One Winnipeg teacher is incorporating Grammy-award winning music into his lessons to help make math more accessible and enjoyable for students.
Will Penner, a teacher at Arthur Day Middle School, received lots of online attention after creating an educational Billie Eilish-inspired music video called ‘Math Guy’ to the tune of Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy.’
Penner made the music video back in April because he wanted to make something relevant to the music his students listen to, but also had math involved.
"It’s completely not my wheelhouse in terms of music,” he said.
“But again it was more relevant to (the students) and I thought that was the most important thing to do was keep it relevant for the students.”
However, Penner doesn’t only use music to teach math, he’s also created a board game called Mathopoly.
He said when he was in university, he had to come up with a creative way to teach math and started to think about a board game. The idea grew from there.
“Then I started developing it in terms of teaching and seeing what needed to be added, little things here and there, and then started making it and producing it and selling it to the world,” he said.
Penner said that to make math accessible for students it needs to be relevant to the world around them.
“If you could find things within the curriculum, or even besides the curriculum, that you could see in your everyday life,” he said.
“If it has to do with fractions or simple adding and subtracting or even more difficult things like triangles and trying to figure out the Pythagorean theorem in real life and all these kinds of things, the more you make it relevant, the better suited it is for the students.”
Now, Penner’s teaching style has landed him on Ace Burpee’s list of the Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans of 2020.
He said he had no idea he was going to make the list, an experience he described as humbling.
“We don’t do things like this to be on lists, so I think it was just an added bonus, it was great,” he said.
As for whether there are any more music videos in his future, Penner said he has one in the works.
“I have one that’s been in the works for a few months,” he said.
“It’s a lot harder to pull off and I’m trying to get some staff members to be in it as well, because being in front of the camera by myself was a bit daunting at times.”
- With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow.