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River Valley High teacher shows students how to rock math
Click here to view the video of James Fleisher's math song, "Slope," at YouTube.
There's a song about math on YouTube that has more than 48,000 views.
No, really. There is.
The song, "Slope," was written by James Fleisher, a River Valley High School math teacher. It features him playing the guitar and singing about the algebra equation used in finding the slope of a line.
Fleisher uses his math music to help his students memorize a formula. At any moment, he will grab his guitar and break out in song in the middle of class — all the while kicking his legs and strutting around the room like a young Axl Rose.
"He keeps us entertained," said 16-year-old Kyle Emery, a sophomore in Fleisher's geometry class.
Fleisher, who mostly teaches algebra and geometry, uses his guitar to sing math-inspired tunes like "Trapezoid," "The Distributive Property," "Circles and Squares" and "Of Prisms and Cylinders."
The self-proclaimed math rock star said he began playing songs in front of his classes several years ago, when the school wanted its students to get serious about the California Standards Test. Shortly thereafter, he wrote his first song: "We're Going To Ace this Test."
The tune caught on, Fleisher said. The class enjoyed it, so he decided to write a few more.
However, it wasn't until one of Fleisher's friends videotaped him playing "Slope" at home that things really started taking off. Once on YouTube, the song received more attention than Fleisher was expecting.
"It seemed encouraging," he said, "so I thought that was a good sign."
Since then, Fleisher has created more than 30 math songs, some of which are on his website, mathtunes.com, and "Slope" can be found on iTunes.
The inspiration for his music comes from a desire to help youths do better in math, Fleisher said.
"I'd like to think it helps," he said. "Anything to get kids interested in math is what we need to do."
In some ways, parading around the room like a rock star is his way of fulfilling a childhood dream, he said. When Fleisher was 10 years old, he started learning how to play guitar after hearing a song by Guns N' Roses, one of his all-time favorite bands.
He's not playing to sold-out crowds just yet, but he likes to joke about being a rock star with his class.
"This is a big hit in a small island that you'll never hear of," Fleisher said to his class, moments before breaking into one of his math songs. "But it's No. 1 there."
Jessica Graminksi, a 15-year-old sophomore, said her teacher's methods have changed her attitude toward math.
"He's the reason I want to go up to calculus," she said.
Fleisher makes the subject fun, Jessica said. He constantly makes jokes and will often stay late to help students understand the material.
Fleisher said he'd like to play at other schools eventually, and spread his math rock music if it helps students learn.
But on the way, he wouldn't mind becoming the first math rock star.
"Let's rock on with math," he said.