Skip to main content

Just add a dash of music

Schools in west London are helping pupils get in tune with maths, reports Emily Clark

MATHS has never been so much fun for primary pupils in London where music is opening up the world of numbers.

Instruments and songs are being used to explain mathematical principles such as formulas, graphs and number scales.

And while strumming string stretched across a cardboard box might seem an unconventional way to learn about Pythagoras, it has worked for pupils in west London. The hand-made instrument is used to explain vibration, resonance and amplification, in a project devised by the New London Orchestra to teach seven-year-olds maths through music.

The "2+2=5?" scheme has been running for two years at schools in Hammersmith and Fulham. It complements key stage 3 but emphasises method rather than results.

Julian Knight, orchestra general manager, said: "Children's knowledge of music and maths is improved, but there is also the benefit of learning in a creative way."

Garth McArthur, the orchestra's education manager, has now developed science and literacy schemes for 12-year-olds which he aims to run nationwide. Science students learn about waveform, frequency, timbre, amplitude and vibration, by experimenting with a variety of instruments.

The literacy course, due to begin in the autumn, will involve three schools working together to adapt a written text for an orchestral performance. The five musicians involved in the projects have received training from inspectors and work alongside teachers.

Daria Wignall, senior arts inspector at Hammersmith and Fulham council, said: "The musicians have innovative and creative ways of looking at the national curriculum which sometimes teachers cannot see. Linking music to academic subjects has greatly improved pupils' achievement."

The New London Orchestra and Hammersmith and Fulham council join a variety of famous performers, musicians and literary figures who are supporting the TES Target Creativity Campaign.

The campaign was launched last month to combat the regime of primary school tests and targets, and urges schools to set their own goals.

Tell us about creative approaches and alternative targets at your school by emailing us at

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you