It all adds up with Smart Shorties: Hip-Hop Multiplication Math Facts—the Movie
Kid Reporter Jacqueline Minogue with Alex Nesmith (left) and Christine Smith. (Photo courtesy Jacqueline Minogue)
No matter what school you go to or what state you live in, every kid has to learn the multiplication tables. For some kids, it is really hard. For other kids, it is really boring. This fall, a new movie called Smart Shorties: Hip Hop Multiplication Math Facts—the Movie (PHEW!) will help solve both of these problems. The movie will feature popular hip-hop songs with the lyrics changed to the multiplication math facts.
I visited the location shoot where the movie is being filmed and met with producer Christine Smith, a former teacher, and producer/songwriter Alex Nesmith, better known as Al E. Cat.
Using music to help kids learn was an idea that came to Christine when she noticed that her students were having trouble memorizing their multiplication tables. By contrast, they seemed to have no problem remembering every word to their favorite hip-hop songs. She contacted Alex to help her come up with a way to turn the multiplication tables into hip-hop. Together, they decided to let the kids create the songs.
"We would choose popular songs from the radio, run them by the kids, and let them actually choose," said Alex, who has worked with Akon, Outcast, and Charlotte Church. "We would give the instrumental track to the kids and ha[ve] them write lyrics."
The kids would then audition the multiplication songs they had written. "We would choose the six or seven best kids who had the most creative lyrics and take those kids in the studio to record the songs," Alex told Scholastic News Online.
The kids, who are called "The Smart Shorties," are now featured on the Smart Shorties Hip Hop Multiplication CD, which is available for sale on the Web site.
The songs have proved to be a success with both students and teachers. Christine's students' scores improved by 48 percent on their achievement tests after using the CD. Also, a pilot study of students in Washington, D.C., showed that students who used the Hip Hop Multiplication CD improved by 67 percent.
"The kids want to hear the songs over and over, and that's the beautiful way that it works" Christine explained. "Learning occurs when they hear the repetition over and over. The kids love it."
Now these creative kids are in the process of making a full-length movie. They filmed in New York for three weeks this summer. The movie will be out October 2008. Based on the energy level of the set, it is bound to be a success.
The movie is going to be based around a math competition between the Smart Shorties and a rival group, the Big O's. Since the Big O's have won the competition for the last three years, the Smart Shorties are trying very hard to win the competition this year.
The movie will have everything that appeals to kids: dancing, cool songs, and celebrities! In addition to being entertaining, the movie will also be educational. All of the multiplication songs will be used throughout the plot. The words of each song will move across the bottom of the screen so that the kids can read and sing along.
"The movie will be a reading tool as well as a mathematics tool," Christine said. "It's going to be entertainment as well, so kids will want to watch it over and over again, and after it, they'll be really good at math."
Christine and Alex have no plans of stopping here. They intend to come out with a new product every six to 12 months that will use music to help kids learn their lessons in all different subjects. In the future, they may even use different genres of music to help get their educational message across. They are also planning on a Spanish version of the Hip Hop Multiplication CD that may use songs more popular in the Spanish-speaking community.
The kids on the movie set looked like they were having a great time. They were singing, dancing, and smiling through the filming. Christine and Alex have found a way to make learning fun and exciting.
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Jacqueline Minogue is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.