Heads are bopping as “T-Shirt” by Atlanta rap trio Migos blasts from speakers. Some pound notes on keyboards, while others pluck away at iPad stations. Math class has never looked so engaging.
This was the atmosphere at C.W. Long Middle School’s STEM lab on Oct. 2 for the launch of the Make Music Count app – an innovative math curriculum for grades 3-12 that teaches students how to master fractions, graphing, algebra and pre-calculus through popular music on the piano.
Make Music Count founder & CEO Marcus Blackwell graduated from Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and worked for GE Energy as a lead modeling analyst while serving as the music director and pianist at Elizabeth Baptist Church. He credits his love of music for helping him conquer his fear of math.
“The fact that I played the piano literally saved me in mathematics,” Blackwell said. “The way that the kids are learning with using the music to teach the math is exactly how I learned and got over my own math phobia. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of music foundation in schools, so that’s why this curriculum is much needed because not only are you improving your progress in math but you’re actually getting a foundation in music as well.”
The app is equipped with more than 100 popular hip hop, R&B and pop songs. Students learn how to play the chords by honing their math skills. The keys on the piano become the number line.
STEM Program Specialist Tanya Barrett has supported Make Music Counts since its beginning stages. After seeing Blackwell’s presentation during a STEM conference, she invited him to Long Middle School to host an interactive session for a sixth-grade math class. With the launch of the app, Blackwell is now able to take the classroom experience of using real keyboards to an anytime experience with use of mobile devices.
Long Middle School is the first school to experience the app.
Atlanta Public Schools “has been a long supporter of Make Music Count even when we were just starting out as volunteer program,” said Blackwell, who has also done demonstrations at South Atlanta High School. “They supported us through the afterschool program, and they have the technology to use applications. It was a perfect place to introduce it to the students. We want to be able to have as much impact as possible, and I just appreciate APS’ support as we grow through the years. This is the perfect place. These are the kids who look just like me, who have the same type of math phobia that I had growing up. It’s the perfect place to use our new app.”
Through its partnership with Casio, Make Music Counts donated 20 keyboards to Long Middle School. Math teachers can check out the keyboards from the school’s media center.
Licensing the app costs $60 per student, as each student has an individual profile that tracks progress. Students also receive a Make Music Count workbook with practice problems.
For more information on how to bring Make Music Count to your school, go to www.makemusiccount.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.