Teacher Alex Kajitani is on a mission to make math cool.
While this self-proclaimed mission is usually greeted with laughter or eye-rolling, Kajitani managed to find a way to teach his middle school students math in a way that was both effective and fun—through rapping.
Known as the “The Rapping Mathematician” by students around the country, Kajitani was invited to Denair Unified School District by Superintendent Aaron Rosander to share his success story with the district’s 80 teachers on Thursday.
“This time is traditionally a time when teachers really need a boost in terms of teaching strategies,” said Kajitani. “A lot of districts invest a lot of resources in getting their teachers motivated in August, but sometimes we forget about keeping teachers motivated.”
Prior to his rapping escapades, Kajitani was struggling to get students to pay attention in the classroom, let alone remember the math lessons he was attempting to teach them.
However, Kajitani realized that although students were not recalling the math lessons being taught, they were certainly remembering various rap songs that were being released at the time.
With this in mind, Kajitani decided to try something new.
Hoping to better connect with his students, the math teacher decided to write his first rap song about the decimal point: “Itty-Bitty Dot.”
What happened next was described as a “complete disaster” by Kajitani, when his performance caused students to laugh at him hysterically.
Humiliated and disheartened by his attempt, Kajitani was in for a surprise when he heard students rapping his song during lunchtime. The teacher even reported that students expressed excitement when they showed up to his class the next day.
“The true key to education is to stop taking our curriculum and forcing it into our students’ lives, and instead, take our students’ lives and fit into the curriculum,” said Kajitani.
After his rapping debut, Kajitani noted an increase in individual achievement in his classroom.
Following “Itty-Bitty Dot,” Kajitani wrote a number of student-pleasing favorites, including “So Many Lines” about parallel lines and “The Number Line Dance” about positive and negative numbers.
During his presentation on Thursday, Kajitani showcased his rapping skills and encouraged DUSD teachers to find something that they love and incorporate that into their curriculum.
“The teachers were really happy to have some time set aside for their professional development and we discussed a lot of different teaching strategies,” said Kajitani. “They are in the middle of a tough teaching year doing tough work, so it is important to encourage them to continue pushing themselves to provide the best for students.”
Kajitani travels the country delivering powerful and inspiring keynote presentations similar to the one presented to DUSD. For more information, visit alexkajitani.com.