Music and Math

“Making Connections: Preservice Teachers Experience the Mathematics of Drumming”

In this interdisciplinary project, math educator Anne Marie Marshall (PhD, Univ. of Maryland) and ethnomusicologist Ryan Bazinet (PhD, CUNY Graduate Center) collaborated to integrate mathematics and music in a mathematics methods course with future elementary school teachers. The class took place at CUNY’s Lehman College in the Bronx, NY, where Dr. Marshall is Assistant Professor, with a group of her graduate students in the College’s MATH UP (Mathematics Achievement with Teachers of High need Urban Population) teacher preparation program.

Broadly, this project grows out of the researchers’ conviction that studying and experiencing music can enhance the experience and study of mathematics. While connections between music and math might be over acclaimed to the point of cliché, these links have rarely been studied in rigorous fashion. There is much work to be done, with great potential for positive impact on the field of education. Teaching students to think about music can translate well to ways of thinking in other contexts. For example, in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Joanne Lipman argued that musical study helps people in a range of areas that are widely useful, including collaboration, discipline, reconciling differing ideas, and creativity.

The project, initiated at Lehman College in the spring of 2012, was primarily focused on helping graduate students in math education better understand the process of creating high quality integrated lessons and units. Marshall and Bazinet developed an integrated math and music lesson focused on drumming from multiple cultures. Central concepts of the lesson included polyrhythm, multiples, fractions, and pattern recognition, through multiple media and approaches. The goal was for students to experience an integrated lesson as well as to ‘discover’ specific connections between math and music. Researchers investigated student understanding of the integration, as well as how the experiences informed students’ planning of integrated mathematics lessons and units for elementary students.

In a subsequent conference presentation at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2013 regional conference and exposition in Baltimore, the researchers explored how the integrated lesson was understood and if students could transfer new learning into their elementary school classrooms. The PowerPoint file from that presentation can be found below. Contact information for the researchers can be found on the last slide of the PowerPoint presentation.

Powerpoint: Marshall and Bazinet – Making Connections between Mathematics and Music