Here are some options in the meantime: (1) give yourself (or students) permission to sing the lyrics a capella, (2) share the spotlight with musically inclined students in your classroom who can provide the accompaniment on appropriate instruments, (3) find online a “MIDI file” or get a vocals-removed karaoke disc of the music and sing (and/or have students sing) the math lyrics instead (e.g., see the top of my page for “The Gambler”), (4) make your own karaoke or video as several folks do, or (5) bring me to your city!
STATS SONGS (many with soundfiles!)
• “The Gambler” addresses strategies and myths for playing a state lottery, and may be sung to the tune of the same-titled Don Schlitz song that yielded Kenny Rogers a #1 country hit and TV miniseries. [My interest in finding creative ways to educate general audiences about the lottery dates back to a highly-publicized (all the way to CNN Headline News!) course I created on the psychology and probability underlying the then-new Texas Lottery; see articles in November 1997 Spreadsheet User, August 28, 1993 Austin American-Statesman, Winter 2004 Statistics Teacher Network and Sept. 2012 Mathematics Teacher]. Appears in Winter 2002 Stats and January 2005 Journal of Irreproducible Results. Click HERE to hear a demo recording. Click HERE to see a related video which won first-place in the national 2011 “QL in the Media” contest sponsored by the SIGMAA-QL.
• “Mean” explains why the mean is generally an inappropriate summary of highly skewed data. May be sung to the tune of Taylor Swift’s 2011 top-10 country hit and 2012 Grammy winning country song of the year of the same title from her multiplatinum album Speak Now. Appears in the fall 2011 issue of Texas Mathematics Teacher.
• “Call it Maybe” introduces the key statistical idea of estimation (e.g., of a population mean mu) and its uncertainty. This lyric won 2nd place in the Song Category of the 2013 CAUSE A-mu-sing national contest and may be sung to the tune of Carly Rae Jepsen’s #1 hit “Call Me Maybe” that was named MTV’s Song of the Year for 2012.
• “Birthday Song” contrasts the often confused events of "some people matching" with "someone matches with me" [see my article about the Birthday Problem in the May 1999 Mathematics Teacher], and may be sung to the tune of Mildred J. Hill & Patty Smith Hill’s “Happy Birthday to You.” Appears in Winter 2002 Stats. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “What p-Value Means” is a quick (10 seconds) catchy way (sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) to recall what a p-value is. Appears in Spring 2007 Teaching Statistics and fall 2007 (issue 48) Stats. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “Hit Me With Your Best Plot” concisely reminds students about good principles of graphing and its importance. May be sung to the tune of the Eddie Schwartz song that was a #9 hit for Pat Benatar in 1979. Appears in the Spring 2011 Teaching Statistics.
• “MLE” stands for Maximum Likelihood Estimator and explores its properties that are well-known and widely used by statisticians and stats majors. May be sung to the tune of Lennon & McCartney’s “Let it Be”. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “One is the Likeliest Number” is based on a fascinating result called Benford’s Law (e.g., see Spring 2009 Teaching Statistics) about the distribution of first digits in datasets. May be sung to the tune of the Harry Nilsson song “One (is the Loneliest Number)”, which was a #5 hit (and first gold record) for Three Dog Night in 1969. Appears in the Spring 2011 Teaching Statistics.
• “Taking Leave of Our Census”-- introduces the debate (e.g., how Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution may permit using the Post-Enumerative Survey) about statistically adjusting America’s decennial census for undercount, and may be sung to the tune of John Denver’s #1 hit “Annie’s Song” [I used Census data as the staff statistician for the Texas Legislative Council during the 1990-91 redistricting process, and co-authored a paper about redistricting in the October 2012 Mathematics Teacher.] Appears in Winter 2002 Stats and in Autumn 2001 Teaching Statistics. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “1 in 2” is a story song written from the point of view of a character who needs to recognize and transcend the pitfall of “equiprobability bias.” This original song won Honorable Mention in the Song Category of the 2013 CAUSE A-mu-sing national contest. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “Partial to You” is a playful love song that can be used to explore or reinforce concepts of multiple regression. This original song won 3rd place in the Song Category of the 2013 CAUSE A-mu-sing national contest. Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
• “Statistician’s BLUEs” is a statistician’s “breakup” song pun-ctuated with stats terms (12-bar blues music and lyrics by Lesser). Appears in Winter 2002 Stats, June 2008 Journal of Irreproducible Results, and April 2007 MAA Math Horizons.
• “Average Love Songs” educates about the mean while making commentary on typical love songs on mainstream pop radio. May be sung to the tune of the #1 Paul McCartney hit “Silly Love Songs”. Appears in Sept. 2005 Amstat News and Nov. 2005 Journal of Irreproducible Results.
• “Hotel (Called) Infinity” – was a metaphor German mathematician David Hilbert used near the start of the 1900s to help clarify paradoxes about infinity that had emerged, and may be sung to the tune of the (also surreal) #1 hit by The Eagles that was the title cut off their #1 album Hotel California. [I was also inspired by the Eagles' song and by Ian Stewart's "Hilbert's Hotel" story in the Dec. 1998 New Scientist]. Appears in November 2004 The Journal of Irreproducible Results, May 2001 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal, the 2005 Len Wapner book The Pea and the Sun: A Mathematical Paradox (the book and my lyric got a good review in: http://plus.maths.org/issue36/reviews/book2/), and the Oct. 2006 American Mathematical Monthly.
• “American Pi” -- presents historical highlights (and a mnemonic for the first 6 significant figures) of the number pi [e.g., see Lesser’s “Slices of Pi: Rounding Up Ideas for Celebrating Pi Day” in Fall 2004 TMT], and may be sung to the tune of Don McLean’s #1 hit “American Pie.” The Math Forum and the March 2005 MAA Focus recommend it for “Pi Day.” Various versions appear in May 2000 Mathematics Teacher, March 2003 Pi in the Sky, Sept. 2005 Journal of Irreproducible Results, Feb. 2006 MAA Math Horizons, and the 2004 Posamentier & Lehmann book Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number. Check out this rockin’ 2006 rendition by Calvin Coolidge (a band of Clevelanders in high school at the time!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll_45NomcFk or http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9202713347829076799&hl=en. And a couple of choruses wrap up “Joy of Pi” (lecture #12 of 24 from “Joy of Mathematics” course #1411) recorded by Dr. Art Benjamin for The Teaching Company.
• “Circle Song” helps secondary school students distinguish and recall the two most common formulas associated with circles. Appears in Fall 2004 Texas Mathematics Teacher, which is at http://www.utdanacenter.org/tctm/downloads/TMT_Fall_04.pdf [for more pi fun, click HERE] Click HERE to hear a demo recording.
Will Graph You! / We Are the Mathletes!”
– “We Will Graph You” encourages students step-by-step to graph a given
function (there's a version for "general form" parabolas and a
version adapted from a John A. Carter lyric for "slope-intercept
form" lines) as they chant over the pound-pound-clap rhythmic pattern
(an algo-rhythm?) of Queen’s #4 hit “We Will Rock
You!” On March 31, 2002, my quadratic version was republished to
accompany a story in
the Herald Sun, the top-selling newspaper in
• “Domain and Range” -- helps students keep in mind a function’s possible “inputs” and “outputs,” and may be sung to the tune of the traditional 19th-century (pre-Billboard charts!) Western song “Home on the Range.” [you can hear a radio performance of this song that Lesser performed during a live appearance (archived at www.webct.com; you can skip to the 47th minute to hear the song: http://hollywood.webct.com:10000/ramgen/mathmedley/mathmed092300.rm) on "Math Medley," a weekly hour-long talk-radio show broadcast live on AM radio in Arizona and New England and on Internet radio www.renaissanceradio.com worldwide! will be archived on an NSF website] Appears in May 2000 Mathematics Teacher.
• “From a Distance” -- explains how some features of a graph are revealed and others concealed when viewed “from a distance,” and may be sung to the tune of the Grammy-winning song written by Julie Gold that was a #2 hit for Bette Midler. [I was inspired to connect views of world harmony to views of a graph by a writing-to-learn exercise in an algebra textbook (Wells and Schmitt 1996, p. 321) which asked students to connect the opening line of Gold's song with the fact that the graphs of y = x7 and y = x7 - 3x6 + x5 look similar from a distance.] Appears in May 2000 Mathematics Teacher and in Dec. 2005 American Mathematical Monthly.
• “Fifty Ways to Work a Problem” -- reminds students that real-life problem solving follows a general strategy (i.e., G. Polya's 4 steps as paraphrased in the chorus) but can be carried out in many ways, and may be sung to the tune of Paul Simon’s (only solo) #1 hit “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” [ note: Simon's lyric lends itself to being parodied also to teach specific bits of content, as illustrated by Dan Kalman in the Nov. 1993 College Mathematics Journal or David Morgereth in the Oct. 2001 Mathematics Teacher] Appears in May 2000 Mathematics Teacher.
• “Check Your Work” reminds all of us (from student to teacher to NASA contractor!) something important to do, and may be sung to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad". Appears in Winter 2002 [Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics] Reflections and in songsforteaching.com.
• “On Top of a Fraction” reinforces conceptual understanding of fractions, while making connections to language and time signature. May be sung to the tune of the folk song “On Top of Old Smokey.” Appears in fall 2007 Noticias de TODOS -- News from TODOS: Mathematics for ALL.
• “Not Even!” is an “odd” rap giving (upper elementary school and up) students a fun way to explore mathematical and real world connections with odd numbers! Appears in Spring 2002 [Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics] Reflections. A shorter version that I wrote of this song called “That’s Odd!” was used on a children’s educational show on PBS-TV that first aired January 26, 2012 (http://kcostv.org/flowplayer/Videos/BBSeason2Video4.html).
• “This Old Man” is the traditional children’s folk song counting through the numbers 1-10, but I extended it with some creative rhymes to skip count by tens all the way to 100, and then a further extension through the powers of 10 all the way to ten billion! Appears in Winter 2003 [Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics] Reflections.
