Count on Me: Math and Music

It happens almost every week.  If someone’s not building with the instruments, they are lining them up to count them in class.  When I first started teaching, I used to be frustrated by this behavior.  Don’t those adorable children know they are supposed to be practicing a steady beat or playing along with the music!  But now I know better.  Now I know that these two are important skills to be nurtured and ones that improve musicianship at the same time.

Children and Math

“The foundation for children’s mathematical development is established in the earliest years…Appropriate mathematical experiences challenge young children to explore ideas related to patterns, shapes, numbers, and space…[Children] learn mathematical concepts through everyday activities:  sorting,…reasoning,…recognizing patterns,…singing motion songs,…and using spatial visualization.” from “Mathematics for the Youngest Learners” from Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, copyright 2000 by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, this excerpt found on p. 8 of Early Childhood Today, Vol. 46 No 7, May 2002, Scholastic Inc.

One-to-One Coorespondence

Your toddler or preschooler may already be counting enthusiastically saying his numbers from 1 to 10, often with the words running together, or perhaps skipping a number for the younger ones.  This is an exciting time for your child, with noticeable growth in counting and mathematical development.  The rote counting that young children often do is the first step towards and understanding of the meaning of numbers.  One-to-one correspondence is the ability to assign and understand that each number counted corresponds with an object.  The development of this skill is the basis for understanding mathematics.  Finger counting helps children reinforce one-to-one correspondence skills because it is a concrete experience that is both physical and visual, so it easily demonstrates the relationship of numbers from 1 to 10 to objects (or sounds) being counted.

How You Encourage a Love of Math and Counting

Children are often overwhelmed by math when they enter elementary school.  It is important to encourage a love of math before these years.  Make math fun for your preschooler!  Plan family experiences that surround math with feelings of competence, joy and excitement.  Use some of the following ideas or come up with your own fun math activities!

  • Practice math skills with your active mover by counting while clapping, bouncing a ball or jumping on a trampoline.
  • Incorporate counting into activities such as grocery shopping.  Count the cans of soup you buy, the number of bagels in a bag or the apples you pick.
  • Sing Kindermusik songs that include counting such as 1-2 Tie My Shoe or 1, 2, 3, Click! from our current Cities! unit.
  • Ask your child to pick out a specific number of books to read at bedtime.  Count the number of specific objects on each page of the book (such as the number of piggies on each page in This Little Piggy from our current Fiddle-Dee-Dee class).
  • Play games that include counting or math.  Have your child count out loud as she moves spaces on the game board.
  • Incorporate counting into your child’s favorite activities:  count the number of swings she takes or the dolls in her dollhouse.
  • Count things around the house:  the toys you are cleaning up, the fish in the fish tank, the magazines on the coffee table, and the stuffed animals on the bed.

Incorporating counting into everyday activities helps your child grow in his understanding of one-to-one correspondence, the basis of all mathematical learning.  Using counting in a musical context in these activities also prepares children for later experiences of counting rhythms in music. Help your child become excited about math and music by sharing your excitement with him!

“The true spirit of delight, the exaltation , the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.”  – Bertrand Russell

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