“Music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul, which does not know that it is counting.” –Gottfried Leibniz
One of the first ways children experience math is through music.1 Without a second thought, our minds relax, and our bodies react to music. Children experience music right from early childhood. For example, rocking babies to sleep gently with a lullaby.
Children learn to hum, enjoy, clap along, and even start looking towards the source of the music. These reactions, which are responses to musical elements, have rhythm, melody, and a steady beat, which are all reflections of the mathematical concepts listed below.1
- Movement and Steady Beat1
Music encourages movement, which helps children build spatial awareness. In fact, spatial and temporal awareness are the foundations for understanding many aspects of math, such as geometry.2
The response to music, such as tapping your toes or fingers at a repetitive and even pace, is referred to as a “steady beat.” This steady rhythm helps children develop one-to-one correspondence, or the ability to match one item with another, such as a tap for each syllable. Try having your child repeat a basic clapping sequence to work on one-to-one correspondence. For example, you can ask your child to clap according to the rhythm of a nursery song.
Music and math require children to make comparisons. When teaching music to children, you can always use comparables to set an understanding of what notes are higher or lower, what sounds are louder or quieter, and so on. These comparisons allow children to understand mathematical concepts such as quantity, ratios, word problems, etc.
Both music and math are dominated by patterns. Rhymes, songs, and music are some of the first experiences children have with patterns. So, by getting children involved in music, you can help them understand math concepts without even realizing it. Something as simple as playing a simple drum will help them recognize and create patterns and help children grasp the math concepts of patterns efficiently. They are important to understand differential calculus, signal processing, geometry, trigonometry, etc.
According to a recent study, it was found that students who studied rhythm were found to have the highest mathematical test scores. Frances Rauscher, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, says, “Rhythm is, after all, ‘the subdivision of a beat’. It’s about ratios and proportions, the relationship between a part and a whole – all material from math classes.”6
Musical rhythms are often similar to mathematical equations, such as 4/4 or 2/4 time. Having good addition and subtraction skills can be a lot of help for children to figure out how many beats they need in addition to what they have, or how beats need to be divided, and so on. This example demonstrates the validity of numerous studies conducted in the fields of math and music that say music as an activity in itself can contribute to a better understanding of mathematical concepts.
Another important similarity between music and math is that they have rules and formulae that children need to follow. While music may be more artistic than math, the rules are just as strict, if not more so, depending on what instrument you are playing.
As you intend to interact with music a lot before you experience the understanding of math, this can help children understand the importance of following rules in order to arrive at the desired result. This will help children absorb the importance of rules and help with the easy application of basic math equations and formulae when working on them.
- Rhymes and Songs4
There are plenty of songs that can help young children grasp mathematical concepts such as counting from an early age. Apart from helping with counting, singing, and repetition, it will also help with addition, subtraction, and building attention skills.
For example, rhymes like “One, Two, Buckle, my Shoe” or “Once I Caught A Fish Alive” can be fun ways of teaching children numbers and counting. Songs such as “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed” or “Five Little Ducks” can teach children subtraction. Apart from building an understanding of taking and adding on, counting backward and forward, rhymes such as “Ten Green Bottles” or “The 12 Days of Christmas” can extend children’s counting skills and number recognition.
You can have fun at home by integrating music to help support your child’s math skills along the way. Above are just some simple ways, but there can be more ideas that you can come up with to help your children incorporate music into their math learning to make them enjoyable.
Children learn to connect ideas, develop logic, and produce abstract thoughts by learning math through musical beats, melodies, rhythms, and so on.5 Music helps create a stimulating environment and allows children to be active participants in the process of learning. Music also encourages a positive attitude while developing math literacy through various musical activities that keep children eager and excited to learn.
- Support Math Readiness Through Music | NAEYC. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/support-math-readiness-through-music
- How Music Teaches Kids About Math. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://storytoys.com/blog/how-music-teaches-kids-about-math/
- Can Music Help Improve Learning Mathematics? | Mussila. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://mussila.com/can-music-help-improve-learning-mathematics/
- Kickstart Early Math Skills through the Magic of Music | Curious World. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.curiousworld.com/blog/learning-math-skills-through-music
- Using Music to Build Mathematical Skills in Early Learners. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://blog.reallygoodstuff.com/using-music-to-build-mathematical-skills-in-early-learners/
- SMA Article: The Connection between Music and Mathematics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.shankarmahadevanacademy.com/blog/The-Connection-between-Music-and-Mathematics/