• “One!” was the closing song of MAA: The Musical!”, which debuted at the opening banquet of the 2011 summer meeting (MathFest) of the Mathematical Association of America (and reprised at the banquet for 2012 MathFest). Annalisa Crannell commissioned me to write this lyric to the tune (by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban) of “One!” from A Chorus Line. Published on p. 105 of Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 2(1).
• “Stayin’ with 5!” explores various connections to the number 5 to the tune of the Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive”. Published on p. 10 of the Winter 2013 (Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics) eReflections, 2(2): http://gctm.wildapricot.org/Reflections
• “Stairway to 7” explores a rich variety of mathematical and real-world connections to the number 7, and may be sung to the tune of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's (7-verse) song "Stairway to Heaven," the Led Zeppelin song that has been played most on the radio. Appears in Aug. 2001 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal and in the May/June 2007 MAA FOCUS (just before 7/7/07!). As Monte Zerger says in the March 2002 College Mathematics Journal (p. 74): "A mathematical exploration into the 'life' of a natural number can not only be an entertaining and refreshing diversion, it can lead to engaging questions and unexpected discoveries as well." (Note: in fall 2008, MAA launched: http://maanumberaday.blogspot.com/)
• “8 is So Neat” explores a rich variety of mathematical and real-world connections to the number 8, and may be sung to the tune of the 1965 #1 hit “Eight Days a Week” by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Appears in the August 2008 Mathematics Teacher (just before 8/8/08!).
• “Seventeen” explores properties of the number 17 as well as a coming-of-age view of experiencing the beauty of mathematics. The lyric may be sung to the tune of sections of Janis Ian’s Grammy-winning #1 hit “At Seventeen” and was was debuted at the opening banquet of the 2008 summer meeting (MathFest) of the Mathematical Association of America. Published on p. 105 of Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 2(1).
• “The Day Math Teachers Took Over the World” is an original song of my fantasy of what the world would look like with math teachers in charge. This song was debuted at the opening banquet of the 2008 summer meeting (MathFest) of the Mathematical Association of America. Published on p. 104 of Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 2(1).
• “Numbers Man” is a whimsical "math love song" I imagined my dad could have written for my mom, whom he got to know by being her calculus tutor (lyrics and music written by Lesser). Appears on p.12 of March 1999 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal: http://www2.hmc.edu/www_common/hmnj/journal/19/PDF/Articles/19.pdf
• “Your Body is a Numberland” integrates the wonders of math and the body and may be sung to John Mayer’s #3 hit (“Your Body is a Wonderland”, which won him a Grammy in 2003). The high school students I taught got me to listen to Mayer’s music, which gave me the opportunity to parody a more current hit (my version is more discreet than Mayer’s). Appears in March 2005 Journal of Irreproducible Results.
• “Music of the Spheres” was inspired by the so-named Pythagorean idea (also referred to centuries later by others such as Maimonides and Kepler) that each planet contributed a particular "note" (based on ratios of small whole numbers) to the grand harmony of the universe (lyrics and music written by Lesser). Appears in March 1999 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal (p. 19 of http://www2.hmc.edu/www_common/hmnj/journal/19/PDF/Articles/19.pdf) and May 2006 American Mathematical Monthly. The middle part of the song opens a radio interview I did at: http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/lesser/Feb2009KTEPinterview.mp3
• “Tesselation” uses the tune of the Kool & the Gang #1 hit “Celebration” to introduce younger audiences to working with tessellations. Published on p. 9 of the Winter 2013 (Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics) eReflections, 2(2): http://gctm.wildapricot.org/Reflections
• “Cantor's Coat” concisely depicts the stark challenges that mathematician faced during his life (lyrics and music written by Lesser). [inspired by reading J. W. Dauben's Georg Cantor: His Mathematics and Philosophy of the Infinite. Princeton University Press, 1979] Appears on p.32 of March 1999 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal: http://www2.hmc.edu/www_common/hmnj/journal/19/PDF/Articles/19.pdf
• “The Pea and Sun” is a ditty (to the tune of the George Harrison hit “Here Comes the Sun” from the Beatles’ 1969 #1 album Abbey Road) about the very counterintuitive theoretical result known as the Banach-Tarski paradox. The lyric didn’t make it in the Wapner book (but my “Hotel Infinity” did!), but an earlier version of it appears in Jan. 2009 MAA Focus.
• “Imaginary” addresses students' common initial question about the usefulness of imaginary numbers, and may be sung to the tune of John Lennon's #3 hit "Imagine." Appears on p. 48 of April 2000 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal:. http://www2.hmc.edu/hmnj/journal/22/PDF/Articles/22.pdf
• “Knowin’ Induction” introduces the technique of mathematical induction to students, adapted with permission from a lyric by Dane R. Camp (in his fun 1998 ICTM booklet) and may be sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Blowin’ in the Wind" (a #2 hit for Peter Paul & Mary). Appears in April 2000 Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal and Sept. 2005 MAA Math Horizons.