We’ve covered ways to put major motion and minor motion into math, keeping things ordered, watching for details, staying on task, making math into a game, even doing math in the bathtub. But there was one bit of motion that was conspicuously absent because I was saving it for the last day. That of course would be. . .ditties!!!

The Power of the Ditty
If you’ve known me for awhile, you know I truly believe in the power of the ditty. But if you’re new to Sizzle Bop, let me explain.

The ditty is an amazing tool.
Information can be learned and cemented almost effortlessly.
And yet, for years, I had missed the value of this incredible learning tool.

You see, my son is not musical.
He has no natural rhythm.
He cannot even clap on the beat.
So it never occurred to me to use rhymes or rhythm in teaching him. I assumed it would be a pointless and frustrating exercise to even try.

But then one day . . .

I discovered him repeating his spelling words over and over until a natural and rhythmical pattern emerged. The use of rhythm cemented the spelling into his mind.
I was stunned.
Then I opened my mind to the possibility that he might actually be able to learn with little rhythms.

So we tested this theory.
We put his fraction rules into rhyme.

Here’s the full version of that rhyme.

(please note, matching shoes means the denominators are the same)

When adding or subtracting fractions, you can’t lose,
Just be sure before you start you’ve got matching shoes.

Once your shoes DO match, keep your shoes the same.
And work straight across the top. That’s the name of the game.


That gives you satisfaction.
Through numbers I stroll finding
Pieces of a WHOLE.

To multiply two fractions, it’s so easy if you got ‘em.
Multiply across the top. Multiply across the bottom.

When you’ve got two fractions that you need to divide,
Just flip the second fraction and multiply.

To my astonishment, he had them memorized instantly. He never again struggled with adding or subtracting fractions.

Since then we have created (or found) ditties for many other things.

  • The Planets in order from the sun
  • Speed of Sound and Light
  • Days in a week and a year, months in a year.
  • Parts of Speech
  • Presidents in order
  • Boy Scout Knife Safety Rules
  • Elements of the Periodic Table
  • Important historical events (we have over a dozen of these)
  • Books of the Bible
  • Rules of Grammar
  • Vowels
  • Even how to calculate the circumference, area and volume of a sphere.

Ditties are now a daily part of our school.
We start every morning with a period of “Recitations”.
Done repeatedly, every day, a child learns them easily, even effortlessly.

I have fallen in love with the power of the ditty. It is an amazing and often overlooked tool.
But please note…
A ditty is NOT great poetry.
It is NOT wondrous literature set to rhyme.
It is NOT a delightful twist of the tongue engaging your love of wordplay.

It is simply rhythmical language (sometimes rhyming, sometimes not) with facts worthy of memorization.
I am absolutely sold on the value of daily repetition of chosen ditties.
***For those of you who have been asking, the Ditty CD has finally been completely recorded and is now in editing. I really, really, really hope to have this available soon. And best of all, we have some wonderful skip counting ditties (tunes actually) that work wonders for the kid who just can’t make flash card math facts stick. I’m sorry I can’t share them here. They simply make no sense in print. You have to hear them. I’ll keep you informed.

So, if your child is struggling to remember a basic rule, consider putting that rule to a simple rhyming scheme.
The simpler the better. Don’t be wordy and clever.
Keep it simple.
Then repeat it a few times each day.
Within a couple of weeks, with virtually no effort, they’ll have it memorized.

Okay, here are two more for learning Perimeter, Area and Volume.
The first one sort of teaches the concept.
The second one gives you a short formula memory ditty.

Polly J. Perimeter

Polly J. Perimeter took a walk around the pasture.

She measured each and every side and added them together.

Arianna Area bought some carpet for the pasture.

She multiplied two touching sides to find the area faster.

Vinnie Victor Volume built a barn right on the pasture.

To find how much the barn would hold,

He took the area he’d been told

And multiplied by height

Then sold the barn to Farmer Casper.

Hysterical Math

We add all the sides for perimeter

It’s length times width for area.

For volume it’s length times width times height

A good formula lessens hysteria.

Motown Math
Amy Pak is a long time friend of Sizzle Bop. Since we’re looking at ways to put motion into learning, it was a good time to bring out a great idea Amy sent in several years ago.

Hey Carol, just an idea to add to your repertoire of math “helps.”
I developed a way for my sizzler to remember how to divide fractions.
Using the tune from the Diana Ross “Stop in the Name of Love” song, you must sing it like so:

STOP! When you divide… (Stop! In the name of love)
You need to multiply… (Before you break my heart)
Flip it oh-over… (Think it oh-over)

Hand motions”
Of course in a melodramatic way (as long as the sizzler isn’t knocking down lamps in the process).
“Stop!” of course has one hand on the hip and the arm extended with a hand in the typical “stop” way (like Diana Ross).
For “When you divide,” Put your fists together and slowly take them apart in beat to the music.
For “You need to multiply,” Make your forearms into an “X.” “Flip it over” is the fun part.
Do the “rolling hands over and over with a little fling on beat.” You know, like the Pips, or the Temptations. 🙂

Each time a child is doing fractional division, EVERYONE in the house is singing this silly jingle by the time we are through…over and over and oh-over. lol! It’s catchy!                    — Amy


Some On-line Games:

Also sent in from Stephany– Thanks!

Games for Math by Peggy Kaye (this is chock full of paper and pencil games that all my kids have loved)
Sir Cumference Series

Instead of listing curriculum here, it would be better for you to look at what all the moms in Sizzleland answered when asked what math curriculum they like to use. For the results of our Curriculum survey– go here.

We’ve been asking all week long for you to share with us things that YOU have found successful for your Sizzler’s math work. We’ll be sharing your ideas shortly.
You may have noticed that so far, many of the items we suggest work well with younger kids doing simpler math problems.
But we are a bit sparser in suggestions for the older student.

So the QUESTION OF THE DAY is what ideas do you have for the older math student?
What are some motivation techniques?
Are their little tricks that helped them conquer a tough concept?
What have you had to do/find/change in order to achieve math success?

Keep watching for the community suggestions. We’ll get those to you soon.
At Sizzle Bop, we never claim to have all the answers.
But we’re always looking for one more thing to try.

Thanks, as always, for being part of this community.


2 Responses to “MATH WEEK – Day 5”

  1. whateverphilipians48 Says:

    I cannot wait until the ditty CD comes out. My kids love learning through music and rhymes.

  2. Mona Abdullayev Says:


    I heard you at a conference this past spring and just loved the idea of “the ditty”. You are brilliant! So, while trying to remember (once again) how to convert I remembered your advise and began to think of how to put the rule into a rhyme. Here it is: From smaller to larger in math you divide, from larger to smaller you multiply! Yay, it worked!


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