Tim Fulton  00:08

Welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week, passions can take you on different paths. That’s true for Carolyn Farkas, who transformed her passion for teaching into a successful series on PBS. We sat down to discuss her journey, the future of education, the need for engaging and relevant learning experiences, and the importance of better communication and collaboration between parents, teachers, and the community as a whole. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cass.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Carolyn Farkas the creator and host of doodles and digits, a math learning show. Carolyn, how are you?

Caroline Farkas  01:06

I’m great. How about you?

Tim Fulton  01:07

I’m doing well. Tell us about doodles and digits.

Caroline Farkas  01:10

So doodles and digits, we are a company that tries to make math more engaging for students. The show itself doodles and digits, how its math is we go behind the scenes of different industries and share with students when they’re going to actually be using the math, they’re learning in class, in the real world, in different industries, and different career opportunities.

Tim Fulton  01:30

So like people that make the argument that algebra two shouldn’t be taught, and people should be taught how to do their taxes. But really, actually, Algebra Two is taxes. Like that’s Yeah,

Caroline Farkas  01:40

okay. Yeah. Cuz when I was in the classroom, my students would ask me all the time, like, when are we ever going to use this? And I love upper elementary math, because it’s actual math that you’re gonna use pretty much every single day.

Tim Fulton  01:50

Yeah. So and so let’s get back to that you started as a teacher? Yes. Tell us about that. So

Caroline Farkas  01:55

I was a fourth grade math teacher in Worthington for seven years. And I loved it. Having like those relationships with students was great. But during the pandemic, I mean, obviously, we’re hybrid remote and person, all of the different modalities. And I couldn’t find any math videos to help my students or even the parents, to be honest, right when they’re helping with their students at home for math. So I decided to create my own. And that’s kind of how doodles and digits came to be.

Tim Fulton  02:23

And so is it your it’s your job job now? Yeah, okay. Yep. It’s on PBS. Yes. Is it on the air just online.

Caroline Farkas  02:32

So it’s everything. So it’s on the app, it’s on pbs.org. And then it’s also showing across the entire country, just depending on like, what station when it’s showing it and things like that.

Tim Fulton  02:42

And you’ve done some additional sort of like content generation to rate, there’s additional, I think, worksheets or different graphics that you have available for folks to use. Absolutely.

Caroline Farkas  02:51

So we have a YouTube channel that not only has this show, but we have a lot of How To videos. So for example, how to find equivalent fractions, math, puzzles, things like that. As far as PBS goes, we’re going to also be on PBS Learning Media this summer, which is going to have lesson plans and worksheets to go along with all of the different segments of the show for teachers that they can use in the class and even parents to if they want something that their student can kind of follow along with at home. Okay,

Tim Fulton  03:16

so talk to me about so you have the idea of I want to create these things. You were talking before you we came on the air that you learned how to animate? Yeah. Because and I actually, admittedly have watched like one of the full videos, right, but it you you are an animated character and the host as well. Why did you learn to animate to do it? Or was it a passion of yours? Crying,

Caroline Farkas  03:42

I’ve always been into art I was there was a fork in the road back in high school if I wanted to go into animation or teaching and I chose teaching, and now, you know, kind of great, I get to do both. So I’ve always drawn things you can ask my students, I used to draw like, big pictures on the chalkboard and stuff just to get students engaged. So once I decided that I wanted to create a show, I was trying to think back if like all the things that I knew my students loved, things that engage students and things that kept coming up was animated characters. And so I decided, You know what, I have the skill set, I can learn anything I tell my students, if you put your mind to it, you can learn anything. So I learned how to animate and that’s kind of where we’re at.

Tim Fulton  04:20

And talk to me about sort of the business side of it you you made like, I don’t know, a pilot or like what how did you start pitching that like this is a resource that should be used? And then how do you monetize it?

