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