Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (U.S. game show)

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (or 5th Grader) is an American quiz game show on FOX. It is produced by Mark Burnett and is hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. The show premiered as a three-day special which began on February 27, 2007 with the first two shows each a half-hour in length. Regular one-hour episodes began airing Thursdays from March 1 through May 10, and the first season continued with new episodes beginning May 31. Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? was picked up for the 2007–2008 season, which began on September 6, 2007, and airs in the same timeslot. A syndicated version of the show will begin airing in September 2009, with Foxworthy as host. The show also airs internationally, and the format has been picked up for local versions in a number of other countries.

5th Grader games are played by a single contestant, who attempts to answer ten questions (plus a final bonus question). Content is taken from elementary school textbooks, two from each grade level from first to fifth. Each correct answer increases the amount of money the player banks; a maximum cash prize of US$1,000,000 can be won. Along the way, the player can be assisted by a "classmate", one of five school-age cast members, in answering the questions. Notably, upon getting an answer incorrect or deciding to prematurely end the game, the contestant must state that they are, in fact, not smarter than a 5th grader.

Occasionally, an episode is aired where the contestant is a celebrity, playing for charity. Celebrities appearing thus far include Regis Philbin, Clay Aiken, Tony Hawk, Billy Bush, Kathy Ireland, Jill Mills, Lauren Nelson and Kellie Pickler.

The very first millionaire was Kathy Cox, the superintendent for the state of Georgia's schools.



The show was originally pitched as "Do You Remember Grade School?" by Burnett and Zoo Productions to network executives in the form of a six-question version of the quiz; the only network president who was able to finish the quiz as a winner was FOX's Peter Liguori. On January 31, 2007, FOX announced that they had picked up the show for an initial six-episode run, and on February 9, 2007, Foxworthy was announced as the host of the new gameshow. Less than eight weeks after being pitched, the first episode aired.

Set design

The show is filmed in front of a live studio audience, who are arranged in two levels around a rectangular area. One portion of this audience seating is raised above two walls of the main set, with the other situated behind the area where contestants and the host stand.

The main area of the set is originally walled off. As the title sequence plays, two of the walls, designed to appear as hallways, slide away to reveal the main set, modeled after a traditional elementary school classroom, and the children emerge, running through a small hallway containing cubbyholes into which they throw their knapsacks. They are then each seated at their respective desks, each marked with a nameplate, atop a raised platform. Beside this platform are two lecterns, one for the contestant (who also emerges from the hallway after being introduced), and the other for his or her "classmate." The lecterns are designed to resemble traditional classroom desks, but have translucent lighted panels and LCD displays mounted on front.

The classroom area of set also contains two large rear projection screens, which are used to display the list of questions, the current question and the contestant's progress in the game; these screens generally use green backgrounds and white text, reminiscent of a chalkboard, but are also used to display still photographs or video clips of the contestant as a grade-schooler. Another rear projection screen, situated in the audience area, is positioned to appear just over the contestant's shoulder to show the contestant and current question.

The set also contains other miscellaneous props, similar to items that would be found in a classroom; for instance, bookshelves full of books, different plants, a globe, and a teacher's desk are visible. Atop the desk is a fishbowl containing two goldfish, named Darnell and Mike, a presumed reference to Mike Darnell, executive vice president of alternative programming at FOX.


Each season, a new group of children are cast to appear as the "classmates" on the show. Any child cast must be "smart, funny, and outgoing", and must actually be in grade 5 (age 9, 10 or 11) during the television season.

Contestants who make it through the auditioning process are required to sign a one-year contract stating that they will not tell anybody how much money they make, and that they will not release any information about the actual auditioning process, such as the number of screenings, the questions asked by the auditioners, and the actual criteria for being accepted onto the show. However, most of the children are already well established actors.

Season 1's class (February 2007-August 2007)

Season 2's class (September 2007-August 2008)

Season 3's class (September 2008- ?)

During every classmate's final appearance on the show (Graduation Night), each classmate receives a $25,000 savings bond.

Special episodes

There have been a number of episodes aired that use special contestants. For instance, five episodes of the show had celebrity contestants (talk show and game show host Regis Philbin, singer Clay Aiken, country singer Kellie Pickler (both Pickler and Aiken were on American Idol), super model Kathy Ireland, skateboarder Tony Hawk, Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson, Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, and The Worlds Strongest Woman Jill Mills, with their winnings going to charity.

Other examples include an episode with a middle school principal as a contestant (subtitled Principal's Office) and an episode in which a woman was brought up from the audience to be the contestant after her husband won no money. She walked away with $175,000.

