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Math Jonesing: How to Rock Your School! (No- seriously!)


Looking for a way to spark your students’ interest in math? Check out this lesson that I taught for the #RockYourSchool event sponsored by Get Your Teach On!

On September 20th, teachers from coast to coast taught unique and innovative lessons to jumpstart student engagement and set the tone for an exciting school year. These lessons rocked… literally.

I joined 30,000 educators from around the world for the Get Your Teach: On Rock Your School event. More than 1 million students were impacted by creative, outside-the-box lessons designed to encourage a life-long love of learning. This invitation gave teachers the opportunity to shape educational experiences in an active, engaged, and meaningful way resulting in enhanced understanding, retention, and self-esteem.

Regardless of grade level or subject, students learn best when they’re having fun and the lesson revolves around their areas of interest. Could I teach ratios, congruence, and dilation by having the kids knit sweaters? Yes. Would they enjoy the lesson and remain engaged? Probably not. The lesson must fit their interest. My students actually love to play games!

According to the Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development, play-based learning results in better outcomes in math, literacy, and science - regardless of demographic – than standard drill and testing methods. So I found a way to make my lesson fun through game-based learning.

Right after the first quiz of the year, I used my Rock Your School lesson to do quiz corrections and review before the students received their grade. I connected each part of the lesson to a different concept from the quiz, then pulled out the board game. Get a copy of the written materials I used in this lesson here!

Board Not Bored Games

We all know students love to play board games, but this game was exponentially more awesome. I aligned a board game to content from my first quiz. We used the multi-faceted game Dropmix to multiply engagement during the quiz review. This game combines a physical card game with a bluetooth-enabled magical box of wonders. The game allows players to mix, layer by layer, an infinite number of song combinations from favorite pop artists.


Easily found at Target or Walmart, Dropmix comes with cards containing different artists and musical components.

Used in conjunction with a free smartphone app, players collect cards and place them in slots which then play sounds. Combining different cards creates different songs.


Teachers should provide repeated opportunities for students to play games, then let the mathematical ideas emerge as students notice new patterns, relationships, and strategies. This, according to an article by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics which also states, games are an important tool for learning as they:

  • Encourage strategic mathematical thinking

  • Support development of computational fluency

  • Present opportunities for student practice and teacher observation/assessment

  • Help develop familiarity with the number system, encourage engagement in computation practice, and build a deeper understanding of operations

  • Support a school-to-home connection

The Dropmix Lesson

✔ Setup: Here’s how I aligned the different parts of the quiz to the Dropmix game.

First, I chose the artists I wanted to use for the drums and aligned them with different problems from the section on decimals. For piano and trumpet, I aligned artists with the different classifying numbers questions. For guitar and extra, I aligned artists with the complex fractions section of the quiz. For vocals, I aligned the artists to the order of operations and the absolute value problems.

💡 Remember: This game can be used with any subject and any grade level to create a fun, engaging, and rigorous lesson aligned to your content!

How to Play

After dividing the students into teams, I gave them song lyrics. The answers to the problems were embedded in the song lyrics in red ink.

The red indicated answers from different sections of the quiz:

  • Drums

  • Trumpet

  • Guitar

  • Extra

  • Vocals

The students had to use the red answers to determine which music card to place on the dropmix game. Once they figured out the answers, they could create a song complete with drums, trumpet, guitar, vocals, and extras. I knew they were correct when the right song played from their device.


After identifying the correct cards, they placed them on the board and listened as their calculations created a crazy remix!

We did a total of five songs and the kids were focused, engaged - and having fun – while learning math. As stated in the research study, The Impact of Early Child Development and Experience on Later Outcomes, early childhood learning experiences can have a powerful impact on children’s later life outcomes.

In all honesty, I had as much fun as the kids! I truly enjoyed creating this experience and watching the students get so excited over a lesson. To see this lesson explained in more detail, follow me on instagram (@Dr_VCJones) and check out the highlight called ROCKMATH.

Why use this method to teach the same old math concepts? Interest-driven learning, such as this, has been shown to have long-term impact on student achievement. Studies show that students who play math games in class display higher mathematics productivity than those who learn through conventional paper-and-pencil activities. Additionally, English language learners who may be reluctant to participate in class discussions are more likely to participate in a game, where they gain access to structured social interactions as well as mathesteem. Whatever your subject area, here’s the perfect opportunity to subtract the “bored” from “board game” and kick it up another level with this radical lesson!

Better bring your A game though, ‘cuz this teacher DOES play! 😃


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