hear a discussion of how the series might be used."

More Programmes

Some random programmes for age 5-7 from the 1970s

Time to Move
BBC Schools Radio
Poetry Corner
BBC Schools Radio
BBC Schools TV
BBC Schools Radio
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