Marvelous Musical Math

I'm excited to welcome Sandra Riddle of The Brighter Rewriter as a guest blogger. Sandra is sharing some methods she uses to teach math facts. Enjoy! - Rose

Teachers, have you ever heard a song early in the morning and then had it stuck in your head ALL DAY? What about a commercial jingle? Can you sing all the lyrics to songs that were popular when you were a teenager? Most people answer “yes” to all of those questions. It is easy to see that music has a powerful and long-lasting effect on the human brain.

Math and music naturally go together. They are both built on patterns. Math chants and songs make learning math seem easy and effortless. The tunes will satisfy your auditory learners, while including graphics or videos will help your visual learners. You can make your kinesthetic learners ecstatic by adding in movement or dance.

I like to use old children’s song tunes and new pop tunes for math songs. Even if you don’t do the whole song, one verse or a chorus will engage students and help with learning. Don’t worry if you are not a good singer (I’m terrible). The kids won’t care. You can sing without using any music at all, but if you’re really ambitious you can find instrumental versions of almost any song in the history of the universe for free on YouTube.  

Here is an example of a math song that uses an old children’s tune. It is about place value and can be sung to “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

Ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands
Hundred thousands, and then millions
Ten millions, hundred millions, then billions
Place value’s about location

This class favorite helps students remember steps in subtracting. It uses the chorus from “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. It’s great fun to dance to this one!

If the number’s more on top, top, top, top, top
Then I don’t need to stop, stop, stop, stop, stop
This is the easy op, op, op, op, op
I take away, I take away
If more is on the floor, floor, floor, floor, floor
Then I will go next door, door, door, door, door
And I will get 10 more, more, more, more, more
I take away, I take away

What about multiplication facts? Every 3rd grade teacher knows he or she will have at least a handful of students who cannot seem to memorize their times tables. Every 4th and 5th grade teacher gives that special “math talk” at least once each school year. You know the one. It’s where you explain that performing math operations such as multi-digit multiplication and long division would be SO much easier if basic math facts could be recalled with automaticity.

I offer a free resource that outlines a very successful method for achieving multiplication success in 3rd grade. It involves starting with what most 3rd graders already know (counting by 2, 5, and 10), then showing them how skip counting and repeated addition is actually multiplication in disguise. Next teach them the commutative property for multiplication, followed by teaching the times table rules for 0 and 1. Once this is done, there are only 21 facts left to learn! Memorizing 21 multiplication facts is a goal that even math-phobic students believe they can reach.

Here is my multiplication freebie:

I’ve had great success with students learning “the 21 hard facts” using chants and rhymes. One student favorite is the Zombie Rhymes Rap. I’ve created a short rhyme for each of the 21 hardest multiplication facts with a cartoon-like zombie-themed illustration. Kids LOVE to watch and sing along with the video and don’t even realize they are memorizing their times tables. The Zombie Rhymes Rap is available in different resources to suit your needs from my TpT store, the Brighter Rewriter.

Here are two examples of the Zombie Rhymes.

Zombie Rhymes Video:

Zombie Rhymes Video and Poster Set:

Zombie Rhymes Bundle with video, posters, coloring pages, bingo & more:

Students BEG to see the video. It’s a great transition tool or brain break. Students also love to dance to the rap beat and make up motions to “illustrate” each rhyme. If you have never used math songs or multiplication rhymes before, I hope I’ve convinced you to give them a try. I think you will find that a bit of music in math class is quite marvelous!

About Me

I’m Sandra Riddle, aka The Brighter Rewriter on TpT. I have 32 years of teaching experience. I’m officially retired now, but in my teacher life I taught regular and TAG 3rd grade for 22 years, ESL PK-5th for 6 years, and reading and math interventions 3rd-5th for 4 years. Each year, one of my most successful learning strategies involved using math songs to help students experience success.

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