Learning Problem

“Surprisingly enough, twentieth-century advances in literary interpretation and musical analysis have done little to foster an interdisciplinary method.  To put it bluntly, none exists.”

Lawrence Kramer, Poetry and Music – The Nineteenth Century and After (Gray)


         There exist a student in the 4th and 5th grade who struggles developing literacy skills (math and English) in a meaningful way, yet they contain a creative identity through music, and participate actively and passively in this medium on a day-to-day basis.  This learner struggles making meaningful connections with literary content that is taught to them, and are at risk of not acquiring future literary skills imperative to their future because of these meaningless connections.  In addition, the learner’s confidence to use literary skills is only made through meaningful connections and experiences with the content, by practicing with the content that build the learners skill set to be scholarly, mathy, or techy in an advantageous way.  Even when literary skills are learned, these learners typically finish their education with a lack of confidence using their literary skills.  For a student, it is easy to latch on to a singular form of literacy (defined as their strength) or they risk not progressing within the educational system.  This stance and perception of literacy leaves the student to identify themselves as scholarly, mathy, or techy, yet they will fail to see the connections to value other forms of literacy skills.


Graph below shows the trend in Numerical Operation proficiency levels for Whites, Hispanics, and Black groups in the fourth through twelfth grade. Topics like the order of operations are first taught during the years in which the gaps are the greatest between these groups (4th and 5th grade).  The order of operations is an attractive topic to address mathematics literary skills because of its value of acquiring additional mathematics literacy skills for the learner’s future.  It is also a quality topic in mathematics literacy because the order of operations is vertically aligned across the majority of all students curriculum, relevant through grades 4-12; and I felt as far as math is concerned, the order of operations was an appropriate topic in to begin as a foundation for this project.


A definition of literacy that gathers various kinds of literacy at work in environments that might be useful to teachers and students

In the past fifty years, hundreds of definitions of ‘literacy’ have been advanced by scholars, adult literacy workers and program planners (Roberts). Literacy in relationship to this papers is simply the way in which our culture as a whole thinks about knowledge and learning (literacy).  Due to recent brain research done by Dan Levitan, a Ph.D Neuroscientist,  where he studies the “brain on music”,  there seems to be an opportunity to include the creative mind of the user and music to compliment any expectations of the learner becoming more familiar with literacy skills: including writing structures contained in song writing and poetry writing, and even becoming familiar with fundamental rules in mathematics; such as the order of operations.  Lyricist, and musicians provide natural learning environments to capture these literary events and scenarios of writing verses and practicing the order of operations that could be brought to life and made more interesting for learners.  Music from each culture can serve as the added medium for learners to develop literacy skills in writing and mathematics.  Considering most can be found listening to music while performing routine tasks around the house or doing homework, the challenge is to take it step further and design a way for the music to become a part of the literary skill, learning activity.

There are statistics that summarize our learner’s usage of media; and children’s media usage is nearly 75% of a normal workweek.  Since a natural question to ask is, “How much homework time is lost to media?” this became an opportunity to think about optimizing the learners usage of media.

          When considering the amount of time California suburban students spend downloading music, it can be averaged out to be a daily activity for a lot of these students.  So, for my project, this data began to inform the initial stages of my design, and formed the project vision: not to change the habits of the learners, but enhance them by creating learning environments that tailor to their educational and musical needs.
          So the learner I’m thinking of now is a 4th or 5th grade student who is not achieving mathematics proficiency levels in number operations; and this typically will be a minority student according to the data.  They spend a lot of time consuming music, either by listening or downloading.  Moreover, as students in an institution, they can be found disconnected from with literary content as taught in schools, and they have a need to connect with these literary skills because their future depends on it (Figure to Left).  With these literary skills, comes chances to take advantage of job opportunities and contribute back to society; the very reason parents are sending their children to educational institutions.  Without these literary skills, what can we expect from these kids’ future?


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