Check out this listing of The Simpsons episodes that feature math lessons. Having seen some of these episodes, I remember a few of these moments quite clearly. Yet, while it is clever that the writers dropped these in, how many of the viewers noticed? We could use these examples as a sign that The Simpsons is an erudite show, one often derided as an animated comedy with little redeeming value that typically punches above its weight in terms of cultural references and ideas. But, if the viewers don’t notice or care, what is the point (beyond making some critics happy)?
It sounds like we need an experiment where viewers are asked to watch these episodes and see if they spot these math moments. Or, we might set something up to see whether viewers of these episodes, compared to viewers of other episodes, learned something more. The answer, I suspect, is that including the math doesn’t change most viewers.