Everyone, young and old, loves music. Music can help us communicate, music gets us moving, and music can change our moods.
Music is math. So, everyone should love math, too, right? Here are ways parents can enjoy music and math together.
Feel the Beat
When a dancer calls out, “5, 6, 7, 8…” she is counting off a bar of music, four beats to a bar. Help your child count the beats of your favorite song.
When a drummer taps out a more complicated rhythm, he is dividing one beat quarter notes into eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and so on…using fractions. Tap out the rhythm of a favorite song. Can your child tell which notes are slower or faster?
See the Sound
Sound itself is vibration. The number of vibrations per second determines the tone of the note. Higher notes vibrate at a higher frequency and lower notes vibrate at a lower frequency. Longer (or looser) strings vibrate more slowly and shorter (or tighter) strings vibrate more quickly. This is easy to demonstrate with a string instrument like a violin or guitar, but in a pinch you can show your child with a rubber band stretched over an empty shoe box.
Another great visual is to fill glasses with varying levels of water. Which do you think will make the highest notes and which will make the lowest? Gently tap each to hear.
The step between two notes is called an interval and different intervals create different moods. Play the first and fifth note in a scale together and it mimics the sound of Scottish bagpipes. A third apart and you have a beautiful harmony. Lower the third a half step and you have a minor third, which will sound sad to most people. Notes too close together are dissonant–the sounds clash. Try singing two notes together with your child and notice how different intervals sound to you.
The rhythms we beat, the melodies we make, even the very sounds that come out of our instruments are all made up of mathematics.
If you love listening to or making music, you enjoy mathematics, too. Next time you tap your feet, shake your hips, or sing out loud, give a thought to the numbers that make it all possible.