|Alex Kajitani, The Rappin Mathematician used rap to teach math & earned top teachers’ recognition|
Several people shunned early efforts to use rap and hip hop music to teach math and other subjects to struggling inner city and urban school kids. Over time, there have been several anecdotes and quantifiable output showing that the CDs do and have worked to improve test scores in critical school districts.
At the start of the millennium, Silver Spring, Maryland-based music producer David Printis Sr, his son D.J. and nephews Alonzo Powell and Everett Roundtree could be seen peddling math rap CDs out of the trunk of a car. Printis created “Multiplication Hip Hop” to help kids learn how to multiply. Printis, a music producer and owner of De-U records, told NPR in 2006 that he grew up watching School House Rock cartoons on TV and wanted to emulate that to get kids to learn their math tables.
“Multiplication has always been kind of tough for kids,” Printis told NPR’s Bob Edwards. “It was tough for me when I was a kid. This [CD] just makes it an easier way for them to grasp it. They just listen to it. You know how kids are. They just listen to the same thing over and over anyway. So why not something like this that’s going to give them a positive result?”
|School House rock cartoons shown during cartoons
taught children in the 70s & 80s
Around that time elementary school teacher Karen Kunkel created her own CD “Multiplication Hip-Hop” and saw comprehensive test scores raise from 23% to 72% for math proficiency within a year and credited the CDs influence for the jump.
And in Pittsburgh, one educator, Chuck Herring, produced his own line of CDs to teach children about adjectives, “I saw how my kids knew all the words to Tupac, Wu-Tang, Biggie,” Herring told the Chicago Tribune in 2003, “But they didn’t know what an adjective was! So I came up with a little ditty about adjectives.”
Critics, such as one educator in a 1999 bulletin board community, responded to reports about universities experimenting with rap to teach, saying rap and hip hop are bad role models, the approach is racially divisive and untested, and used inner city children as guinea pigs.
But he was wrong. They all were.
Around 2005, San Diego teacher Alex Kajitani became known as The Rappin’ Mathematician and his method of using rap to teach earned him the 2009 California Teacher of the Year award, and a top 4 finalist spot for National Teach of the Year.
And today, there are several companies, like Flocabulary, Learning Wrap Up, Songs That Teach, including several corporate ones that use rap and hip hop music in their education CDs. Even the videos on popular websites created by McDonald‘s, Disney’s Choo Choo Soul and other companies use rap to teach concepts to all children, not just inner city or urban ones.
Education isn’t linear, stoic, or rudimentary. Well it shouldn’t be anyway. This meme poster from veteran actor Michael J. Fox sums it up well.