On the March 13, 2008,a literally just married newlywed;Dara Hewett; played the game after coming straight from her wedding party. Hewett was clad in her wedding dress and glossy dress sneakers; she left with $50,000.

On September 5th, 2008, Kathy Cox, the Georgia State Superintendent for public education, was the first person to correctly answer the $1 million dollar question and was able to say to the camera, "I AM smarter than a 5th grader !.

"Visiting Class" episodes bring a second group of five students in to play alongside the regular class at the time. Players are allowed to choose any of these ten students as their classmate during the game. To date, these episodes are:

  • July 10, 2008 (season 2): first-season class visited, with Marki Ann in Laura's place (see above)
  • September 12/September 19, 2008 (season 3): a set of quintuplets visited, all in their freshman year of college, with their mother as the contestant
  • September 19, 2008 (season 3): five dental hygienists visited, with the dentist who employed them as the contestant

On October 3, 2008, Robert "Hoot" Gibson became the first contestant to make it to the $1,000,000 question without using any of his cheats, however he answered the question incorrectly and left with $25,000, donated to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

  • On October 10, 2008, Ken Jennings appeared on the show and won $500,000. He chose not to proceed with the $1 million dollar question, but was asked the question anyway before leaving the set and answered it correctly. After that episode, he regained the status of having the highest total winnings on American game shows from Brad Rutter. (He needed to at least reach the $175,000 level and quit there to regain it.)

Upcoming special guests for Season 3 include: Larry The Cable Guy, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dean Cain, Jennie Garth, Gene Simmons, Rick Fox, and Star Jones.


Question Value
1 $1,000
2 $2,000
3 $5,000
4 $10,000
5 $25,000
6 $50,000
7 $100,000
8 $175,000
9 $300,000
10 $500,000
11 $1,000,000

In each game, the contestant (an adult) is asked a series of eleven questions, spanning ten subjects (such as Gym, Spelling or Art) taken from textbooks for first through fifth grade students. Each question is associated with a grade level; there are two questions per grade, from first to fifth. The player can answer the questions in any order, and each correct answer raises their cumulative amount of winnings to the next level (see table at right); after answering the fifth question correctly, they are guaranteed to leave with at least $25,000. If the player correctly answers the first ten questions, they are given the opportunity to answer a fifth-grade bonus question worth $1,000,000.

Five fifth graders (some of whom are also professional child actors) appear on each show and play along on stage – in general, each episode in a season has the same cast of children. Prior to the show, the children are provided with workbooks which contain a variety of material, some of which could be used in the questions asked in the game. The player chooses one to be their "classmate", who stands at the adjacent podium and is called upon for assistance in choosing a subject; the other four sit at desks off to the side. Each child acts as the classmate for at most two questions (done consecutively), after which another child is picked from those who have not yet played in that game.

Contestants have three forms of assistance (two cheats and a save) each available for use once per game (up to, but not including, the million dollar question):

  • Peek: The player is shown their classmate's answer and may choose whether to go along with it or not, however, they must answer the question upon using this cheat. In the second season, the podium turns yellow rather than red when a contestant decided to use the Peek.
  • Copy: The player is locked into using their classmate's answer, without being able to see it first.
  • Save: If the player answers incorrectly but their classmate is correct, they are credited with a correct answer. This is used automatically on the contestant's first incorrect response.

Once all three forms of assistance are used, the children no longer play an active role in the game. However, they do provide secret answers to be used for dramatic effect.

The rules change slightly for the million dollar subject. The player is only shown the subject of the question before deciding if they will continue or drop out. However, if they choose to see the question, they are no longer eligible to drop out and must answer the question, with no assistance from the classmates. A wrong answer on the question will cause the contestant to drop back down to $25,000.

If the contestant gets an answer wrong (and is not saved), they flunk out, and lose all of their winnings (or drop to $25,000, if they had surpassed the fifth question). As well, they may choose to drop out at any point during the game, which entitles them to leave the game with any winnings they have accumulated.

If at any point during the game the player drops out or flunks out, they must face the camera, state their name, and declare "I am not smarter than a 5th grader!" However, if the contestant wins the million, they will have the opportunity to declare to the camera "I am smarter than a fifth grader!"

"Classroom Club" questions were introduced into the game at the beginning of the second season. These are chosen from questions written by elementary school students, submitted via the show's Web site. When one is used, the school of the student who wrote it receives a computer lab, courtesy of the show. "Field Trip" questions, introduced in the third season, feature a video clip of a National Geographic Channel correspondent asking the question from an appropriate location somewhere in the world.


External links

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