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TV REVIEWS : 'Count on Me' Not by the Numbers

THE NEW SEASON. One of a series.

September 07, 1993|LYNNE HEFFLEY

In "Count on Me," tonight's math-friendly PBS special (KCET Channel 28, 8 p.m.; KVCR Channel 24, 7 p.m.), drama, celebrity spots and animation add up the ways math is used in everyday life and how parents can get involved in their child's math education.

Kicking off PBS' "Back to School Week" programming, the special takes viewers into a fictional urban community to show how a little extra parental effort, even in difficult circumstances, can keep kids from being turned off by numbers.

For what is essentially a public service program with a modest-budget look, a lot of ground is covered. Telma Hopkins and Mary Jo Keenen play grade-school teachers who break down the barriers that keep parents from playing an active role in their children's education by creating a workshop where parents and children play math games.

Ivory Ocean is a coin laundry owner who gives kids practical lessons in math through sorting and counting, and imparts life lessons to a diverse group of parents.

Elizabeth Narvaez-Scott must break down her husband's prejudices against her desire to go to college and become a teacher and Gedde Watanabe dispels a stereotype as an Asian-American dad who's no whiz in math.

The loosely structured drama is sprinkled with mostly inane celebrity moments with Jay Leno, Shelley Long, Raul Julia and many more, revealing that they use math "to count my lucky stars," "my blessings," to fill a motorcycle gas tank and for an agent's 10%.

It's the fictional characters who make the most meaningful contributions, even addressing the school budget cuts, broken homes and mean streets that complicate parent involvement. The hour ends with a helpful list of parent/child learning activities: play guessing games, find geometric shapes in nature, count, sort and measure in the kitchen.

Other programs in KCET's "Back to School" package of education-related programming this week include "High School Stories: One Day in America's Schools," a documentary at 9 tonight and, on Wednesday: "Something Within Me" (8 p.m.), about the value of arts education; "Good Morning Ms. Toliver" (9:30 p.m.), a profile of an award-winning math teacher, and "GED--Get It!" (10 p.m.), a celebrity-studded special aimed at encouraging adults who never graduated from high school to take the General Educational Development test.

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