Megamaths is a BBC schools TV series from the 1990s and 2000s, covering mathematics for primary school pupils.
An engaging maths series for primary school pupils set in two completely different worlds.
Megamaths was also the title of a BBC school radio series for the same age group, in which Maths Man and other characters give listeners a mental maths quiz.
A castle high on top of table mountain is home to an entire pack of playing cards, all played by real people, and the adventures of the Kings, Queens, Jacks, and all of the number cards inevitably involve the application of mathematics.
The Joker looks after the children who come to visit the castle, and is also the link with children watching in the classroom. The Joker in the first unit (Jenny Hutchinson) introduces the programmes in rhyme and talks directly to the audience. She has the power to appear and disappear with a click of her fingers. A new Joker (Gareth Jones) arrives at the start of the second unit. He is still the genial host, but he does not display any magical powers.
The castle entrance is guarded by two mischievous gargoyles, Garg and Goyle, who often verbally spar with the second Joker. They observe the goings-on in the castle and summarise the maths that everybody has learnt at the end of the episodes. Below stairs in the castle a dragon called Brimstone and a kitten called Digit enjoy their own adventures. These two characters are an animated interlude in each episode. They were drawn by three completely different animation studios over the years, and their appearance changed quite dramatically.
Some of the regular features in the castle include a tournament in which two of the royals compete with each other to solve mathematical equations presented by the acrobatic number cards. They take plenty of time working out the answers, so the audience has a good chance to work out the answers first.
The Joker welcomes teams of schoolchildren into the castle courtyard to play physical mathematical games, such as fitting numbers into equations made out of battlements, life-sized snakes and ladders, buying clothes within a budget, and measuring different items. All of these challenges could be reproduced in the classroom.
In the Money programmes an auction takes place at the start of each episode, in which the characters, whether meaning to or not, bid each other up to the amount of money which is the subject of that week's programme.
There are also acrobatic displays and dances, for example in the Division programmes five acrobats repeatedly rearrange themselves to show how division is related to multiplication, and original songs. In the Tables programmes each table is chanted at the beginning and end of the episode. Throughout all four table mountain units one of the featured acrobats was Sarah-Jane Honeywell, later to become a well-known presenter of Cbeebies TV programmes.
The majority of each episode is taken up with the adventures of the royal cards as they encounter mathematical problems, such as dividing building materials evenly between four builders, and working out how much money the Queen of Diamonds could have saved if she didn't think that accepting change was beneath her.
Curiously the Queen of Clubs was the only royal, in fact the only playing card, not to appear in any of the TV episodes. She certainly existed, as she is referred to in the episodes (for example at the start of the Money to One Pound episode the King of Clubs instructs the Jack to buy the rubbish glass things for the Queen) and the worksheets, but never took part in the tournaments or adventures with the other characters.
All table mountain episodes were 20 minutes long.
|1.||Two Times||16 Sep 1996|
|2.||Five Times||23 Sep 1996|
|3.||Ten Times||30 Sep 1996|
|4.||Three Times||7 Oct 1996|
|5.||Six Times||14 Oct 1996|
|6.||Nine Times||28 Oct 1996|
|7.||Four Times||4 Nov 1996|
|8.||Eight Times||11 Nov 1996|
|9.||Seven Times||18 Nov 1996|
|10.||Big Numbers (aka Miscelleny Times)||25 Nov 1996|
|11.||Money to 20p||13 Jan 1998|
|12.||Money to 50p||20 Jan 1998|
|13.||Money to One Pound||27 Jan 1998|
|14.||Money to Five Pounds||3 Feb 1998|
|15.||Money to Ten Pounds||10 Feb 1998|
|16.||Divide by Two||24 Feb 1998|
|17.||Divide by Four||3 Mar 1998|
|18.||Divide by Ten||10 Mar 1998|
|19.||Divide by Five||17 Mar 1998|
|20.||Divide by Three||24 Mar 1998|
|21.||Sports Day||12 Jan 1999|
|22.||The King's New Clothes||19 Jan 1999|
|23.||Decorating||26 Jan 1999|
|24.||Treasure Hunt||2 Feb 1999|
|25.||Holidays||9 Feb 1999|
The actors playing the Kings remained the same for most of the series, but almost all of the other roles were recast multiple times.
