Math = Love: Singing and Writing Math Songs

## Saturday, September 27, 2014

### Singing and Writing Math Songs

My Algebra 1 students are currently working on graphing linear equations.  There are a ton of great math songs/videos out there about this topic, and I've been showing to them to my students.  We've watched Graph Shop, Graph!, Rise Up Run Out, Slope Rida, and The Adventures of Slope Dude so far this year.  I also showed Gettin' Triggy Wit' It to my trig class.  My Algebra 2 students are soon going to feel left out because we haven't watched a video all year...

One of my usually very quiet eighth graders raised her hand this past week and asked, "Why don't you make awesome math videos for us?"  Well................ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........you see... it turns out I'm not the most creative person.  I tend to leave this job to the professionals.  And by "professionals," I clearly am referring to math teachers who are much cooler than me.  I know the fact that there are cooler math teachers than me in this world is hard to wrap your mind around, but please try.

My trig students have just started working with radians.  I wanted them to get a grasp of just what a radian is.  I know that when I took trigonometry in high school, I knew how to do a lot of trig, but I didn't quite know the "why" behind a lot of what we did.  I was the type of student who didn't ask questions.  If a teacher gave a rule or showed a procedure, I followed it.  Since I've started teaching, I've become a lot more curious about mathematics.  What is a radian?  Why does that shortcut work?  What is that little number perched by the radical sign called?  Why are they called conic sections?  I'm continually learning, and this is one of the reasons why I LOVE my job.

When I started researching just what a radian was, I found a great discovery activity that I'll blog about soon.  In one of the lessons I found, there was a song to help students remember the circumference of a circle.  The students at my school have a tough time memorizing formulas.  I'm not sure if that is a universal trait or if our students are just especially bad at it.  When I asked my students if they knew what the circumference of a circle was, they almost unanimously agreed that it was pi * r squared.  Eek...  I guess I should be happy that they at least know a circle formula...

So, class, would you like to learn a song that will keep you from forgetting the formula for circumference of a circle?  Yes.

They insisted on writing the lyrics in their interactive notebooks.  Out of all my classes, my trig class loves our interactive notebooks the most.  Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Circumference equals 2 pi r.

Of course, some of my students missed the lyrics the first time, so I had to perform an encore.  99% of the people reading this blog have never heard me sing.  That's probably a good thing.  None of my students have ever asked me to stop singing because it was a painful experience.  And, they're usually more than willing to be honest with me.  Ha ha ha.  That's the understatement of the century!  I still wouldn't classify myself as a good singer, though.

So, bless the child who referred to me as the "Song Bird of My Generation" after hearing my rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Maybe there is hope for me...

Of course, there was that one time I wrote my own math song.  It wasn't that great, so I never did get around to blogging about it.  But, if I want this blog to be a honest reflection of my teaching, I guess I should be transparent when it comes to my #songwritingskillz.

It was last spring.  Algebra 2.  Unit on Quadratics.  I was trying to find a way to get my kids to memorize the quadratic formula.  In high school, I learned the formula to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel.  So, of course I had to sing this version with my students.  My teacher friend Emily pointed me towards this version set to Adele's "Rolling In The Deep."  I also showed this One Direction version of the Quadratic Formula.  So, I've now given my kiddos 3 different ways to memorize the quadratic formula.  And, are they happy?

No.  One student asks, "Why can't there be a Johnny Cash version of the quadratic formula?"

I'm pretty sure I just laughed and moved on.  But, I went home that night and started thinking.  Could I write my own math song?  After all, I ask my students to step out of their comfort zones every single day in my classroom.  It's only right that I do the same.  Seriously, what's the worst thing that could happen?

Step 1.  Find a famous Johnny Cash song to modify.  Ring of Fire?  Nope.  Folsom Prison Blues?  Hmmm...  I Walk the Line?  Uhhh...yes!  Because "I Walk the Line" could easily become "I Walk the Curve."  #seewhatididthere #itoldyouihavesongwritingskillz

Step 2.  Copy and paste the original lyrics to a word document.

