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"It's a No-Brainer"
Season/Series: 5
Number in season: 3a
Original Airdate: United States October 9, 2000[1][2]
Canada January 10, 2001[3]
Written by: Dietrich Smith
Storyboard by: Robert Yap
"Nerves of Steal"
"The Shore Thing"
Read transcript

"It's a No-Brainer" is the first half of the third episode in the fifth season of Arthur. It was later adapted into the book Arthur and the No-Brainer.


When Brain loses his cool and loses to Buster in the Math-a-thon, he decides it's time to give up his books and his nickname.


Mr. Ratburn has the class draw straws to select the student who has to compete against Brain in the third grade Math-athon. Buster is chosen, much to his dismay.

It's a No-Brainer

During the Math-athon, Buster answers the first question with a joke. Brain at first wants to pass the question, so as not to embarrass Buster, but his brain (which appears as a brain-shaped person inside his head) makes him answer. The answer he gives is wrong which confuses him so much that he is unable to answer the other questions. Buster gets, since the questions refer to TV and food, so he wins.

Buster is chosen to represent the class at the interclass Math-athon. Meanwhile, Brain finds that he can not concentrate. He has a fantasy in which his IQ drops to average. He gives Buster his books and science equipment. He says he wants to be called Alan and starts training to become a comedian, since that does not require great intelligence. His friends try unsuccessfully to talk him out of it.

Brain gets himself a clown costume and plans to perform at his parents' ice-cream shop. His friends send various math problems his way to tempt him. When he tells them to stop, a math book falls out of his clown pants. Brain admits that he really wants to do the Math-athon.

Mr. Ratburn lets Brain trade places with Buster and Brain performs well at the Math-athon. His brain does push-ups while Buster's brain watches TV.






Main article: It's a No-Brainer/Gallery


  • This episode (along with "The Shore Thing") no longer airs in the United States, likely due to Brain jokingly drawing a noose. This episode pair last reran in March 2021, and was one of five episode pairs not included in the February 2022 marathon on PBS Kids. The pair was also removed from Amazon by April 2021, and is one of only two episode pairs to not be available for streaming on said service (the other being both parts of "The Great MacGrady (Season 13 episode)").
  • The answer to the equation Francine asks Buster to prove he can't be like Brain, or Alan, ["x equals pi times y cubed, and y equals the square root of 78"] is 2,164, rounded to the nearest whole number.
  • The equation that lands in Brain's prop box (AB + 22) is impossible to solve, as neither A or B are defined.

Episode connections

Cultural references

  • Buster mentions the myth that Albert Einstein got bad grades in school. Later, Arthur promises Brain a free trip to Einstein's birthplace, which is Ulm, Germany.
  • The episode has the first appearance of the Tolon Wall to Wall moving company, later named Tolon's Moving. It is named for Tolon Brown. Another moving company, Fallon & Son, named for Joe Fallon, had appeared in earlier episodes.


  • When Brain's brain reaches for the binoculars, his arms are brown instead of gray like they should be.
  • After Francine drops the math book, it vanishes.
  • When Mr. Powers defines "chimerical," the dishes of food on the table change. In one scene, they are part of the painted background, as opposed to the foreground drawing.

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