|Tables||Money / Division||Measure|
|Starring||Joker||Jenny Hutchinson||Gareth Jones||Gareth Jones|
|King of Clubs||Tony Armatrading||Tony Armatrading||Tony Armatrading|
|King of Diamonds||Simon Davies||Simon Davies||Simon Davies|
|King of Hearts||Andrew Grainger||Andrew Grainger||Andrew Grainger|
|King of Spades||Paul Raffield||Paul Raffield||Paul Leonard|
|Queen of Diamonds||Liz Crowther||Carolyn Pickles||Anne Keaveney|
|Queen of Hearts||Janine Duvitski||Annee Blott||Julia Deakin|
|Queen of Spades||Polly Highton||Souad Faress||Su Douglas|
|Jack of Clubs||Andrew Grainger||Andrew Grainger||Andrew Grainger|
|Jackie of Diamonds||Josette Bushell-Mingo||-||-|
|Jack of Hearts||Paul Raffield||Paul Raffield||-|
|Jackie of Spades||Isobel Middleton||Isobel Middleton||Jan Goodman|
|Other Clubs||Paul Panting||Richard Henders||Louise Bolton|
|Other Diamonds||Katy Secombe||Lorraine Brunning||Joanne Campbell|
|Other Hearts||Florence Sparham||Amy Marston||Roy Litvin|
|Other Spades||Joseph Morton||Gary Sefton||Gary Sefton|
|Five of Hearts||-||Ginny Holder||-|
|Dancers & Acrobats||Sarah-Jane Honeywell|
|Voices||Marie Phillips as Goyle|
|Singers||Rita Campbell (Tables)|
Frido Ruth (Tables)
|Written by||Simon Davies (Money, Division & Measure)|
|Consultant||Pam Bailey (Tables, Money & Division)|
Robecca Thomas (Measure)
|Education Officer||Su Hurrell (Tables)|
|Education Advisor||Shelagh Scarborough (Money, Division & Measure)|
|Choreographer||Stephen Mear (Tables, Money & Division)|
Kevan Allen (Measure)
|Songs by||Simon Davies|
|Music composed by||Sandy Nuttgens|
|Designer||Shaun Moore (Tables)|
|Graphics||Paul Kavanagh (Tables)|
|Animation||Bevanfield Films (Tables)|
|Executive Editor||Frank Flynn (Tables)|
|Executive Producer||Anne Brogan (Money & Division)|
Clare Elstow (Measure)
|Producer||David Scott Cowan (Tables, Money & Division)|
|Director||Neil Ben (Tables, Money & Division)|
Ken Robertson (Measure)
At the Superhero School space station a young recruit enters a learning pod, hoping to develop the skills to become... Maths Man!
In the first unit, Fractions, the recruit (Craig Heaney) is guided by a mathematical tutor called Her Wholeness. The format allows Maths Man to be directly taught maths while viewers see him work things out, without the viewers appearing to be taught directly. There are intervals for a quiz show, Find the Fraction with Colin Cool, and a sports show called Sports Stand with presenter Sue Harker and pundit Harry Fraction.
Maths Man even appears to have a super villain to contend with. Each week he ventures down to Earth to help children overcome the mathematical mischief caused by the dastardly diddling Diddler.
A different recruit (Paul Vates) appears in the following unit, Shape and Space. He is guided by a tutor called His Wholeness and aided by the friendly on-board computer VERA (Voice Enhanced Resource Activator) and an animated character called 2D3D who appears in his virtual reality glasses. This recruit also faces regular challenge on planet Earth, but he also talks directly to the camera, to his "maths team" viewing from their classroom. At the end of each episode His Wholeness sets a puzzle for the maths team.
The same recruit appears in the final Megamaths unit, Problem Solving, sent down to Earth to tackle problems such as dividing eggs on a farm, weighing animals at an RSPCA centre, and buying ice cream on the beach.
Most Maths Man episodes were 20 minutes long, but the Problem Solving episodes were only 15 minutes.
|26.||Halves and Quarters||17 Jan 2000|
|27.||Quarters and Eighths||24 Jan 2000|
|28.||Fifths and Tenths||31 Jan 2000|
|29.||Thirds and Sixths||7 Feb 2000|
|30.||Decimals/Fractions||14 Feb 2000|
|Shape and Space|
|31.||2-Dimensional Shapes||19 Jan 2001|
|32.||3-Dimensional Shapes||26 Jan 2001|
|33.||Symmetry||2 Feb 2001|
|34.||Patterns||9 Feb 2001|
|35.||Moving Around||16 Feb 2001|
|36.||One Step Problems||7 Jan 2002|
|37.||Two Step Problems||14 Jan 2002|
|38.||Measure: Length and Time||21 Jan 2002|
|39.||Measure: Mass and Capacity||28 Jan 2002|
|40.||Money||4 Feb 2002|
|Fractions Starring||Craig Heaney as Maths Man|
|Shape and Space Starring||Paul Vates as Maths Man|
|Problem Solving Starring||Paul Vates as Maths Man|
|Written by||Simon Davies|
|Music by||Archie Brown|
|Executive Producer||Clare Elstow|
|Assistant Producer||Lubna Malik|
|Series Producer||Allan Johnston|
Teacher's notes were published each term that the series was broadcast from 1996 to 1999. They were available separately for each unit for a while afterwards.
Activity books, containing photocopiable worksheets and lyrics to the songs from each unit were also available for the table mountain units. The activity books features the playing card characters but could still be used independently of the TV programmes. The teacher's notes also included photocopiable activity sheets, but completely different ones.
Activity packs were available including the activity books and audio cassettes with songs and music from the TV programmes, and there were A2 posters for the classroom wall.
There was a Megamaths: Tables CD-ROM released in 1998, and a website atwith games set in the castle.
All of the Megamaths units were released on Video Plus packs, containing slightly edited versions of the episodes on video, teacher's notes and the relevant activity books.
The Fractions unit was also released on a DVD Plus pack in summer 2006. Fractions was chosen because it was "the most popular of the Megamaths units, covering an especially challenging part of the curriculum in an enjoyable and intriguing way."
Sources & References
- Fractions was "the most popular unit..." etc according to BBC Active (2007) BBC Active Primary Maths Catalogue 2007. Harlow: BBC Active, p.4.
Some random programmes for age 7-9 from the 1990s
|Ways with Words (1983)|
|Newes of the Weeke|
|Channel 4 Schools|
|The Music Show|
|Channel 4 Schools|
|Testament: The Bible in Animation|
|BBC Schools TV|