Step 3.  Count the syllables in each line of the song.

Step 4.  Mathatize it.

If you've made it all the way to the bottom of this post expecting a video of my singing the song, you're going to be disappointed.  This song never really made it past the lyrics stage.  When you scroll down to my lyrics, you'll probably understand why. :)

In case you're not familiar with Cash's "I Walk The Line," here's the song so you can get an idea of how the tune goes.  (If you're reading via e-mail or an RSS reader, you may need to click here to watch the video.)

I WALK THE CURVE BY SARAH HAGAN

OH QUADRATIC FORMULA, YOU ARE MINE
YOU HELP ME SOLVE QUADRATICS ALL THE TIME
I JUST PLUG IN NUMBERS AND SIMPLIFY
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE

GET ALL MY TERMS ON ONE SIDE OF THE EQUAL SIGN
FIND A B C AND MAKE SURE I WATCH MY SIGNS
FROM THE DISCRIMINANT I'LL LEARN A LOT
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE

OH X EQUALS THE OPPOSITE OF B
PLUS OR MINUS THE SQUARE ROOT
OF B SQUARED MINUS FOUR TIMES A AND C
IT'S ALL OVER TWO-OOH A!

I PUT EVERYTHING IN MY FORMULA
NEXT I'LL SIMPLIFY AND REDUCE IT ALL
COMPLEX SOLUTIONS WON'T MAKE ME PANIC
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE

OH QUADRATIC FORMULA, YOU ARE MINE
YOU HELP ME SOLVE QUADRATICS ALL THE TIME
I JUST PLUG IN NUMBERS AND SIMPLIFY
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE

So, there you have it.  The beginning and ending of my mathematical song writing career.

1. OH QUADRATIC FORMULA, YOU ARE MINE
YOU HELP ME SOLVE QUADRATICS ALL THE TIME
I JUST PLUG IN NUMBERS AND SIMPLIFY
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE

by "mathematizing it" I thought you meant

1 3 3 1 1 2
1 1 1 1 3 1 1 2
...

I'm sure I wll try it and see what it means

its probably one of those wierd sounding sounds you will find under Xenakis etc

he sure used math though

2. I would love to hear someone record this.

3. 1. G D
Well, I'm clueless when it comes to solving you
Em C Bb
I just don’t know what to do, I’ll try anything at all.
G D
There’s three terms, a, b, and c
Em C Bb
It’s a matter of where they gotta be, the same side for all.

2. D B
You know I can see a pattern standing out
Em Am7 G
To the left of my zero, what’s that all about.
D B
Em F F#
I just need to get x satisfied

(chords like section 1.)
Now placement, do I put an a or b?
What about the negatives do they stay or do they leave.
Plus or minus, what does that even mean?
It all seems a bit contrived, just to torture me.

(chords like section 2. except as noted)
You see in all my life I've never found
Math I couldn’t solve, or my pencil put down
I can figure out an answer at any time
Em F Gm F
But two answers just won’t do.

Bb Am
I have never seen a problem so controlled by b
Ab Eb
There’s only two a’s and one lonely c
Bb Am
I’ve always had a formula that worked perfectly
Ab
But its squared now, raised to 2
Am D7
I’ve never been so darn confused

G
Oh, I'm clueless (guitar solo - chords like section 1.)

(chords like section 2. except as noted)
It shouldn’t take a page and be this long
To get a short answer and it not be wrong
I’ve never had a problem that I ever missed
Em F
But I've never stumped like this Its all in the plans

(chords like section 1.)
It’s negative b plus or minus the square root
Of b squared minus four a, c all over two a
It’s negative b plus or minus the square root
Of b squared minus four a, c all over two a

4. I loved this! I had the music teacher come in with his guitar and we all sang it. I live in China and most of my students are Korean so this was a fun way of bringing a little bit of America into my lesson. (I have a video but couldn't figure out how to share it).

1. That is incredibly awesome!