Caroline Farkas  04:35

Yeah, so I actually started on YouTube. I made a lot of videos and I specifically made sure I was making videos that I knew like these videos like students need teachers can’t find. We gained a lot of traction on that like over 100 Different countries have watched my videos are getting assigned a lot in classrooms. And I started thinking like what else do teachers need? They need those real life examples because At the end of the day, we need to be showing students how they’re going to be using what we’re learning in class, so I kind of talked to a lot of different, like businesses in the area, and it was like, Hey, would you like to be on my YouTube channel? And I first pitched it to them? I’m a local teacher, I’ve got my tripod, my camera, can you, you know, just be on my YouTube channel. And once I started recording them, I realized like, this is something really special, like more students, you know, obviously need to see this. And I know I grew up on PBS, I was a PBS kid. It’s like, okay, so how do I get on PBS? So I googled it, I figured out the steps. I partnered I applied, I sent like a pilot to the National Education Telecommunications Association, or NIDA for short. Okay, they accepted it. And they are the ones who can like distribute it to PBS and all of the different stations because there’s actually over 300 PBS stations, okay. They accepted it. And then typically the next step is you get an underwriter or a sponsor, which I’m sure you’ve seen before PBS, like this show is provided in part by viewers like you am Yeah, right. So Scott’s Miracle Gro actually is my underwriter for season one. They loved what I was doing, I reached out and I said, Hey, would you be interested in partnering? And so they sponsored my first season? Okay.

Tim Fulton  06:19

And local connection, obviously. So you had to be an Is there anyone else we should be giving credit to for like these hats that you’re wearing? Because I just want to walk through them. Right? Like, content creator, animator, voiceover? I assume the camera work? The editor as well. Yeah. And the salesperson, and basically, producer for lack of a better term. Sorry, that is producing. Yeah, not lack of a better term that is producing. How? What was surprising to you going through that process? Like, is it one of those things? As I started doing, like event planning in my 20s, you sort of learned very quickly, like, oh, there’s a lot of steps here. But there’s no steps that anybody’s gonna tell me? No, I just have to get it done.

Caroline Farkas  07:12

You have to get it done. I think you have to, like, figure out the right questions to ask. And also, like, you just have to have like, that tenacity. Like you have to keep going. You have to, I always joke, like, you have to get really good at rejections. You might ask 100 people to be, Hey, you want to do this math YouTube show? And yeah, you know, 90 of them might be like, No, why would I want to be, you know, honest, not reply. Exactly. So it’s just, you know, I always knew that I wanted to do something for students. And just to keep going, and I kept telling myself, it’s like, okay, tell my students, you can do whatever you put your mind to, like, now I need to show up and do what I said that I wanted to. Yeah. And yeah, I am wearing a lot of hats. And I’ve learned a lot in the past couple years. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  07:52

Well, and so did you end up basically transitioning away from sorry, and I’m writing in between the lines here that like, it was sort of the pandemic that you were like, I don’t know that I want to do this forever. anymore.

Caroline Farkas  08:07

Yeah. So it was a couple things. I was in the classroom, still a year after the pandemic. But I also had two little boys to under two, okay, time. So it was kind of like a combination of a lot of things, everything was still shut down. I had, you know, an infant and a one year old, I still wanted to teach. And it was one of those decisions where I knew that I wanted to make a big difference and still be in education. And so I kind of just took the leap. And I said, Okay, I’m going to do this. And that’s kind of, you know, what happened. And

Tim Fulton  08:37

so you were able to basically, I assume there was a partner involved as well, right? That like you were able to, like, Hey, I got a target to take this time. And I’m gonna grow this business. Yep. And this is what and you know, bless them for that. So, talk through sort of, like, the research about the cut through the content generation of like, you referenced sort of filling gaps of like, this is the stuff that wasn’t there.

Caroline Farkas  09:04

Yeah. So all of my show, my show and all of my videos, we start with, like the actual learning standard that students are learning in class, okay, I was kind of finding when I was trying to find resources as a teacher, they were really entertaining like videos. And then there were videos that were teaching the, you know, the core concept, which I’m sure you’ve seen those. So dry, someone just like writing on a whiteboard, nothing engaging. So I’m like, Okay, we’re gonna start with the standard to make sure we’re to teaching the students what they need to know. And then we’re going to add those engagement pieces. And I’ve got my Master’s I love research. So I make sure I dive into the research like, what is engaging students? What is the best time length for videos like that most of the research shows 10 minutes or less. So all of my shows are to get them to watch it and be engaged the whole time and to get the content out of those videos. So for sample might show it’s around 30 minutes, but I purposely have broken it into three like 10 minute segments or less. So then teachers can show just like one segment, and then actually have them doing an activity or game or things like that afterwards,

Tim Fulton  10:13

but the full length of it is basically because PBS airs 30 minute long things. Yeah, got it. Yes. But

Caroline Farkas  10:19

on like my YouTube channel, it’s like the shorter segments. And then as well as like PBS Learning Media, it’ll be all the 10 minute or less segment chunks with all of the lesson plans.

