How “Make Music Count” is changing the narrative of Hip Hop in education.

From books to beats: Helping students create a deeper connection to math through music.

Marcus Blackwell
Apr 3, 2018 · 3 min read

The importance of Hip Hop to the black community can’t be overstated. Its one of our ways to express ourselves, and to share the stories that would otherwise never be told. Hip Hop brings us joy, laughter, and inspiration to reassure each of us that, “We gon’ be alright”. Hip Hop is filled with success stories, countless examples of people that made it out- people who students look up to because they came from the same place as them.

On the education side, I think there’s no better mastery of the English language than in a rappers use of alliteration and double entendres to express police brutality. So why is it that as soon as students step into school, Hip Hop becomes a terrible influence that “promotes violence”?

I have a few theories for this perspective of Hip Hop as a negative in the educational system. First, there aren’t enough teachers that represent the communities in which they serve. If the only way a teacher can relate to Hip Hop is when they are “turnt” at Coachella, then chances are they won’t be able to translate the benefits to a classroom environment. Second, what do the people look like that create the common core and other statewide standards that don’t connect with any students? I’ll guess that they don’t represent the full spectrum of students impacted by their decisions.

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Without having input from every type of community, I don’t see how you can create and hold standards for everyone. The whole idea of deciding children’s futures with a test is foolish as well, but that’s another blog post…The only way to reach students in 2018 is to meet them where they are. If they listen to 21 Savage, Lil Uzi, and Lil Yachty outside of school, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use that music as a tool during the day? Absolutely!

This is where Make Music Count comes in, to connect and create real impact- and math class has never been the same since. We teach students how to solve real math equations that range from understanding fractions to solving algebra equations where the answers are piano notes. When the students learn and can immediately play Hip Hop on the piano- boom! Instant connectivity, from 3rd — 9th grade students!

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Our engagement is through the roof because we are teaching students how to play an instrument, despite not having any previous music lessons. This is done by applying the math that they already should know how to do. And if they don’t earn the reward of playing the latest Kendrick Lamar song, it becomes encouragement to improve in that math subject.

Our data over the past 5 years shows an increase in math test scores by 28%, engagement is amazing, and there’s never been one violent incident in any of my classes throughout my 60 school partnerships.

For more information about Make Music Count, please visit Do download our app for iPad and tablets search “Make Music Count” in the Google Play or the Apple store.

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