by Emma Gijsbers, AmeriCorps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team with Hennigan K-8 School
My students say they don’t like when I sing but I think they actually do. Usually I sing to get them engaged in the lesson. I’ll sing the math problem or sing follow-up questions to them. Or with some students I use it to encourage them to do work. If I say take out your book and they no, I can say, “Do you want me to sing?” and I know they’ll take it out right away. With one particular student, I know only to sing if it is absolutely necessary. Just the other week, for example, Jamaris* was struggling with a long division problem. Though it is a rare moment when I actually have a real math song to contribute to the lesson (usually I just make it up on the spot), this was one time where I had something in my back pocket. Earlier this year a teammate had taught me a song to remember the steps of long division and I was excited to share it with my student.
“I have a song!” I said to him when I realized he was struggling.
Jamaris* looked alarmed. “No, no, it’s really okay.”
“No, it’s a real song, I promise.” I pointed to the problem as I sang the steps. “Divide, multiply, and subtract, bring it on down, and bring it on back.” I looked at him with a smile. He didn’t say anything so I took that as a good sign. I sang it again. “Do the problem along with me,” I told him. “Divide.” He divided and wrote the answer above. “Multiply.” He multiplied and wrote the answer below. “And subtract.” He subtracted. “Bring it on down.” He brought the next number down. “And bring it on back.” He went back to the beginning. “See, isn’t it awesome?” I exclaimed. He shrugged but when I circled back later that class period, I heard him singing the steps under his breath and later that week, he and another student at his table were singing it together. Now, Jamaris* still stops me if I'm about to sing our long division song will live on.
*Name has been changed to protect student privacy.