Tim Fulton  10:30

Can I ask nerdy questions about like contracting? And who owns what and all that? So you have the the YouTube content that is specifically or no one’s actually underwriting that? Or are they?

Caroline Farkas  10:43

No, that’s all me and I, obviously YouTube ad generation, you get revenue from that even for kids stuff, even for kids stuff? It’s not the same amount as like, I’m sure like Mr. Beast or someone like that. But you still do get ad revenue. Okay.

Tim Fulton  10:59

So then the stuff that goes on PBS? Does it only go on PBS?

Caroline Farkas  11:04

No. So I own all the rights to everything. Got it. And that’s how a lot of other PBS shows you might be familiar with as well, like Fred Rogers studio and things like that. PBS doesn’t usually own the rights to that show. So Sesame Street, I think there was a lot of people upset. years ago, or whatever. Yeah. And they actually show I think their episodes first on HBO Now that and then they go to PBS. So yeah, I own my technically made production company owns all of the IP. And

Tim Fulton  11:35

but they are licensing it, but they’re licensing it through the by virtue of the sponsorship is that Yeah,

Caroline Farkas  11:43

so basically, I think that’s kind of a misconception I talked a lot of the public media people about is like you think on PBS, like they’re paying for a lot of the content and they aren’t a lot of the content is either sponsored by someone like Scott Scott’s Miracle Gro, or you might see these large, like federal grants, like the National Science Foundation, or things like that. That’s how production companies get the funding to make something for public television.

Tim Fulton  12:11

Got it. And so sorry, this is my my niche, right? You the Scotts Miracle Gro is paying PBS, and PBS is paying you some person like Scott’s Miracle Gro just pays you but there’s some three party agreement that what you’re doing is for PBS. So

Caroline Farkas  12:32

basically Scott’s Miracle Gro. It’s like the ad slot, the 15 second ads, yeah, but before the PBS pays me there are the and PBS that’s how they know that production companies are going to be able to make shows, right, and then I give all my rights my show for like the next three years. And it’s non exclusive. So like I could, you know, give it to Netflix or others. They

Tim Fulton  12:56

have the ability to air it. But it’s a non exclusive license

Caroline Farkas  12:59

plate for three years. And like, for example, Scott’s knew the Hey, this is a great show, we want to make sure that children are getting this across the country, we believe in this, we will absolutely pay for this 15 second ad slot beforehand. And I talked to them all the time. They’re wonderful. They’re, you know, to get this content out to students across the country. Got

Tim Fulton  13:19

it. So did you have to draft the contract with them? Do

Caroline Farkas  13:23

they? Oh, no, I have lawyers for that. I wear a lot of hats, but I know not to wear those hats. Got

Tim Fulton  13:30

it makes sense. Yeah. And so then talk about and how long have you been doing it? Forgive me for not knowing.

Caroline Farkas  13:36

So this is my third year. Okay. Yeah. Talk about sort of,

Tim Fulton  13:40

do you have growth plans? And like what’s next, like full disclosure, it was a PR person that reached out to me for the interview did Yeah. So like, you’re obviously in growth mode? Yes.

Caroline Farkas  13:50

Okay. Yeah. So I have really big plans. We’re going to start filming Season Two this summer. So I have a lot of companies interested in being featured I have a lot of companies interested just to be involved. So we’re going to start filming Season Two. But as a company standpoint, I really do want to grow. I think there’s something special where you’re taking education and adding the entertainment on top of it. And not just thinking about entertainment, especially in today’s world. There’s a lot of noise out there for students to watch. So I am growing my team, I want to hire some editors, I would eventually love to have a full blown production company, with animators, editors on staff that we can create a lot of great educational content, not only for teachers, but for families and kids as well. Frankly,

Tim Fulton  14:37

I mean, you don’t don’t do not tell me like what the final number is. But does the do the economics work? Like? Is it sort of like I’ve got to definitely get a commitment for a second season and that’s going to allow for me to hire an editor and like, is that sort of where are those the spreadsheets you’re looking at? Right? Yeah,

