NPR had a short piece this morning about the connections being made between Algebra students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Springs, Maryland and their teacher, Jake Scott. What made the learning environment in Mr. Scott’s classroom worthy of national attention? Mr. Scott teaches a diverse student body, where “Students come from various neighborhoods in the district, some rougher than others.” His own experience growing up mimics the reality for some of his students; selling drugs, theft, and other less than ideal past times. Which is why NPR decided to run a story about how Jake Scott is using rap to help engage his algebra students.
The idea of using rap to engage students, and get them past that extrinsic/intrinsic motivational point isn’t anything new, as Mr. Duey has been doing the same thing for many years as well right here in Michigan.
In fact, a quick search on YouTube show just under 80,000 videos about “math raps”, many of which follow in the same vein as the educators above, as well as Alex Kajitani, the Rappin’ Mathematician.
I’m not going to even attempt to match my rap wits with these fellow educators, and I’m certainly not going to be sharing any tips on how to solve math problems…my last experience actually teaching math was 11 years ago during my student-teaching experience. What I love about what’s happening here, and what NPR picked up on, is the connections that Jake Scott is trying to make with his students. While I can’t vouch for the other educators in the videos I posted, it seems like they’re looking for the same common vernacular to build connections with their students. That to me is more powerful than any video Khan Academy or “expert videos” created by other content publishers.
Mr. Scott even takes it to the next level, encouraging his students and fellow educators to work with him to create and share other rap examples of math problem solving.
As far as I’m concerned, these guys earn high marks in my book, not just for putting themselves out there, but developing a new spin on the age-old practice of creating mnemonics and rhymes to help students remember some of the fundamentals of mathematics that should be automatic before students take on higher math functions. What’s even better, is that it’s a great model for your own students to express themselves and connect through a medium that “speaks” to them. It’s not so much about the resources each of these educators has provided (there are plenty, go look through their channels and bookmark your favorites for use in class). It’s about the storytelling and the personal connections that we should all be trying to make, and letting technology amplify what we do as educators, not serve as an extra barrier between us and students.