What's New on 'Sesame Street'? Math and Science

This season, the show hopes to help students measure up in tough subjects.

ByABC News
September 26, 2011, 12:04 AM

Sept. 26, 2011 — -- This season of "Sesame Street," which premiered today, has added a few new things to its usual mix of song, dance and educational lessons.

In its 42nd season, the preschool educational series is tackling math, science, technology and engineering -- all problem areas for America's students -- in hopes of helping kids measure up.

Carol-Lynn Parente, the show's executive producer, said that 2-year-olds were more than ready for engineering experiments.

"It really boils down to a curriculum of asking questions, observing ... making a hypothesis and testing it out," she told ABC News today.

This season, "Sesame Street" will include age-appropriate experimentation -- even the orange monster Murray will conduct science experiments in a recurring feature.

'Sesame Street' to the Rescue

The show's producers say they are responding to an urgent need.

According to the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, among 65 industrialized nations, 15-year-olds in the United States placed 23rd in science and 30th in math.

For 30 years, researchers have studied what has been coined the "Sesame effect," in which they found that exposure to the program as a preschooler equaled higher achievement in high school.

Frequent viewers even earned better grades in English, math and science and had a higher grade point average than nonviewers.

"Children are learning the prerequisites so when they begin school, they're ready for school," said Sandra Calvert, a professor of psychology at Georgetown University and director of the Children's Digital Media Center. Calvert worked with scientists involved with the "Sesame effect" and conducted her own studies on "Sesame Street" character Elmo.

"They [children] know numbers, letters, preliteracy skills," she said. "So when they walk in the door, they are really ready [and] wired to learn."

Experts say that the show's curriculum is designed for children 2 and older and that children learn best when parents watch with them and ask questions during the program.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.