Caroline Farkas  14:55

so the the numbers are good, and edutainment is technically the industry. Yeah. industry is really booming right now. And I think it’s because there is such, you know, a need for at home learning teachers have enough on their plates, they’re trying to find good quality content actually help give to parents and students. So the numbers are there. I definitely though since it’s been me this whole time I’m open if anyone, like I’m thinking about maybe taking on investors or things like that as well. Just listeners. Yeah. So if anyone is looking to invest in, you know, an edutainment company, those are options we’re looking at as well. And we are working with some people at OSU, we’re looking at some federal grants. So we can actually do a lot of research with math learning. Yeah, with video, which is amazing. We drafted some grants up. So we’re hopeful that we’re gonna go and that’s

Tim Fulton  15:47

not just with WSU that’s like actual, like the Education Department. Oh,

Caroline Farkas  15:51

yeah. And big and big community partners, because this is something that I think is such a need. And a lot of people are seeing that we’re hoping to make a change bigger than just a show, we want to actually have, you know, data and research say, Hey, this is how you can teach math online, these engaging, this is like a reliable resource, you know, for your student at that age.

Tim Fulton  16:14

So let’s go back to the pandemic a little bit. Yeah. I think other than how we meet with each other and interact, the biggest change that sorry, the biggest and the quickest change that everybody did, was educating kids online. exclusively. Yeah, right. And not all of it changed, similar to how we meet with each other. I am physically in an office with people and we still meet on Zoom. Yeah, like, yeah, we can have lunch together and all that stuff. But like, I’ve got everything I need here. Yeah. And if there’s a third party, why would we be in a conference room on Zoom? Why not just everybody be on Zoom? Education, whereas like, my now fourth grade daughter, she’s, you know, got her Chromebook. And like, if she misses school for anything, whether it be sick, or like a ballet rehearsal, they’re like, Okay, you need to do this much of I ready, you need to do this. And like, you need to check these boxes, which to an extent is state standards, right? But also, it’s, this isn’t more efficient. And like they’ve demonstrated how well that can work. Oh, yeah. And I, frankly, at the beginning, I was like, is she learning? And like, tests? Say yes, like, yeah, yes. Yeah. Do you have an opinion about like, Do you think that’s good? Is that something we should be leaning into? I guess I probably know the answer, because that’s what you do. But like,

Caroline Farkas  17:50

I think is that a combination? I mean, I am firmly a believer that teachers will never be able to be replaced. Because they I mean, as someone who is in the classroom myself, like, they have that ability to see each student as an individual and tailor the lesson and truly know what that group of students needs. I think the video component online is a great tool just like anything else. And especially I know for parents, or even intervention, or that extra scoop of like, Hey, you didn’t get it like this first time? How will we have a different strategy? Because I struggled even in the classroom, like the students that sometimes struggled the most in math, the videos that they might need to watch to like review the concept, one, two, even three more times were so boring, right? Like, they’re gonna hate math even more, when I’m giving them these videos that are aren’t engaging, aren’t fun. And then if they hate math, they’re obviously not going to want to succeed in it. So I think it’s just giving teachers additional tools to teach. But obviously, I think, you know, education, Ed Tech, that whole industry, it’s helping teachers make sure that they’re meeting all of their students needs, instead of just having to like do it all themselves.

Tim Fulton  18:57

And this question is for the investors, do you see the company as it’s going to continue being edutainment? Or is it going to become an edtech company and sort of get into? You know, apps different like flashcards that interact with the camera on your phone, and like, all that sort of stuff? Or is it like, what’s the vision?

Caroline Farkas  19:24

I think it could be both to be honest, I’m actually I don’t know if you know what SD is, it’s like the biggest edtech conference in the country. I’m speaking this year actually at St. So like, obviously, right now, my videos are being used on a lot of different platforms like EdPuzzle and Google Classroom. You can see in the analytics, like most of my views, our teachers are like, this is a video is this embedded, we need to embed this and students are watching it. So I definitely think we’re gonna start with edutainment, but I think it’s one of those things like obviously all these other big companies, Netflix, things like that. They’ve come up with their own platform and we’re They’re, you know, having different algorithms and things like that. Right now, I think we’re focusing on the content, but I could definitely see in the future it going towards creating more than just videos to make sure that we’re meeting truly meeting the needs of teachers and students

Tim Fulton  20:14

that you’re not necessarily going to, like have a doll of your, the animated version of yourself. Or maybe you will

Caroline Farkas  20:20

have a math chicken. So we might have like, a stuffed math chicken, you know,

Tim Fulton  20:25

and do you think you’re gonna stay in this? upper elementary math is feels specific, right? Yeah,

Caroline Farkas  20:31

we’re gonna definitely stay there for right now. Because I think that’s where there’s such a need. And there’s so many people, I think, that have math, anxiety, or fear of math that we haven’t done what we need to do in that area. But like I said, if we keep expanding, I have a lot of teacher friends who are like, we need things for younger kids or even people in other subjects besides math. I’m open to it. But we’re for right now.

