HACKENSACK, NJ – Like most fourth graders, Victoria Rodriguez could do without math class.
“I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, [math is] probably a 4 or a 5,” she said.
This year, however, the 9-year-old is optimistic about her numerical hardships.
Toney Jackson, her fourth grade teacher at Nellie K. Parker School in Hackensack, New Jersey, is taking a new approach with math and a number of other subjects. He's incorporating hip hop and creativity to help his students better grasp the curriculum.
“I feel like those moments – those ah-ha moments that kids have and they’re like 'oh i get it,' because of something I was able to share with them – those happen and those are amazing.”
Mr. Jackson re-wrote Desiigner’s hit “Panda” to teach his students about place value on Tuesday.
There wasn’t a student in class not rapping – or learning – along.
Mr. Jackson, who has been teaching for 12 years, has always incorporated rap into his lessons. Some even know him simply as “the rapping teacher.”
It’s a reputation that even landed him a national ad campaign with Windows.
Despite some critics writing his method off as a gimmick, Mr. Jackson insists that it’s his passion that dictates his lesson plans.
“I do something that I love and whether its silly or funny to the kids, I think that they see that I’m not afraid to give them what’s inside,” he explained. “Give them what I love to do and I think that’s what connects to them.”
For Victoria’s mom, the way Jackson manages to reach the students is profound.
“[His] method of delivery is just seeping in, unlike something she’s read off a book,” Laura Rodriguez said of her 9-year-old daughter enrolled in the class. “The way he brings things to life, it’s easier for her to recall.”
Mr. Jackson’s hope is that the next time the children hear one of the songs they heard in class on the radio, they refer to the lesson they learned in class instead of the lyrics of the actual song which most times, are not suitable for children.
“When people see a little bit of what I get to do in the classroom and have a positive response – it's inspiring,” he said.