SOS: Math Songs Rule!

Background

We forget the rules of math. Have you seen math problems passed around Facebook? They are generally Order of Operation problems that need to be solved using PEMDAS. The problems are put out with the challenge that 97% of people will get it wrong. Why would a problem like this give adults trouble if it is something that we teach 5th graders? Adults have forgotten school items that they do not use in their everyday life. Will Thalheimer presents studies in which college students forgot 84%-92% after eight years. Adults have an even longer time since they sat in a 5th grade classroom.

Some math rules are more specific than others. They need multiple approaches to the learning, which should also be and available at home where their parents have long since forgotten the math rules. Students do not have a disciplined way to think about math. We, as teachers, need to form this mathematical thinking. I am going to take Howard Gardner's four essential steps to disciplined thinking and apply it here. (2008)

1. Identify the truly important topic. My example will be Order of Operations, which fits this test. These rules guide problem solving in Algebra and Calculus, which are important fixtures in middle school and high school math.
2. Spend a significant amount of time on the topic. Each teacher needs to find this amount for themselves.
3. Approach the topic in a number of ways. Here is where we will focus. In addition to teaching the method, music videos should be used to reinforce what they just learned. This will help reach more learners and show what genuine understanding looks like, according to Gardner.
4. Set up performances of understanding.

Dr. Math, a part of Drexel's Math Forum, says that "(M)aking a song or story helps you learn." Music videos made for math give a number of different pathways to a topic. The words that are sung are giving the rules that students need. They are moving with visuals that can show the math in work, or give symbols to the words to aid vocabulary knowledge.

Citations

Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future (Pbk. ed.). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press.

Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math FAQ: Learning Multiplication Facts. (n.d.). Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math FAQ: Learning Multiplication Facts. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.learn.multiply.html

Thalheimer, W. (2010, April). How Much Do People Forget? Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.work-learning.com/catalog.html

Example

Songs for Order of Operation

Songs are a great supporting teaching strategy. I teach and work with my students before we get to the songs. I have found that using a song before introducing students to the topic makes confusion rather than being helpful. After they have had a few practice problems, that is the time for the song's be entrance. The students will comprehend it, and add meaning for those who need the scaffolding to understand.

"PEMDAS, Don't Stress" and "Order of Operations, PEMDAS" will be great to play while I am checking homework completion at the beginning of class as we move through the unit. In fact, as I was gathering songs, my sons ran over claiming they "loved" this song because I had the Flocabulary PEMDAS song on. I have to give credit to their math teacher who found it first.

After all of this is being used in class, I will set up links for the students to access it at home. They love to share this kind of learning with their parents. Parents will come into conferences, or stop by to see me to tell me about how excited their child is to share a song.

YouTube has a variety of talented educational singers. I prefer YouTube because many of the songs have visuals that help students follow what the song is teaching.

History Songs

Kids Know It has education songs on a variety of topics, but they are audio only.

Have Fun Teaching has a song selection for younger students.

PEMDAS
Flocabulary - Order of Operations - PEMDAS

Challenge

Join me in adding fun, music and visuals to your math teaching. Math can be fun, and students will remember the songs and the skills that go with them after school is over. Please feel free to use any ideas I have gathered here, find or create your own videos and songs to approach math from multiple angles.

• Play the songs during transition times.
• Play as a follow up before students start working independently.
• Link to them on your school websites so students can easily access them at home.