Tim Fulton  20:57

Do you have enough work to do? Yes, that’s, that’s fair. And I mean, Columbus has a character in this show, too, right? Like the the folks that you’re interviewing, like, make me happy. And like, I think a chiropractor that was here in Columbus, like do you intend on keeping it homegrown? Um,

Caroline Farkas  21:16

yes, we’re also open to expanding but I’ve been born and raised in the Columbus area. So it’s one of those things that there’s so much in Columbus, and there’s so many companies that are coming to Columbus that we could have endless amount of episodes, just on how different people use math. So the majority of episodes probably will be in Columbus. But I’m also open to you know, we might try to travel some places like NASA or things like that, just depending on you know, who wants to be on the show? And then what math? Obviously not everything is in Columbus. He can show other other places.

Tim Fulton  21:51

Absolutely. Yeah. What can people find on your website? What? What resources are available to be utilized?

Caroline Farkas  21:58

Yeah, so there’s a lot of different things on my websites, obviously, there is the videos, but there we also have a lot of blog posts with really great information about, for example, the best picture books for place value, or what you should be asking during during parent teacher conferences to get the most out of it, specifically for math. So there is a ton of resources for parents and teachers there. And we also have things like math coloring books, worksheets that go along the videos. Really, it’s a ton of different it’s a wealth of knowledge for parents and teachers got it?

Tim Fulton  22:27

What are you shooting with? Like what camera?

Caroline Farkas  22:30

So I started with an iPhone. Yeah, and now I have a Sony

Tim Fulton  22:34

okay. Yeah, great. Like a DSLR or

Caroline Farkas  22:38

a mirrorless. Got it? Okay. Yeah. And then everything with the whole Adobe Suite. Adobe Suite. Okay. Yeah, fair. What do you edit with ID

Tim Fulton  22:46

we? Well, there’s two iPhones currently in the room. And then Reaper for audio, but I’ve since we started doing video with Final Cut Pro, because it merges this and those so easily. And then yeah, and then actually edit the video first. And that just transfer that to an audio file. So, so nice. But yeah, mix these two different channels together first, because you’re gonna end up being quieter than I am. So yeah, yeah.

Caroline Farkas  23:17

Lovely mixing. Yeah. Yeah, that’s good. I’ve done a lot of that, too. recently.

Tim Fulton  23:21

I end every interview with the same two questions. What do you think Columbus is doing? Well, and what do you think Columbus is maybe not doing? So? Well, it does not have to be in the purview of your work. Sometimes it’s almost better if it’s not

Caroline Farkas  23:35

okay. Um, I think what commerce is doing well is, I mean, it’s a really great place to raise a family. I’ve gotten two sons. Every weekend, I feel like there’s something going on like this weekend’s like the art festival, you know, so, and it’s growing. And it’s exciting to see a lot of these companies come in and just, you know, how much is grown and it’s changing. Something that the second question is something that could, but

Tim Fulton  24:03

maybe it’s not doing so well, it’s not doing could do better, doesn’t do well, oh,

Caroline Farkas  24:10

I guess kind of two part. I feel like there’s a lot of companies moving in. And I think there’s a lot of great resources out there for parents and teachers. This is kind of in my sector. Okay. But I don’t know, like if like the communication or the collaboration between the two, because even as someone who taught in the classroom for like, seven years, over the past couple years, I’ve learned about all these awesome resources even within Columbus, and I had no idea as a teacher that you could be exposing. Yeah, exactly. So just helping families connect with those resources. And then also driving here, I would say public transit, because we don’t have much of that. And I just think about other larger cities that traffic sometimes a little crazy.

Tim Fulton  24:51

It is a common refrain. Yes. Carolyn, thanks so much for your time.

Caroline Farkas  24:55

Thank you so much for having me.

Tim Fulton  25:07

Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cass.com Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite entertainer. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson, our producers Phil Cogley, I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.