How to teach Mathematics in Music
Have you ever had a frustrating moment when you are teaching a child on a musical concept and the child just doesn’t get it? I have had THOUSANDS of those moments. I have exploded with impatience, lost my temper, raised my voice, etc. Absolutely a traumatic experience for the child, and an absolutely demoralising, guilt-ridden, energy-sucking experience for me.
Over the years, when I encounter these moments when a child doesn’t get it – I have learnt to accept that there was a new teaching method waiting for me to discover.
Here’s something I discovered about teaching young children the complicating mathematical rhythms of music. How do you teach a kid about fractions of a beat, and the relationship of halves, quarters and wholes? The crotchets, quavers and semiquavers?
Here are some ideas that worked for me, try it next time when a child doesn’t get the maths.
COUNT ALOUD USING NUMBERS
I call this the traditional method because I was taught this way by my teacher, and almost every teacher I know, uses this method to teach children to play the music with the correct rhythm. It works for some kids.
In this particular example, the kid used three ways to have herself understand the maths behind her music:
- She used numbers “1 n 2 n 3 n” to help her play the notes on time
- She wrote ‘FAST’
- She drew a running pony with colourful streaks of speed light to help her!
COUNT ALOUD USING WORDS
Some kids I had worked with struggled when I had them use numbers to play their music on time. I can understand why – the kids are learning to multi-task. They were concentrating to play the correct sequence of notes and at the same time, their mind is busy handling a sequence of numbers!
When I introduced WORDS to them – it was easy for them to multi-task. In the above example, the yellow coloured space meant that the child will say aloud “Pineapple shake” instead of “1 n 2 n”
USE LYRICS TO PLAY THE CORRECT NUMBER OF NOTES
In this example, the pink highlight will ‘activate’ the lyrics “One Two Jelly Bomb!”
Works like a charm!
I have used a toy to march like a soldier on the piano book base, just so that the child can visualise and hear the steady tempo. I demonstrated how a toy marching erratically sounds like and how a steady march sounded. Then I asked the child to play their music while I marched the toy on the piano book base.
Once that is accomplished, I challenge them to visualise the marching toy and move on to use a metronome for the child to hear the steady tempo beats.
I have also used DUPLO LEGO bits to explain to the child the relationship between quavers and crotchets and minims. It worked wonders when the child then played the music seeing the notes as LEGO bricks.
Hope these ideas work for you!