Not too long ago, I reviewed the BBC children’s TV series Alphablocks, the show which personifies (with a little help from me) each of the 26 letters of the alphabet and makes them sound and spell out words via means of holding hands. It’s something of a hit here in its native England, though almost relatively unknown elsewhere in the world, helping kids to learn their ABCs.
Since then, the Alphablock gang have gained new friends in their ongoing mission to help kids learn those most basic symbols of writing… and counting. You can count on them – they’re the Numberblocks!
Numberblocks is the newest arrival in the CBeebies family. From the same people who built Alphablocks, this new series – made up of 5-minute episodes – aims to help kids learn those maths skills which are so badly needed nowadays, much like their letter counterparts. It’s still relatively new – it only began airing at the end of January this year (2017) – but it has already racked up a great amount of episodes, and even some excitement from parents who would normally reserve this excitement for bigger shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. (Which are MUCH darker than Numberblocks, or Alphablocks for that matter…)
Each number is personified using coloured blocks, rather like Lego or those tiny cubes which I used as a primary school girl in my maths lessons. (Hence “Numberblocks”.) The blocks are coloured like the colours of the rainbow, with little stubby arms and legs. Above their ‘block-heads’, a tiny black floating numerical figure – referred to in the show’s canon as a ‘numberling’ – represents the number of blocks which make them up.
The magic starts when one of the Numberblocks jumps onto another – they fuse together to make a new, bigger number, like building a brick tower. This example shows what happens when One and Two jump atop each other to make Three.
And here’s a little run-down on each of the characters introduced in the series so far:
One is a singular red block. With her singular eye, she looks like a Cyclops or a red-skinned version of Mike from Monsters Inc. (though without the little horns on her head). She loves to find things which are alone.
Two is a mini-tower of two orange blocks placed on top of each other. He wears heather purple-rimmed glasses and orange shoes with white socks. He helps One find pairs of things, like shoes or socks.
Three is a tower of three yellow blocks. She’s the resident clown, with her red buttons, red hat, and her love of juggling things.
Four is, depending on what he wants to be today, either a square or tower made of four green blocks. He loves squares, so he wants to be square the most. Even his eyebrows are squares.
Five is a big, tall tower of five light blue blocks. She’s a bit of a star – she’s the number of how many points there usually are on a star shape – and she even gets the other Numberblocks into an all-star musical band in her eponymous episode.
Six is an indigo tower of six blocks marked with dots like a dice, reflecting the fact that dice have six sides with up to six dots on each face. Naturally, she loves to throw and play games with dice.
Seven is a little different from the previous six – he’s a towering rainbow of colours, literally! He was originally plain purple, but underwent a magical transformation when he was exposed to the colourful rays of a rainbow, turning him seven-coloured. He has an Irish accent, possibly suggesting the myth of leprechauns being found in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Eight is a pink tower of eight blocks with octopus tentacles! He’s really a superhero called Octoblock, who can climb walls in a similar fashion to Spider-Man. I wonder what would happen if he and X from Alphablocks went out to save the world together…
Nine is a tower of nine blocks in three different shades of grey (definitely not a reference to a certain novel…) His appearance in Numberland catches Four’s attention, since he also likes to be a square like him. However, just a mere day later, he became sad because he thought he couldn’t get any bigger, until One had an idea and jumped on top of him, thus becoming…
Ten is the tallest of all the Numberblocks as a red-and-white tower of ten blocks. Looking as though she could be Five’s bigger sister, she completes the two lots of five with her two gloves, both with a big high-five (or a high-ten). She’s the first double-digit Numberblock, which might open up a new pathway for the show to go down…
In the world of Numberblocks, counting, adding up, and even subtracting are shown in an easy-to-understand visual format for preschoolers, helping them to understand how things are enumerated and measured in the real world, with the help of these colourful characters.
Much like their letter friends over in Alphaland, the blocky inhabitants of Numberland look set to make another huge success in the preschool education world with their target audience and their parents alike. Though it might take a little bit of time to see where that’ll go from here, since the Numberblock gang’s show is mere weeks old compared to their letter buddies, whose show is now 7 years old, have their own magazine and even get a mention in the new video which celebrates the very best of the BBC, getting rhymed with the genius Professor Brian Cox! (And on a little side-note, I’ve also humanized the Numberblock gang… who will get revealed very soon.)
Remember, you can always count on them – they’re the Numberblocks! The show is now available on the BBC iPlayer, on YouTube, or if you have little ones, they can be seen almost every day on the CBeebies TV channel (UK only).