“Gustav Holst, Gustav Klimt & Keith Terry: A Common Language”
The Rhythm of Math
Elementary classrooms in San Francisco and Oakland, California were filled with the sights and sounds of math for this year’s Rhythm of Math pilot programs. Students in grades 2-5 translated numerical expressions and operations into patterns of claps, pats, and steps played on the body. They studied the patterns mathematically and used Rhythm Blocks to create their own musical pieces.
The Rhythm of Math is an integrated music and mathematics program that engages students in learning and applying essential mathematical concepts, while performing, studying, and composing rhythms. It was developed by Body Musician and Guggenheim Fellow, Keith Terry and elementary school teacher, Linda Akiyama. At the heart of The Rhythm of Math program is a technique for composing and performing body music called Rhythm Blocks—a technique that is easy to learn, even for teachers and students with little or no music experience. Rhythm Blocks have certain mathematical qualities that make them ideal for learning properties of natural numbers, flexible ways of conceiving of multiplication and fractions, division, ratios, proportions, and measurement.
In The Rhythm of Math lessons, the enjoyment and challenge of playing and creating rhythms motivates students to learn mathematical concepts while studying the underlying structure of a wide range of musical patterns. Mathematics then becomes a creative tool that students use to compose their own rhythmic music. Using math to notate and compose rhythms provides students with concrete examples of how key mathematical concepts can be applied to real world situations, giving students an opportunity to use mathematics to solve problems in a creative context.
Exploring math concepts with rhythms engages the senses of touch, hearing, and sight as well as movement. Students feel and hear patterns as the number of beats are added, multiplied or divided.
In early 2013, Crosspulse Media will be publishing The Rhythm of Math instruction book and accompanying DVD with detailed lesson plans and support materials.
Here are a few of the many positive responses that we received from teachers and students.
“The exercises have made the identity, commutative and associative properties of addition/multiplication very concrete and kinesthetic to the children. These helped in clear understanding of these properties which was seen clearly in the results of the trimester math test given by the district.” – Leni Juarez, Flynn Elementary, Spanish Immersion Program, SFUSD
“Great idea to use multi-sensory methods to teach math. It makes math fun and viable and using Rhythm Blocks for the most part reduces the affective filter and draws in students for whom math is challenging.” – Corrigan Malloy, Lafayette Elementary, OUSD
“Even though I knew all the lessons I understand the concepts better now that I have learned Rhythm Blocks. I would like to learn more math using Rhythm Blocks because I love math and music but usually math is figuring out problems in your head however this Rhythm Blocks is a hands-on experience.” – Brianna
“I feel smart and rhythmic because I’m learning rhythm and math at the same time.” – Maricruz
“I felt something new in my heart. I felt that the Rhythm Blocks went to my body and told me new answers.” – Juan
“I feel like it helped me with division and it is fun too.”
“Rhythm Blocks helped me with my multiplication.” – Kaitlyn
“I solve math problems and use it to make rhythms.” – Jerwey
The inauguration ceremony was a huge success. The minister of education for BC was there and she was super impressed. I love body rhythm and taking Keith’s classes at the World Rhythm festival was one of those “moments” for me. Body Rhythm has really enhanced my own percussion skills and presents a clear learning path to help internalize rhythm in general.
The theme, for the ceremony, was the environment. We used rhythm ( intro rhythm block set) and movement to show “ripples on water” and how little things can make a difference to the environment (kids can change the world through passing on knowledge). It was ‘eye candy’ with all 410 students fanned out in a half circle like a giant rainbow. 7 rings-4 rings of rhythm and 3 of the ‘water movement’ with blue ribbons showing water moving out. Rhythm pushing water..very cool. They were dressed in graduated shades of blue with the water ring (students) dressed in white so it was very visual as well. The delegates were on an elevated stage and seated on raised bleachers so they really got a fantastic view of the ripple effect as well. The finale was a rhythm train using ‘thank you for the buggy ride’ with about 150 students on the outside ring. We all had a lot of fun. The teachers as well as the students got right into it. It even made the evening news. I’ve been asked to teach preforming arts there this year (L’Ecole Victor Brodeur) and I will continue to encourage body rhythm and the awareness of rhythm in every ‘body’.
I am loving the second instructional DVD, my son is my rhythm partner. Keep up the great work.
Jacob and I had the opportunity to teach this amazing young lady at a music camp all the way up in Cordova, Alaska. She got really into the Rhythm Blocks, practiced them all week, and showed us this at the end.
Truly a testament to the healing and engaging power of body percussion, Rose* (who at 13 has a degenerative neurological condition) got inspired to take on the fun and challenging “Rhythm Blocks” and displayed major progress in coordination over the one week music camp. Her joyful musical energy and tenacity taught us a thing or two about “heart”.
(*Yes, we obtained permission from Rose’s parents to share this video and story)
– Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman
In this article from the May 2006 issue of DRUM! Magazine, Keith demonstrates basic body music vocabulary, advanced hand vocabulary and performance.
From: Linda Akiyama, Oakland, California
Here is the “Names of Polygons” chant w/ rhythm block accompaniment that I’m doing with the kids. They really like performing it for each other. When they took the polygon vocabulary test today a lot of the students were doing it quietly at their desks to remember which polygon was which. The 7-sided polygon is a heptagon from the Greek heptos for seven. Sept is Latin for seven, but I guess the Greeks just had one up on the Romans when it came to geometry, thus the name.
I also did something this week that is movement-oriented although not body music. I work a lot with UCSF in science education and am teaching a course for elementary school teachers this summer on teaching about Matter. I use a lot of movement activities. When we explore states of matter, one of the things that I do with my class is have students be models of water molecules. We create a model of a container with 4 desks in a square to form an empty cubical space in the middle. I have about 8 kids go inside the space. Each one stretches out his/her arms, with hands representing the 2 hydrogen atoms and the body as the oxygen atom. First we do water in a solid state. They connect to one another. As molecules do in matter that is in a solid state, the kids continuously vibrate their bodies, but do not travel from one place to another. Then I pretend to apply heat and the model molecules break apart, pushing, bumping and sliding past each other as they travel around the bottom of our “container.” Then I pretend to apply more heat and I also open the “container.” The kids become molecules of water that is in a gas state and escape the container flying around the room independent of each other. It’s exciting for them to learn that even though the solid objects around them look completely still, on a molecular level, its all vibrating!