Robert MacCarthy teaches math to sixth graders at Willard Middle School in Berkeley, CA. He wants them to learn to love numbers, and also to love each other, so he finds out their interests and blends these into math lessons. They solve problems out loud, sometimes into a microphone, and other students cheer them. They mix math with art, and games, and a few students each year star in a math music video made by classmates under the label MATHISNOTACRIME PRODUCTIONS.
As a child, MacCarthy had trouble understanding math. After he became a teacher, he wanted to do things differently. Now some of his students come to school wearing T-shirts covered with problems they solved, written in marker and glitter paint. Students say it's impossible to tune out in his class. "He helps us by being funny," says Mekhi McElroy, 12. "The way he teaches, people want to pay attention to him."