How Making Music Made Math Cool in this Classroom | Class Act


-When people think of mathematics, they usually think that math is only in a math textbook. That’s the biggest lie we’re telling our students. Math is in everything that you do, from the time that you wake up to the time you go to bed. The planning things out and changing your plans and budgets and using algebra to find out how long it’s gonna take to save up for something that you want. I’m Robert MacCarthy, and I teach math. The students call me Mr. Mac. [ Soft music plays ] I’ve tried to listen to my students and see what they’re into and assimilate to their culture. What is middle-school culture? It is superheroes. It’s music, art. It is showing who you are through everything you do. So bringing in all these pieces of stuff that they have held on to, and they can show themselves through, it works every time. Everyone put your hand up like this. So, if you put your hand up like that — Mine’s probably gonna look like a “Simpsons” one. [ Laughter ] But I’m gonna add on an extra finger. All right, so, this is basically your song. And when you guys are writing today… The project we’re doing right now is to create some math songs. I brought it into the classroom first doing, like, show-and-tells, just videoing my students doing interesting things. The technology ramped up enough where I could try to make a music video, and it’s never left the classroom after that. I’m gonna pop around to each group. If you want to go outside on the benches, you guys know it’s a green light on the benches. Have fun. Get to your group. Pull out your lyrics. Let’s write some songs! -Algebra’s awesome We’ll show you how… -Oh, we’ll show you how you do it. -Oh. -Other teachers — they’ll just give you a sheet of math to do, and Mr. Mac — he’ll make a whole entire activity about it. He’s pretty awesome. -He makes everything fun, like a game. That really helps us understand how everything works. -[ Chuckles ] He’s un-describable. He’s really great. In math, you have to solve problems. You have to find answers. You have to explore. -Like, last year, I didn’t like it at all, and now he’s actually getting me interested in math. -Our brains work in really mysterious ways. But when you think about it, when you have a chance to use the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain in a math classroom and you’re making something creative, they’re in it. -The space inside all the shapes. -Oh, the space in– That’s perfect. -You know, I tell my students, “You got to learn two things. You got to learn your school, your academics, and then you have to learn how to work with everybody in the classroom. I don’t care how similar or different they look from you. It’s just as important as learning your academics, and you’re gonna go twice as far.” -Do you know the difference between expressions and equations? Equations equal something, and expressions do not. -Grouping, exponents, multiply or divide, add or subtract. It’s easy as pie. Actually, pie’s not a breeze, but once you learn the order of ops, math comes with ease. -I think part of what helped us all bond together was writing the song and having fun writing the song ’cause it was such a creative process that we were all involved in together. -College, college, college, college. -We are putting equations in our song, and basically, we’re sending a message out to people that algebra is not just a boring math thing to learn about. -“D” equals 5×9, yeah. We just want to rhyme all the time, yeah. [ Laughter ] – So, I’ll give you a thumbs-up on that, okay? -What starts with an “A” and ends with an “A”? -After this, since we’ve worked together, we actually learn how to get along. And now we’re just friends. -After the class finishes making all the songs, we have a song-listening party. And students are able to appreciate everyone else’s efforts and the songs that they’ve created. -You’ve gotta add to both sides. Otherwise, the math won’t slide. That’s right. -What time is it? -Algebra time. -What time is it? -Algebra time. -It’s kind of a celebration, actually, because they can all feel good about creating something. -Algebra’s cool. Can’t you see? We do it in math class every week. Whenever I do it, I be feelin’ like a geek. -Yeah! [ Applause ] What group was that? -Four. -Four? That was group four. [ Cheers and applause ] Group two. Are you guys ready to make a music video?! [ Cheers and applause ] All right, everybody else, let’s go this way. Follow me. We’re gonna sit in the dugout next to the rappers. So, you guys are gonna be right here. Can you make an angle to get the sun from there? To there to there? This is geometry 101. -I got a suggestion. -Shine it in his face. It’s gonna be really bright on you, but you just get used to it. -Here, here, here. -Okay, I’m rolling. [ Beat plays ] -What starts with an “A” and ends with an “A”? Algebra. It’s here to stay. -When you start doing and creating things that they’re already way into, and these videos are popping up on their phones and they’re showing each other in their spare time, not in the math classroom — They’re showing some math videos that they’ve made or their friends have made — I think that’s a pretty big impact in shifting math back to being a cool subject, which it always has been. Action! Being a math teacher isn’t really about just teaching math curriculum. It’s about teaching to the whole student to let them have a chance to voice their opinions and tell their story about what’s happening in their lives. Keep going, keep going, keep going. They like the game called education when you can put some fun into it and put your heart behind your lessons. -What starts with an “A” and ends with an “A”? -Algebra! G-E-B-R-A. Algebra! [ Cheers and applause ] -Yes! That’s a wrap, you guys! [ Cheers and applause ] Awesome job! -[ Rapping indistinctly ] Algebra is awesome. We’ll show you how we do it. [ Cheers and applause ] -Enough is enough! Back to your seats, every one of you! -Okay. -Boo!

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