Monday, October 7, 2013

Chain of Fools

My middle school math teacher was Mrs. Long (no relation) and it is from her that my passion for teaching math springs. There are countless things that I learned in her classes that I still recall today, but perhaps none more vividly than "Same, Change, Change". Like many concepts in Mrs. Long's math class, this clever mnemonic, used to assist in the addition and subtraction of negative numbers, is to be sung to the tune of some (previously) well known song. We had Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" for dividing with decimals, MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" for prime factorization, and for Same, Change, Change, "Chain of Fools" by the one and only Aretha Franklin. Now this song has become so synonymous with negative numbers in my head that I still sing it to this day when it comes to adding and subtracting negatives, even though four years of being a math major has left me with more than enough conceptual understanding to not actually need it. Anyway, the point is that Chain of Fools has become part of my mathiness.

Enter Onamutai. Here I am, trying for the umpteenth time to get my kids to understand basic integer operations, and on a whim I decide, "what the hell, might as well teach it to them. " I had been though Same Change Change with them before but without the song, and it hadn't stuck. So I told them the story of the first Ms. Long and sang the three notes for them while they all laughed. I told them I knew they didn't know the song (as most grade 9s in America probably don't know it at this point) but if anyone wanted to come up with a new song to sing it to that they all know, they could earn a bonus point or two. This did not garner as much reaction as I had hoped, and I began to doubt that this would stick either. However, I kept it up throughout class and lo and behold, a few scattered people were singing the Chain of Fools version, even if they weren't actually using it at the time. By the end of class, almost everyone was belting out "Same Change Change", albeit slightly off tune (yes, these are the same kids that can do perfect 4 part harmonies every morning. I'm going to say that I was the one who was off key and they were just matching pitch). 

They loved it so much that they continue to sing it at random points throughout class, and throughout the day. I also played them the actual song so they could here more of what it was that they were singing to. They ate it up. So much, in fact, that a few of the boys have requested I give the song to them on a USB. 18 year old Namibian boy wants to jam to some Aretha Franklin in his spare time? I would be happy to enable him.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! And I love that I got to sing Chain of Fools in my head the whole time I was reading this.