Music and Math Games

I distinctly remember a moment in my college Theory II class when I looked up at the board (were we studying tonal cells?) and gave a gasp of recognition.  It was a quadriatic equation…in music.  Theory was oh, so easy for me and my teachers often asked (or, assumed rather) if I was good at math.

Um, that would be a negative.  I spent most of my mathematical life grasping after fuzzy fuzzy guesses.

But music, now, that made sense.  I wished that I could have studied math through music and grammar through a foreign language. Then maybe I wouldn’t have that D in calculus bogging down my college GPA.  And maybe I wouldn’t have spent my French classes wishing I had actually learned the names and functions of the parts of speech instead of just osmosing them.  (I know, osmosing isn’t a word.)

Now that Lia is taking piano lessons, I am gratified to find how much music integrates into the other learning areas.  Her reading has come along concurrently with sight-reading, she does most of her writing in her theory workbooks, her sense of history is broadening.

And Amelie is raking the knowledge in, too.  She can play a mean game of music flash card Go Fish for a three year old.  Of course, like a three year old, she doesn’t hide her cards and therefore often gets walloped by the 5 year old who has learned to dissemble.  But she knows her stuff.

Currently I am interested in using the girls’ musical knowledge/inclination/ability to a mathematical end.  And it’s brilliant.  Music is math you can hear and feel.

So I’m starting a working list of music/math activities ::

  • Use flash cards with note-values (whole note and rest, half note and rest, etc.).  When a note is shown, the child says the name of the note and how many pulses it is worth and then takes that number of steps forward.  Use the same process with rest cards, but step backwards.

With cuisennaire rods, designate one rod for the smallest value note.  Today we used the following :: white = eighth note; red = quarter note; purple = half note; brown = whole note.

  • Make addition or subtraction sentences on paper using note values and numbers (quarter note + quarter note = half note and below 1 + 1 = 2).  Lay the rods out in order and then figure out the answer to the addition using another rod of equal length.  Clap the sequence.
  • Or, alternately, lay out a series of rods and then transcribe it onto paper using notes and/or numbers.  Clap, count, add.
  • Today we did some basic subtraction using one size of rod as a quarter note (1).  Equations looked like whole note – quarter note = dotted half note and four rods take away one rod equals three rods.

I’m looking forward to using the rods for triple meter.  Is that geeky?


2 thoughts on “Music and Math Games

  1. It’s awesome!! I’m super dooper impressed and I want to remember this in a couple years when I have musical prodigi like you.

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