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Rap It Up

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Want to help your students remember tough concepts? Have you tried bustin’ some rhymes, professor? Alex Kajitani, an 8th grade algebra teacher at Grant Middle School, in Escondido, California, swears it works—at least for him. Donning a pair of sunglasses and an oversized necklace, Kajitani performs math-infused rap songs in class. His piece on the decimal point, for example, gets started like this:

“Now what in the world is that itty-bitty dot? Yo, I just can't remember, and it's making me distraught. I saw it in the price of the item I just bought. It's the decimal point, yeah, now you're gettin' hot!”

Kajitani says the idea began as a kind of lark, but then he noticed his students were actually singing his songs. “Sure enough, their tests scores started improving, and they seemed to start understanding the material I’d covered,” he said. Inspired by his success in class, Kajitani recently recorded a CD called “The Rappin’ Mathematician, Volume 1,” which has apparently found its way into other schools and some students’ homes (and at least one mom’s car). Unorthodox as it may sound, Kajitani’s method makes perfect sense to some, building on a rich tradition of classroom mnemonic tricks. “A lot of math is memorization,” said one of Kajitani colleagues. “Those kind of little catchy phrases, they stick, and that’s the first step.”

7 Comments

As a music teacher, I work to help students and parents understand that it's not the type of music that is good or bad; it's how we use the music or a particular style that is good or bad. This is a FANTASTIC use of music to reinforce student learning in a core subject. I think something like this is a superb resource for helping children remember math facts AND to use something that permeates everyday life in a positive way.

As a music teacher on the elementary level, I'm always looking for materials that will reinforce concepts that my colleagues are teaching their students in the core subjects. We are a team at my school, and that is part of my mission as a member of the team.

Thanks for posting this article!

Hi all,

Yes! Educational hip-hop is here to stay. Hip-hop not only engages students, it is a powerful teaching tool because rhymes function as mnemonic devices.

I also create educational hip-hop, with a group called Flocabulary. In our first album, we define SAT words. In our second, we tell the stories of U.S. history (coming out soon).

Thanks for featuring positive, educational hip-hop in this blog.
SAT Vocabulary in Rap

The idea of using rap to teach core subjects reminds me of the movie "Renaissance Man".

Kajitani's strategy is also one that teachers can use to tap into the multiple intelligences of their students. As opposed to the teacher leading the activity, students could be asked to assume the roles as the musicians and asked to create and perform their rhymes for other students. The student-centered approach is also one that creates an opportunity for students to learn in context, promotes social learning among students, and fitting of teaching in a multicultural classroom. Lots of value all the way around!

Hip hop is a great tool. However, I would lose the chain and sunglasses. Let's try not to promote the stereotypical images with which our students are already saturated by the media.

I prefer to call it Edutainment, but whatever you choose to call it, I say it's here to stay. My cd, DNA: A Sound Investment, seeks to accomplish all of the above, minus the stereotypes. After working with first graders for five years, I learned how important it was to really engage students. I'm told this character-based cd does just that. Long live Edutainment! www.supportdna.com

I call it Edutainment, but whatever you choose to call it, I say it's here to stay! My current cd release, "DNA - A Sound Investment", seeks to edutain, primarily through rap, curriculum and social skill subjects via an eclectic musical palette. The response has been great! I hope teachers will use it to augment their current teaching strategies.
www.supportdna.com

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