Interview on “Meet the Numbers Lady”

August 4, 2014- The blog featured an interview with Dr. Rebecca Klemm, The Numbers Lady. Read the full interview below or click here to see the original post.

What one word best describes your current state of mind?



NumbersAlive! is beginning to really take off and the products are finally out after 3 years of persistence and dedication.

What was your inspiration for NumbersAlive!?

After what was to be a one-off musical, Cookin’ Up Numbers, as part of the DC Capital Fringe Festival, parents told me they were fascinated by the storytelling and sensory romp through the history of math/science.  They asked me what I would do to alleviate math anxiety.  I said I would make numbers fun and friendly…..and relevant.

I don’t actually know when I was inspired to come up with the name, NumbersAive!  I wanted the numbers to come off the page and into the hands and hearts of children.  Three-dimensional plush was what was required to do that.  (I had sewn plush vegetables and clothing as a young child so I knew how to work on strange shapes.)

What is next for you as you continue to develop the products and the company? 

We are working on more games and activities.  We have Number Linx and Kick and Count in version 3 prototypes (usually version 5 goes into production).  Small board counting books using fruits and vegetables from around the world and birthday cards with meaning will be out in 2014.

We have worked on Birthday Bingo games and will have the free app to go with the Hello Numbers Discovery Pack out this summer.  (NumbersAlive! just heard that we are one of 5 finalists in the SXSWV2Venture competition for education this coming July in Las Vegas for educational technology.  Our submission to the competition was the Hello Numbers Discovery Pack with a draft of the associated free digital app. )  We are then working on a paid version of Hello Numbers that will allow for multiple languages being seen visually (and heard orally when clicked) now that we have one translated version of 12 languages now.  Teachers tell us they have students from very diverse backgrounds now and need materials in multiple languages.

Additional members of the STEM Squad are in level 3 prototype.  Level 1 was established in 2012 and put aside until now.


Tell us about Team Ten and the STEM Squad.

Team Ten are the 10 numbers 0-9.  I call them Team Ten as the ten numbers work as a team.  I want children to realize the numbers are individuals but work as a team.  That is what they will have to do during life.

The STEM Squad are higher level math and science characters. Like Team Ten, they are all international characters, understood by all cultures and languages.  (I do have one fun member that I will add for which there is no actual Greek or Latin letter, but a spoken concept in all languages I know.)

These characters, led by Pi, will include i (imaginary unit), phi (golden section—introduce logarithmic spirals and Fibonnaci sequence), e (natural logarithm and compound interest), c (speed of light), and infinity.

What awards have you received or NumbersAlive products?

During 2012 the book, NumbersAlive! Books for Young Travelers – Washington, DC (my first book) and the 2012 10” version of the numbers 0-9 received the Creative Child awards for educational books and products.  Since then we have not submitted products to additional reviews as we were developing the updated products and working on Hello Numbers book, and developing other products.

One-two weeks ago, The Hello Numbers Discovery Pack recently received the Mom’s Choice Award for educational book/product combination.

You are also known as “The Numbers Lady” – how did this nickname come about?

I am not really sure how I got the number.  However, my outfit was made before the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival where I was to be a featured author with the DC book.  I likely dreamed it up one morning.

numbers alive 2

What is the most challenging aspect in teaching kids about numbers?  

Children (also parents) think they either they are “masters” or scared of math.  I present a very different approach that inspires the students in a very creative way who are not challenged by arithmetic,  Students were are scared or think they can’t do math love the non-linear manner I present numerical relationships.  Children with special needs (blind teachers love the embroidered quantity dots on the back of the small numbers) usually require sensory learning.

Most of us lose fear when we hold on to something that is soft—boys and girls.  Although many parents think their “genius” child would not be interested in something the parent considers for “younger children” they are often quite incorrect.    Last week 9th grade boys could not stop petting 10” numbers while I was talking about the numeric meaning of the Statue of Liberty.  “They are really soft” was the comment.

Children are children and want to be comfortable.  Plush numbers really do help with lowering math anxiety.  I have seen it myself when I teach children and parents.  I have taught over 1,000 young children (pre-school to 5th grade) within the past year.

What is a little known fact about you? 

I started teaching when I was 20 years old.  The math dept chairman called me in one day and told me to report to the local high school (Talawanda High School in Oxford, OH) the next day and take over a class.

I have run a professional research firm and hired staff for nearly 30  years.  Team work , creativity and perseverance are important life skills that are slipping away from many in today’s educational environment.  I have seen it change over the years I have hired students after college.

numbers alive awardBlow your own horn – what do you want others to know about you?

I was a creative teacher from the day I started teaching at age 20.  I stated if I needed books to help me teach the subject, then I did not understand the subject sufficiently to really mentor the students.  At age 24 I created a life-relevant method to teach 7th grade that included applying for jobs and paying FICA and Federal and state taxes.  Once I got it to work during my second year, I left to finish my PhD. Parents gave me a party since it was the first time many of their children enjoyed math.

I was awarded the 1983 Decision Sciences award for teaching quantitative subjects in business schools while I was a teacher at Georgetown University.