Today’s focus is on math. I started writing math songs before I learned about phonological awareness and the development of literacy skills. Math is still a love of mine, and luckily comes pretty easily to me, due in large part to all my years learning to read music and performing in band.
One of my fourth grade students who is on the autism spectrum is currently working on fractions in his regular education classroom. Spencer has an amazing teacher this year who also has a special education background and it has been working really well for him.
How I Use Music to Teach Math
As a music therapist who has been seeing Spencer privately since he was three years old, I now get to see him two times weekly—once at home and once in the classroom. He is not always happy to receive assistance from me in the classroom, but it is extremely effective for me to see what skills Spencer is working on and what math language the teacher is using. I then write songs for him to target specific math areas and teach those to him at home.
Because Spencer has also been taking piano lessons from me for several years, we are now at the point where I can write the math songs on staff paper and he practices them every day rather than only once a week with me. I have seen him quietly sing these songs to himself in the classroom.
Changing an Improper Fraction into a Mixed Fraction
I was a little worried this year because there is a big emphasis on fractions in the common core math curriculum the school is using, and fractions didn’t go so well in third grade. I’m happy to report, that given the current supports, he is doing a fabulous job. He is even adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators, even those subtraction problems that require regrouping—made possible with a simple song titled “Regrouping With Fractions.”
Changing improper fractions into proper fractions was a challenge, but only briefly. For those of you that need a refresher, 26/3 is improper because the numerator (top number) is bigger than the denominator (bottom number). In it’s “proper” form, this fraction is 8 2/3.
After we learned to accurately identify whether a fraction was proper or improper through some improvised singing and call and response rhythmic speech, we then learned a song called “Uh Oh! Improper Fraction.” The lyrics are simple but effective:
Uh Oh! Uh Oh! Improper Fraction!
If the top number is too big,
Then I have to divide.
(divide the large number by the small number)
I write the remainder as a fraction.
Spencer is always motivated by some variation of “shave and a haircut” at the end of a song, so that’s how this one ends. You can listen here:
Free Division Song for You
If you have a student who first needs help learning to divide, I have a song for that, too! It’s called the “Division Song” (I sure am a genius when it comes to song titles) and is available for you as a free download. If you’re interested in the fraction songs, email me and I’d be happy to share!
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