Saturday, January 11, 2014

Results from the Smart Jams Math Music Video Project

Through November and December I worked with our upper elementary music teacher on a math music video project with fifth graders. Our goals were to integrate math in the music class, to encourage some creativity and to make products that might help other students learn the math skills and concepts. You can find all related posts about this project here.

It was a grant funded project from MACUL and part of my proposal included some pre- and post-tests as well as opinion surveys from students. Here are some results and observations.

To measure the effectiveness of the math integration, I gave pre-tests to half of the students before we started writing the songs. Each quiz was given to the group responsible for a video on that topic. When we finished recording video and capturing pictures I gave those same students the same quiz. Here are the average scores by math topic:
  • Reducing Fractions: Pre-test:  25%   Post-test:  37.5%
  • Shapes: Pre-test:  57.1% to Post-test:  67.1%
  • Multiplying Fractions: Pre-test:  55% to Post-test:  57.5%
  • Adding Fractions:  Pre-test:  48.4% to Post-test:  59.3%
  • Place Value:  Pre-test:  69.5% to Post-test:  82.9%
  • Long Division: Pre-test:  66.7% to Post-test:  70.8%
  • Rounding: Pre-test:  40.5% to Post-test:  38.9%
I would have liked to see higher averages at the end in all areas, but scores did improve at least slightly in all areas other than rounding. While even some of that improvement is so slight that I can't say it was a success for all involved, I was encouraged by the opportunity this gave us to talk about math in music class. I had good conversations with some students about concepts as I helped them plan and write their songs. This focus on content simply would not have happened if we hadn't done the project and I know with future attempts we can improve this focus.

Some other observations are worth noting here: 
  • Once I saw the scores on the pre-tests I knew I had misjudged the skill level of students from the start. Because of this and the requirements of the project I narrowed the scope of a topic when it came to the songwriting. For example, for the topic of rounding I had them round to many different places, with all possible cases covered, but the songs I asked them to write only focused on rounding to the 10ths or 10s. Then when it came time to do the post-test, I still felt I should give students the same test. Consequently there were questions on the tests that we never did talk about.
  • The pre-test and post-test for reducing fractions were slightly different for half of the students tested in that group due to a last minute change in topics.
  • We only met with students two times a week for 45 minutes each time, so it took us five weeks to complete our work. It is possible that time in their regular math contributed to some improvement we saw.
  • Fractions need a lot of attention. My initial thoughts after seeing their mistakes is that we should focus more attention there next time and also on songs about multiplying and dividing skills and concepts.
After recording the pictures and videos, but before students saw completed videos, I gave an opinion survey to just over one-third of them. Here are some results that I found interesting:
  • When asked which part of the process they liked best, the most popular parts were writing the song (30%) and making the signs they held in the video (27%).
  • When asked about their least favorite part, 30% again said the songwriting! I guess we can't please everyone. Another 30% said working with others in their group was what they liked least. We created the groups based largely on math skills and the resulting mix led to some disagreements between group members throughout the creative process. This has a lot of potential for learning, but it needs some more attention from us as teachers to make this a more positive learning experience.
  • I asked them to rate how much they liked the project on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best. Sixty percent of them chose a 4 or 5. Only 13% picked a 1 or 2. 
  • Looking at our goal of having them practice creativity skills, a full 83% of them agreed this helped them practice creativity skills. 
  • Only 49% said it introduced them to new technology skills. In looking over the project, I realized the students didn't end up using the technology much themselves this time around. We showed them what we were doing with and they obviously were a part of the recording process, but now that we have improved the process I expect we will have the students be much more involved in the recording and editing.
  • Fifty percent of the students surveyed agreed they would consider writing a song now that they have worked through the process. As one who has always loved songwriting as a rewarding hobby, I consider that to be an important success.
I haven't yet measured how well we accomplished the third goal of helping others with the videos. I plan to do that over the next month while I complete the other parts of our presentation for the MACUL conference in March.

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