On a recent afternoon at The Bancroft School, hip-hop music echoes from the cafeteria.
Inside, a group of students are listening intently to Keziah Finney, who’s teaching them a song and dance.
The topic? Division.
As in, math.
The students sing along and dance around, and then get to work finding the answer to a long-division problem. They use tools from the song to help them get there.
It’s just one musical track of many that “Mrs. Finney” and her husband James Finney have produced under their Lyrical Math program to help students in K–12 succeed in the subject.
Launched six years ago, the program is under their JFINTV Studios LLC “edutainment” umbrella. Last fall, Keziah left her full-time teaching position at H.B. DuPont Middle School to take Lyrical Math on the road to schools throughout the state to “help close the math academic achievement gap in Delaware and the Tri-State area,” she says.
“The idea is to teach either how to solve a math problem or to teach formulas that are needed to solve math problems,” Keziah explains. “So, it’s teaching math strategies through catchy, instructional hip-hop music.”
Keziah began teaching through music years earlier as a seventh-grade math instructor in her hometown of Chester, Pennsylvania, where she observed students looking “disengaged” during traditional classes. Having grown up in a musical family, she began creating rap lyrics about math equations get students’ attention.
When she later met James at Wilmington University—both were studying for their master’s degree in education—they took Keziah’s concept and turned it into a business. Today, Lyrical Math comprises videos, recorded songs, workbooks and more, which are now used as supplemental curriculum in classrooms and various after-school programs.
“When the pandemic hit, there was a huge desire for parents to get help,” Keziah says. When virtual schooling was at its peak, she came up with the idea for 30-minute Pop-Up Math Classes to teach Lyrical Math to students at New Castle County Parks.
The couple’s favorite part of their work is seeing the results: Kids are not only enthusiastic about math but their test scores also show it.
“Parents are saying, ‘Thank you so much for offering the services,’” Keziah says. “Many say their child has gained a sense of confidence in doing math. They initially were one of those students that would say, ‘I hate math, I don’t like math,’ or ‘I don’t do math,’ and now with Lyrical Math, they’re excited about math.”
She hopes to bring the program to even more schools.