By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
In an all-out effort to score high on the TAKS math test in April, a group of Killeen High School seniors are recording entertaining skits in a daily problem-solving contest broadcast through the school.
Seven seniors who share an AVID class at KHS have formed M-Cubed, which is the Math Morning Minute that airs in every classroom in the school Monday through Thursday.
Each three-minute episode introduces a math problem, followed by an original skit that sometimes relates to the math and is sometimes about making people laugh. The videos also incorporate popular music and graphic elements.
Students watch the show, work the math problems and drop off their answers at a specified classroom. Each Friday, principal Mike Sibberson draws 10 names from the correct responses. Winners receive an iPod Shuffle, iTune gift cards or movie passes.
M-cubed started at the beginning of February and the students and two campus technologists are committed to daily shows through April 20. Math TAKS test dates are April 26-28.
What started as a clever idea is becoming a hit at the school and Sibberson and other educators hope it will have an impact at testing time.
The school's curriculum director Beth Aycock came up with the idea and AVID teacher Christina Harris knew the students who would make it happen.
The M-Cubed cast is Randal Carr (Rational Randal), Ta'Shawn Thomas (Tangent Ta'Shawn), Candace Bradburry (Calculating Candace), Quintin House (Quadratic Quintin), Danielle Sullivan (Dr. Dividing Daniel), Norman Crawford (Numerical Norman) and Quintel Brooks (Quintiles Quintel).
Already friends, the group quickly bonded and took seriously the business of teaching math in a visual and tongue-in-cheek manner.
They gather twice a week with campus technologists Herb Taylor and Jeff Hargroder to go over the math problems and build their original skits.
Usually during lunch, the crew works to shoot the video. They have used the library, the principal's office, the gym and various classrooms and often incorporate a news show format.
"We look at commercials and change it around and make it fit the math problem," Bradburry said.
"It's fun. A lot of kids respond to it because it's people they know," House said.
One episode was a program interruption with a special report from the president of the United States. Many of the episodes parody actual commercials.
In brainstorming sessions, student creativity takes over and Hargroder said the group usually has an idea down quickly.
"The group is so dynamic and they work together so well," he said. "We start to plan but it all comes out and in 10 minutes it's done."
Sullivan usually plays the role of teacher, drawing out the previous day's problem on a white board for the KHS viewing audience. Following a title sequence, the new video rolls, featuring the next equation to figure.
In just more than a month, the show's production quality has improved, student participation has soared and some of the M-Cubed players have actually signed autographs around campus.
Going into Spring Break, the M-Cubed students planned to come up with an idea for another show during the holiday. They had nine more shows to record with a week's worth ready to air.
"It takes some energy, but hopefully this gets them back in the math groove," Hargroder said.
Math is serious business at Killeen High School. Sibberson pointed out problems posted on a hallway wall, which students can work on for a chance at winning prizes.
The principal meets with his math teachers daily to talk through curriculum and analyze data. Two Saturday math game sessions are planned April 2 and 9 to further prepare students.
Talking about some of the episodes, including the presidential report shot in his office, Sibberson said, "It cracked me up when I saw it.
"It's funny. The kids love it. Adults can be out of touch about what students like. The magic of this is they are connecting to their own."
To see the videos, do a search on YouTube for Math Morning Minute.