Good Ol’ Units
Ms. Kessner's class

to the tune of “The Good Ol’ Boys” by Waylon Jennings
(the theme from The Dukes Of Hazzard TV series)

12 inches in a foot
3 feet in a yard
5,280 feet in a mile child, it isn’t so hard

16 ounces in a pound
2,000 pounds in a ton
So great, 128 fluid ounces in a gallon my son

You know the USA, Liberia and Myanmar
Those are the only three countries ain’t metric so far

8 ounces in a cup
4 cups in a quart
They’re fine for fractions ‘cause they got more factors than the metrical sort

A pint’s a half of a quart, a cup’s a half of a pint
Just find the factors of the ounces or the inches and divide ‘em up fine

Based on composite numbers
To make dividing a breeze
But it makes the kids cry when they try to memorize all these, yee-ha!

"The Good Ol' Boys" by Waylon Jennings


Ms. Kessner wanted two things from this workshop song. First, her kids needed to learn how many of the various units it takes to make other units in our old "standard" measuring system, i.e. how many inches in a foot, etc. You really need to know these units if you want to travel, unless you're going somewhere besides the U.S.A, Liberia, and Myanmar.

The second objective was to establish WHY the units we use are the way they are; there really is a good reason to have 128 fluid ounces in a gallon, my son. See, it's all about the factors; metrics are great for calculating in base-10, but sometimes you just want 1/3 or 1/4 of something. If your "whole" is based on a highly composite number instead of being based on 10 or 100, you can divide things into equal parts more easily. So with 128 ounces in a gallon, you can easily divide into halves (half gallon), quarters (quart, which is how it got its name), eighths (pint), sixteenths (cup) etc; all without getting into decimals or remainders.

For another example of how composite numbers make life easier, consider pizza: we usually cut a pizza into 8 slices, or 12 for an extra-large pizza; why not 10 slices? It is way, way easier to see where to cut for 8 or 12 equal slices than for 10; try it sometime! For similar reasons we have 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 degrees in a circle. So even though the metric system is awesome, there are still some jobs where composite numbers are easier.

If you don't know the tune for this one, click on the video link to hear Waylon singing the original version.

How does this song address the standards?
Most U.S. states (as well as the Common Core) require that kids learn the old "standard" units from 2nd grade to 4th grade; they need to learn metrics too, but that's another song. In 5th grade, we also get into fractions, ratios, and number theory for composite numbers.

If you don't know the tune for this one (the TV show was quite a while back), click on the video link to hear Waylon singing the original version.

Chords: E, A, B. If you want to play in a different key (most kids cannot sing as low as Waylon Jennings, though it may be fun to try) I suggest you capo the neck of your guitar rather than just changing key, so you can keep that fun thumping bass line on the bottom.