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Music and maths go hand in hand. Dmitri van Zwanenberg hits the right note

Music and maths go hand in hand. Dmitri van Zwanenberg hits the right note

Music and maths go hand in hand. Dmitri van Zwanenberg hits the right note

Primary Maths: Ages 4-5

As a professional musician turned teacher I like to use music as an inspiring way to get my reception children interested in different areas of the curriculum, especially maths.

I struck on the idea of using number shapes to represent notes in the octave and stuck pictures of the shapes on to the bars on the glockenspiel. Then I composed simple songs accompanied by tuned percussion. Two terms on and now every class is enjoying maths and music.

Using this kind of "notation" paves the way for children to move on to conventional forms. You often hear that maths and music go together; in this lesson, the order and value of numbers is linked to the order of the notes.

Working with a small group of children (although this works equally well with the whole class), I jumbled up kinaesthetic number pieces (I use Numicon) and numerals from one to five on a magnetic board and asked the children to match them up.

As the children worked on the problem I "la-la"ed the tune to the song "I like counting up to five, I like counting back from five, five, four, three, two, one", which is a simple run up and down the first five notes of an octave. Most children asked what I was singing so I told them it was a song about what they were doing and that it would help us to remember the order and size of numbers one to five.

When the children finished ordering the numbers I sang the song all the way through and then sang it again, getting them to point at the kinaesthetic pieces as I did so. Finally, I invited the children to sing with me, breaking the song up into sections so that they grasped the meaning of what they were singing.

The children enjoyed the song and it was lovely to see that those with English as an additional language (the majority) understood and were able to use this song as a tool for organising and remembering numbers.

I find that teaching the basic elements of numbers in this way is easy: it goes in and stays there.

Dmitri van Zwanenberg is the music co-ordinator at Carlton Vale Infant School in Kilburn, north London.

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