Rebecca Klemm, The Numbers Lady creator and executive director at NumbersAlive! explains how the brand has expanded into the worlds of publishing, digital apps, and educational toys.

NumbersAlive’s Rebecca Klemm on turning a one-off musical into a successful brand

Firstly, can you tell me the history behind the brand?

In 2010, I conceived of a musical, Cookin’ Up Numbers, that I then hired a creative team to compose music, write dialogue, create number puppets, direct and act. Visual and sound interpretations of numbers were coordinated with the songs and dialogue. 

What was to be a one-off in my bucket list evolved into NumbersAlive! due to comments by parents and teachers not to stop, as the concept presented in the musical was the most interesting way to understand the meaning of math. 

As a seamstress, I then began developing plush numbers in various sizes so that learners could physically make three-dimensional numbers in their own hands and that numbers would become “friends you can count on.“

How did the brand perform over the past 12 months?

The brand has garnered much recognition in all areas: publishing, digital apps, and educational toys/tools and has begun to sell to schools and individuals in all continents.

We have now added songs unique to each number. Numbers are universal and the visual and tactile components demonstrate the universality.

How many licensees does it have to date?

To date we have not completed any license agreements but we are working toward that goal for 2016.

What are some of the best performing products?

Plush numbers 0 to 9 in the backpack, plush pi, pocket pi, books, digital app and puzzling polygons for pre-K- college

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year?

Yes. An interactive (sound and tactile) fabric book, Hi 5! is currently in production. It is designed for small fingers to feel and see numbers 1 to 5 compared to geometry and feel them in their own hand. 

Also currently in production is “Roll, Count, Move!” a physical game based on a dodecahedron ball with 12 physical activity cards. Another app should be out by January 2016.

We attend maker faires working with learners of all ages to imagine, design, and create houses for numbers as part of NumberOpolis! We will create activities and packages encouraging such creative building that reinforces numeracy. A digital app/book will follow the discovery of math tools that the numbers will use to respond to issues they encounter in a manner parallel to how human need evolved.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2015?

We will be launching a Klemm Conjecture that relates to Puzzling Polygons for fall 2015. The first person to prove or disprove the conjecture will win an award.

What has the retail reaction been like to the brand?

Educators have embraced the learning tools and the breadth of the learning modalities embraced by the interrelated learning tools and we have received many awards.

What are some of the main challenges you’ve come up against? And how have you overcome them?

Being a startup focused on foundational numeracy is very difficult. There are so many flavours of math education and associated “manipulatives” that often teach things that have to unlearned at a later date.

I decided to approach math understanding as the human endeavor it is. Rather than force learners into the black/white world of abstract math, I move them from their own world of childhood discovery into the illogical world of adult interaction. 

I embrace thinking like a child. One plus one is not always equal to two. It depends on whether the items are of the same units and have the same value to the recipient. This is, of course what the world faces when currencies lose value.

Ask a child what one apple plus one orange is. Be ready for a lot of responses. It can be thought of as two fruits or two pieces of food, but if someone is allergic to the orange, the response is one thing I can eat and another I cannot eat. If the apple is bad, the response might be one apple plus one orange is one edible orange.

Presenting such realistic settings for math concepts has not been easy, but once adults watch children learn and begin to lead them from their imaginative unfiltered perspective they can learn very quickly what the adult world is about 

My academic credentials and public speaking and working with the public at events has helped folks see the value to children and themselves of the thinking process.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand in 2015?

More visibility and distribution in more settings to reach more learners.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

NumbersAlive! embraces 21st century skills often defined as imagination, teamwork, creativity, invention and cross-disciplinary problem-solving.

The blended learning tools allow for diverse learning styles for groups of learners as well as individuals.

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