- Thomas Mayfield tapped into rap music as a way to help his elementary school students in Fort Worth, Texas overcome their reservations to learn math, NPR reported. He said it helped his class feel more confident as he introduced math concepts.
- In addition to creating and singing rap songs about math, the classes also made music videos — with the focus on passing the annual assessment exam in Texas called the STAAR test. Mayfield, who is the current campus instructional coach for J.T. Stevens Elementary School, said the method helped improve both class attendance and state scores, and his former students said linking math concepts to music helped them remember details such as multiplication tables better.
- Mayfield now helps other teachers use the method with their subject matter, including history, and he has appeared on television talking about these videos and songs. He said using music has helped him to better connect with his students and inspire them to learn.
Educators eager to engage students across a variety of subjects have found that using music, ranging from hip hop to rap, is a captivating method. Teachers can encourage classes to write their own pieces, as part of a literacy assignment, using words tied to the subject matter and linking them to a beat. That process may help pupils retain and recall information later.
Mayfield turned to rap music to embed mathematical concepts in his students' minds. To replicate his method, he suggests educators start by getting to know their students first, particularly the kind of music they like and listen to as well. From there, teachers can find the instrumentals of those songs and genres, and then write some lyrics to those melodies.
“Sometimes I contribute one verse, and then they write another verse,” Mayfield told K-12 Dive. “I give them a word bank, with math that may be using the words ‘expression’ or ‘variable,’ and they come up with verses using those mandated words.”
In this way, the method allows for cross-curricula teaching opportunities too. Depending on the subject, and the beat of the music, the words can be changed to fit any lesson whether that’s science, social studies or math.
“This is all about syllable usage, so you’ve got two birds with one stone,” Mayfield said. “You’re getting to where you can teach across content, which should be the goal for every teacher. If you’re teaching math and not teaching literacy, you’re not doing the work.”