Rappin’ the math at St. Francis MS

by Tammy Sakry
Staff Writer

As the seventh-graders are settling in for their enriched math class Jan. 12, a blinged out rapper made a surprise appearance.

Hat turned back and bling flashing, St. Francis Middle School math teacher Mary Jo Deschene raps about fractions. Photo submitted

With a glittery dollar sign flashing from the front of her baggy sweatshirt, Mary Jo Deschene, math teacher turned rapper for a day, begins to rap about fractions to the amusement of her St. Francis Middle School students.

This was Deschene’s third year as a visiting rap artist.

When her classes study order of operations and fractions, the rap is something fun and gets them more engaged, said Deschene, who is not a fan of rap music.

“I feel a little silly (doing it),” she said.

Bringing rap music into the classroom came out of taking a district Teacher Academy math class on getting students more involved, she said.

Recalling a Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics workshop on how music engages other parts of the brain and helps kids become more involved, Deschene sought out ways to help her students understand math on a new level.

Idea in hand, Deschene started searching for the right rap on the Internet.

She selected and paid for the rights to “Fraction Rap” written by Gigi Shadid.

The following year, Deschene penned her own rap on the orders of operation.

As the music blared out of her computer, Deschene started to rap about the fractions and how to multiple them to the laughter of her students.

But once the performance was done, it was up to her students to create their own rap songs for their math problems.

Using the rap songs helps the students recall the process and some of them even remember the song as eighth-graders, Deschene said.

This year Deschene had considered foregoing her annual performance.

Her enrichment math students have caught on to fractions and are already involved so it was not necessary, Deschene said.

“I was going to forget it this year, but one of my students asked, ‘We are studying fractions, aren’t you going to do the rap,’” she said.

Deschene is also helping kids outside of her classroom.

Some of her fellow teachers have used a YouTube video taken three year ago by Deschene’s students as part of their lessons.

She also heard from an Elk River student, a child of a friend, that saw the video and used it to help herself on a test.

The student questioned “Why don’t the teachers in our school do it that way,” Deschene said.

The video also attracted the attention of other St. Francis Middle School students.

Students she did not know would come up to her in the halls and tell her about seeing her on YouTube, Deschene said.

Although she was going to give up her singing side gig, Deschene has decided to continue the tradition next year.

“Fraction Rap” by Gigi Shadid 

I saw a fraction on my pizza one day,

I saw a fraction in a sale,

Half off of this a fourth off that,

Make me one heck of a deal (“dale”)!

When you’re addin’ up or takin’ away fractions,

Don’t be a hater,

Bottom number’s gotta be the same,

Common denominator, COMMON DENOMINATOR!

Bottom number’s gotta be the same,

Common Denominator, COMMON DENOMINATOR!

Gotta pass the test, I wanna make the grade,

My fraction friend came to my aid,

He said, “Dividing fractions, easy as pie,

“Flip the SECOND and multiply.”

“Dividing fractions, easy as pie,

“Flip the SECOND and multiply.”

“Flip the SECOND and multiply.”

Multiplying fractions,

No big problem,

TOP times TOP


Multiplying fractions,

No big problems,

TOP times TOP


When you study smart, everybody wins,

And know that fractions are your friends!

Want to see how it’s done? Click here to check out Deschene’s first appearance as the Rappin Math Teacher in the 2009 on YouTube.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]