When a Texas teacher saw his students fighting math, he turned to rap

To reach the students in a familiar and inviting way, he brought rap music to the classroom.

“It has built confidence,” he said. “It helps to create a less painful experience and they feel they have been invited and welcomed into the classroom.”

“Kids are starting to care more about coming to school”

In a Mayfield video, he plays an instrumental to Lunis’s song “I Got 5 On It.” She gets her students pumped. Then they start rap about decimal point space.

In the video, Mayfield and students rap “Let’s break this thing down now.” “Let’s start with the decimal / like a dime of a dollar, there’s 1 in 10 / then we go to the percentage, one in a lot / one in 100, we call it a penny …”

They rap and make viral music videos multiplied with thousands of views, and inspirational songs like passing the big test of the year called the STARR test.

Mayfield said learning math through music is a successful technique, and he saw results within a school semester.

“State scores have increased,” he said. “Student growth has increased. Productivity has increased. Kids are starting to care more about coming to school. Attendance has increased. Parents have been really excited about coming to different events when we don’t usually see them.”

Last year, while working at the Leadership Academy at Como Elementary, she even started engaging students across the country by creating jingles for teachers so they could capture students in zoom classes.

The Mayfield District acknowledges that it is so good at attracting students that it has been promoted to train teachers at another Title 1 school at Fort Worth, Jetty Stevens Elementary School for the 2021-2022 school year.

“A great way to help me do this through math.”

Mayfield is chatting with two alumni, Sophomore Paris Morehouse (left) and 8th grader Zaylah Williams, who performed in her Rosa Parks tribute video for this year’s Black History Month. (JerSean Golatt for NPR)

Paris Morehouse, an alumnus of Mayfield, is now in 10th grade and loves old-school rap.

Prior to Mr. Mayfield’s class, Morehouse did not like math and struggled with it. But associating difficult subjects with music was game-changing for him.

“I can remember myself doing homework at home and singing the song in my head, helping me understand, ‘Oh, I know what this schedule is. I know – oh, five times five. It’s 25’,” Morehouse said. “It really was a great way to help me build through math.”

Morehouse has been featured in music videos such as Mayfield’s “Queens” and “Rise the Bar”. Through such songs, he said, Mayfield inspired him to do better at school.

“It was a really, really amazing classroom and an amazing place,” he said.

“Hard work turns to heart work before you know it.”

Mayfield said students will create jobs if they get to where they are and keep notes of what they are interested in, whether it’s music, shoes or sports. It is important to use things that resonate with them.

“It’s one of my biggest accomplishments,” he said. “A lot of teachers said, ‘How can Mayfield pass 90% of his kids? And half of them, you know, come from a broken home and this and that.’ I said, ‘Hey, you know, you have to spend time getting to know them.’

Songs about Black History Month and Little Girl Magic have helped build students’ confidence that will take them out of elementary school.

“These types of staples enter the student’s mind and psyche so that they can do whatever they want,” he said. “And I use this quote a lot, ‘Your dreams don’t have to be from broken dreams.’ Your dream is your dream, so if the dream before you can be broken, you don’t have to break it. “

He preaches: “Before you know it, hard work is the work of the heart.”

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