"My students were having problems remembering the steps of a division problem when the dividend was more than two digits," student teacher Denise Sockoloskie recalled. "Even putting visuals on the board -- a division sign, multiplication sign, subtraction sign, and an arrow -- was not enough to help my students remember the steps."
Student teachers Denise Sockoloskie and Claire Lohr created the "Division Song"
Photo courtesy of Denise Sockoloskie and Claire Lohr.
As Sockoloskie tried to come up with a catchy way to help her fourth grade students at Central Columbia Elementary School recall the division process, it occurred to her that a song might stick with them longer than other memory tools. Claire Lohr, her roommate and a student teacher working with kindergartners at the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, elementary school, offered to help.
"Denise told me the division process she was trying to convey, and I told her I would try to think of something," said Lohr. "The tune of 'The Farmer in the Dell' stuck in my head, because it's one I've heard my cooperating teacher sing, and it seemed the easiest to use with two-digit division. Within 20 minutes, I thought up the song and sang it to Denise:"
First you divide,
Then you multiply,
Next you subtract,
And then you must repeat.
Not an "accomplished" singer, Sockoloskie was nervous about introducing the song to her students. She also feared that they might find it "dorky!" After singing it a few times together from an overhead, however, the students caught on quickly, and applied the song effectively as they worked division problems.
"For the rest of the day, my students were walking around singing the song," reported Sockoloskie. "I had lunch duty that day, and my students were telling their friends about the song they had learned in math. During the next week or so, my students wanted to sing the song to anyone who came into our classroom. I noticed too, that as students worked on math problems, they hummed the tune to themselves to remember the steps they needed to follow."
Other fourth grade teachers who were teaching the same division unit used the song in their classes -- with similar results. Creating a song about division seemed like a difficult task at first, but when a familiar tune was applied, it turned out to be not just simple for these new teachers, but fun too.
"One thing I've learned from being in a kindergarten classroom is that whenever it's time to clean up, line up, pay attention, sit down, stand up, discuss the weather, or anything else, there is most likely a song to help accompany the task!" said Lohr. "Music is something that should be a part of children's lives; it helps them understand the world around them. I plan to use song every day when I have a classroom of my own."
For more information on using mnemonics in the classroom -- including tips for creating your own, see the Education World article "You Must Remember This"Teaching with Mnemonics.
Article by Cara Bafile
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