Michael Wermuth – Learning to Add and Subtract is a Sesame Street video from 1987. The linking footage finds Big Bird needing to learn how to add and subtract “just in time,” and features various inserts about adding or subtracting.
The video begins with Big Bird needing to learn how to add, and Maria shows up and helps him. First she teaches him to add spoons, and after Big Bird learns to add spoons, Maria has Big Bird add some cookies. Of course, Big Bird thinks it’ll be hard, not realizing that adding is the same regardless of whether it’s adding spoons, cookies, crayons, or anything else. After Big Bird becomes good at adding, he remembers that he also needs to learn how to subtract, and like his adding lesson doesn’t realize at first that subtraction is subtraction no matter what he’s subtracting.
Throughout the video Maria keeps asking why Big Bird’s in a hurry to learn but Big Bird’s too worried about learning to notice her asking. For those who don’t want it spoiled I’ll wait until the last paragraph to say why he needs to know, though I will point out that the reason is mentioned on the video description.
The inserts are hit-or miss. Most of the Muppet inserts are great, most of the animated inserts are bland and forgettable. The Muppet inserts include Ernie and Bert teaching Shola to add fingers, the classic song “Born to Add,” Cookie Monster eating Ernie’s cupcakes, and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” with Cookie Monster and Guy Smiley. The only animated bits I like on this are the classic King Minus and a segment where gumballs are subtracted.
While all of the Sesame Street videos from the late-1980s are worth seeing, this is my least-favorite of the 1980s Sesame Street videos. The linking footage is rather bland, as are, as mentioned earlier, some of the inserts (though most of the Sesame Street videos I tend to watch for the inserts more than the linking footage). It’s not my least-favorite Sesame Street video, there are quite a few from the 1990s and 2000s that I like a lot less than this.
Oh, and why did Big Bird need to learn to add and subtract? Because he had promised to teach Elmo, only to remember that he didn’t actually know how to add or subtract himself. In fact as he starts to teach Elmo and points out that nobody knows how at first, he gives a very funny line about how there was a time when he didn’t know how to add or subtract.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org