Making Music Count: From Action to Symbol

Our goal is to provide a working environment where students are developing the musical know-how and its implicit mathematics that they use everyday in making sense of the music all around them. “Keeping the beat,” surprisingly becomes a path into the proportional mathematics helping to organize musical time.

Expressing rhythms in action (clapping, jumping, blocks), children are constructing a more general understanding of musical time.

Knowledge in Action: Clapping

We seek to help students engage, make explicit and develop, their active knowledge of music and its inherent mathematics. Rather than giving up their powerful know-how, students can learn in the service of developing and better understanding what they already know how to do.

The Hot Cross Buns train is actually built of Cuisenaire Rod blocks. Lined up, as in the picture, they create, in their proportional spatial relations, an embodiment of the rhythm of Hot Cross Buns.

Knowledge in Action: Seeing and Hearing Spatial Relations

Knowledge in Action: Jumping

Action to Symbol: Finding the Math in Music


Coupled with the interactive computer music program, Impromptu, action knowledge evolves into a proportional symbolic representation. With Impromptu as a sounding source, the children create a compositional medium joining music and math, actually hearing the math happening .

With Impromptu as medium, the children’s proportional action knowledge evolves into a proportional symbolic representation –holding action still for further reflection.

Proportional Beats in Impromptu

The activities in Making Music Count will provide opportunities for you and your students to develop and explore assumptions, intuitions and understandings regarding the mathematics inherent in music. In this way we hope that math will be awakened by the sounds of music with a particular emphasis in this case on the rhythmic aspects of music.

Ratios - Proportions-Fractions-Common Multiples

12:6 = 2:1

6:3 = 2:1

Making Music Count

Project Meeting: Jeanne Bamberger &Herbie Hancock

To Learn More about this project and the embedded mathematics in music:

Jeanne Bamberger: & Gena Greher:

Created By
Jeanne Bamberger & Gena Greher

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