Hands-on activities illustrate connection between mathematics and music

“”Taking Notes” by Stuart Crawford. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Math and Music overlap in many interesting ways. At an elementary level there are connections between the time signature of a piece of music and numbers and fractions. Trigonometry can be used to describe the frequency or pitch of notes. Some research even says a song’s popularity is a result of its mathematical structure. NCSSM math instructor Maria Hernandez and NCSSM music instructor Phillip Riggs wished to highlight this connection between music and math by creating engaging activities for students that illustrate how musical composition tools relate to transformations of functions.

In the activity, students are asked to create a short melody using freely-available software, then create a mathematical representation of the melody. Students then use various music composition tools to extend their melody. They then use geometric transformations to complete the mathematical representation of their extended composition.

Hernandez hopes that by connecting the two disciplines with hands-on projects, math will come alive for students. “Students experience the mathematical topics in a different sometimes more meaningful way, when they see that math is connected to other disciplines,” Hernandez said. “Even students without a music background enjoy this activity, because they are able to use their own creative ideas to create both the music and the mathematical representations.”

Math and Music Lesson Resources

View an interdiciplinary approach to transformation of functions. Included are all necessary resources for teachers, including videos, assignments, and links to freely-available software.

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