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2 Pi is pretty fly for a math guy

JakescottSILVER SPRING  - Jake Scott grew up in a crack house in Capitol Heights. He was ineligible to play sports during his freshman year at Suitland High School. He was lost with no real direction.

Today he may be better known as “2 Pi,” the most popular Math teacher and wrestling coach at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

“2 Pi” is Scott’s character in his rap videos. But “2 Pi” doesn’t rhyme lines about drugs or girls or anything your typical rapper would sing about. He raps about Math.

“Because the educational system is so starved, I think people right away took a liking to it,” Scott says.

Scott will tell you without his high school wrestling coach, Santo Chase, leading him in the correct path he wouldn’t be where he is today. Chase pushed Scott to make grades and reach certain goals on and off the wrestling mat that never seemed imaginable at the time.

He went on to excel as a wrestler at American University and was named the varsity wrestling coach at Blair in 1996 after graduating and started teaching Math there a few years after. Scott hopes he can have a similar impact on the lives of students through Math, wrestling and the power of rhyming words.

“I think one of my strengths is the fact that I came through adversity and I realized what it feels like to be in a situation where you don’t understand and the teacher isn’t trying a new method and is just putting you to sleep and then they get mad you’re falling asleep and they take it personal,” Scott says. “Given my experiences I don’t want to be that teacher who puts kids on a grinding mill and expects them to have all eyes on me while I take them through the grueling process.”

Scott started rapping about four years ago. Kekura Musa, a 2009 Blair graduate who lived with Scott during part of high school, and Scott’s nephew were talking about business ideas when the creative thoughts starting coming to him.

Scott had seen all the posters on the school walls with equations and witty sayings. But students weren’t getting the full message. He started making a few posters on his own before coming up with the idea of rapping about equations and algebra.

“All the posters that I saw were funny but not necessarily addressing the need which is students didn’t understand the unit circle, they didn’t understand fractions and I said I need to make some stuff that addresses those needs,” Scott says.

His idea was a rapping caterpillar. All he needed was a cartoon artist and a rapper. He found neither, so he decided to take the plunge and rap the songs himself.

“Initially the students laughed like, ‘what’s this?’ but I think anyone appreciates someone coming out of their comfort zone,” Scott says. “So even though the students initially laughed I know to some degree we all respect someone who comes out of their comfort zone so they appreciated it.”

Scott says he starting incorporating students into the videos and that’s when it really took off “because not only was I coming out of my comfort zone, I’m asking you to come out of your comfort zone and it became a group effort. So the students really enjoyed being in the mix.”

“I think it’s quite entertaining,” says Kasso Okoudjou, a University of Maryland math professor. “What he’s showing is clearly true… It’s a good way at getting people’s attention. It gets people interested and then maybe from there you can teach them more.”

Eventually, it caught on. Students were coming in before school, during lunch and after school to help create and star in his videos. Sometimes videos are made during class.

From there it continued to grow in popularity. He became the rapping Math teacher.

“I want my class to be fun,” Scott says. “I want it to be exciting. I want it to be an exchange. I want to hear about the students. I want to hear about their lives. I want to be fair.

“One of the things I hate is when teachers forget they were students before,” Scott says. “That does them a huge disservice because when students see the hypocrisy it’s such a huge turn off. I want to the students to know ‘yeah, I know where you are, I know where you’re coming from’ and when the students realized that then they are more receptive to all that you have to say because they appreciate you keeping it real.”

Scott continues to evolve and find new ways to entertain his students while teaching them valuable Math lessons. He has written four children’s books starring “2 Pi,” a rapping caterpillar. Through his books he tries to accomplish a few simple goals: make Math appealing for all ages and to teach girls Math and boys how to read.

“It’s fun, it’s encouraging and one of the things I’m always preaching about his we have to teach our daughters Math and our sons how to read and my ‘2 Pi’ books will accomplish both of those objectives because they have math and they have reading,” Scott says.

“He established a mind set in us all that you could be great at something,” says Musa, who wrestled for Scott at Blair before having a stellar career at University of Maryland Baltimore County. “You could be great and don’t settle for anything less than that so I carry that with everything I do. On top of that he always established the educational side of things and importance of it. For example, if I didn’t have a 3.0 GPA I had to pay rent so it was always important and he does his own businesses and that kind of inspired me because I’m into business. He has had a strong influence on me.”

Musa was accepted into the Imperial College London Business School’s MSc Economics and Strategy Business program, his number one choice, on Tuesday.

On Scott’s Facebook page there exists a thank-you message from a former student and wrestler. It has 10 “Likes.” But there is a reply to Scott’s comment from Chase, his former wrestling coach. It reads: “Jake you never forgot what ‘Old Coach’ taught; ‘Each one teach one, each one reach one.’”

By Tim Schwartz

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