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Teach Me How to Factor: Creating a Math Craze

May 14, 2015

One of the biggest keys to success in our schools is to support teachers in their effort to build personal relationships with their students and to engage them. Teachers have been doing this for years inside of the classroom, but technology now gives them the ability to connect and reach students at all moments of the day. Between websites, YouTube videos, Twitter, and other forms of social media, teachers are able to connect and reach out to their students in ways that were not even possible a little over ten years ago. The effect that teachers can have on their own students, their school, and in some cases, students and teachers around the world, can be very profound.

Today’s teenagers view video screens, whether it be on televisions, computers, or smartphones, roughly seven and half hours a day. With games, movies, music, and social media at their fingertips nearly every waking moment, teenagers can easily be distracted from pursuing educational activities by various forms of digital entertainment. Teachers have a lot to compete with to win their students over, and at times it can seem almost impossible to garner the attention of their students.  

Rather than feel the need to fight for my student’s attention, a few weeks into my fourth year of teaching, I had the desire to do something that would help my students more willingly connect to my math class. In many ways, my goal was to blur the lines of learning in school versus learning at home and to blur the lines between entertainment and learning. My goal was to create an educational music video that took a popular song that my students would enjoy, yet teach students about mathematical concepts and procedures. To further engage students, I thought of ways to incorporate them into the music videos so that they could feel more ownership in the project.

The first song that myself and another colleague had created was “Teach Me How To Factor”, a parody of the popular song, “Teach Me How To Dougie”. From the start, the song (which has an accompanying dance) was a success with my students and our school and soon became a hit on YouTube. Students in my classroom legitimately wanted to learn how to factor to really understand the lyrics of the song and be a part a part of the new “craze”. Since that time, myself and three other colleagues at Westerville South High School created a total of six more educational videos that can be viewed on YouTube.  To date, the seven videos have over 4.6 million views.

One of the great things about working on projects such as this, is the positive feedback that we have gotten from students and teachers around the country and around the world. Teachers have found that the videos are a way to spice up a lesson or to hook their students at the start of the period. Students have found that the lyrics and the visuals in the videos are useful tools to help them remember strategies and techniques for solving mathematical problems. Many teachers have told us that the videos have inspired them to create videos with their own students, thus giving them a way to build a better relationship with their students and for their students to take control of their own learning. Ultimately, technology gives teachers the ability to reach their students outside of the classroom and to have a greater impact on public education in general. It is within projects such as this that our teachers and students are given the outlet to collaborate and be creative and to engage in the learning process. Technology is able to distract students from pursuing educational activities, but it can also be an incredible platform to connect students to the learning experience at all hours of the day.