My name is Keziah Finney and I am a certified middle school Math and Science Teacher. I have been teaching for 16 years in Pennsylvania and Delaware. I have also been rapping since I was 9 years old. When I became a teacher, I created songs to help teach math and science concepts to my students. After meeting my husband in 2012, we combined my skills for teaching and music with his discipline for video and studio production and created JFINTV Lyrical Math. JFINTV® Lyrical Math is a supplemental math intervention program that uses hip-hop music as a medium to enhance basic math skill performance.
Since we initiated this idea, we have created Lyrical Math Part 1 CD with a corresponding Student Workbook, Teacher Guidebook, Resource Assessment Book, Digital Video Series. This past April we released our Lyrical Math Part 2 CD. Through Lyrical Math, I’ve had the great opportunity to help students learn math in a new way while expressing themselves through song and dance. This program has allowed me to teach math through hip-hop music during after school and summer school programs, perform with students at community events and share this program on various platforms to help others enjoy a fun and engaging way to learn math.
Name: Keziah Finney
Alma Mater: University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Undergraduate School) and Wilmington University (Graduate School)
STEM Career Path: Middle School Math and Science Teacher
KH: What/Who inspired you to pursue biology and mathematics ?
KF: As a child, I always enjoyed Math and Science class. I always wanted to become a teacher so that I could help children learn. As a child, I also thought to combine my love for math and science to become a pediatrician. With this in mind, I pursued my undergrad in Biology at UMES. In my junior year, I realized I preferred being a teacher. After completing my undergrad in Biology, I started teaching and loved it! I then worked towards my Masters in Education and became a certified middle school math and science teacher.
KH: How has Lyrical Math made a lasting impact in the STEM community?
KF: Lyrical Math has made a lasting impact on the STEM community by demonstrating that learning math can and should always be fun! It has helped students increase their proficiency and confidence in math and motivated them to pursue careers that are STEM related.
KH: Helping the youth while incorporating hip-hop.. tell us more about how effective this approach has been for you.
KF: Teaching math through hip-hop has helped me to reach students that may not enjoy the traditional classroom environment. This approach allowed my most outgoing students to become more engaged and have an opportunity to express themselves through music and dance while learning math. Lyrical Math has changed the routine of simply learning through pencil and paper to getting your entire body involved in the learning process. I’ve witnessed students that typically take the back seat to learning become some of the most engaged in the classroom. I’m truly grateful to God for the inspiration given to me and my husband to use our gifts and talents to develop this product.
Check out Ms. Finney and one of her previous students dropping a few bars:
KH: In your opinion, why is it important for more Women of Color to be involved in STEM?
KF: It’s extremely important for more Women of Color to be involved in STEM to inspire younger women of color to consider STEM careers. The more we get involved in this field the more it will become a norm and expectation to see women of all colors in STEM. The next generation of women of color should be able to work with many other women of color in STEM fields and break the tradition of being one of the only women of color at a particular institution that is STEM related.
KH: You have been in the education field for quite some time. What valuable lessons have you learned pertaining to finding new ways to engage your students in math.
KF: I have learned that it is important to explore new ways to reach students. As a teacher, I’ve learned that no matter how experienced or educated I am that I have to tailor my delivery to keep my students interested and involved. I’ve learned how important it is to incorporate students’ interests into the lesson to maximize learning. I’m thankful to have Lyrical Math to catch the attention of my musical learners.
KH: On this journey have you faced any struggles as an African American woman in STEM? How have you overcame those struggles?
KF: I have definitely faced challenges as an African American woman in STEM. I have taught in environments where I wasn’t well receive because of my skin color. I also experienced racism as I worked through the final stages of receiving my teaching license. During my student teaching, an individual that was authorized to verify my student teaching completion attempted to falsify my documents. I’m forever grateful for those in position that identified the incident as racism and ensured that accurate information was presented for successful completion of my teaching program.
KH: Any advice for women that are discouraged to pursue mathematics?
KF: I would advise women to embrace standing out and possibly being the only woman or woman of color within a math related career. There have been many before us that took the risk to stand out and pave the way for us. We should continue in their footsteps and add to their victory.
KH: Best Advice You Have Ever Received?
KF: The best advice I ever received was from a pastor at a church I visited during my undergrad. During the sermon, he said “Eat the meat and spit out the fat.” I have applied that to many aspects of my life to help me to push through challenging moments and remain focused on my goals. I’ve since learned that when I ‘eat the meat and spit out the fat’ I am able to build upon what is resourceful to help me reach my goals and quickly move past what is clearly a distraction.