Study: Mariachi music used to teach math

Music, in any form, helpful in learning fractions, study finds

SAN ANTONIO – A recent study conducted by a University of Texas-San Antonio professor explores the possibilities of using music in the classroom to teach math.

"If you tap your foot as you're listening to a song, then you are doing math," said Dr. Crystal Kalinec-Craig, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at UTSA.

Kalinec-Craig's findings were recently published.

"Every time that we would talk with musicians, they would say, 'Oh, there's so much mathematics that's in music,'" Kalinec-Craig said.

For those who are not musically inclined, the connection has to do with fractions.

"A whole note has four beats, and you can subdivide that into quarter notes. Well, I’m already starting to use the language of a fraction -- a quarter, a half, a whole,” Kalinec-Craig said.

Fractions are not always an easy concept for elementary students.

"Suddenly we have two numbers and this mysterious bar that's in the middle of it,” Kalinec-Craig said.

That is where the music comes in. Kalinec-Craig has long researched the idea of merging music and math.

Her published study dealt with a group of third-graders in a town in the southwestern United States. Specifically, it focused on mariachi music and math. Why mariachi music? 

"It just happened to fit with the lives and experiences of the community that we did the study in,” Kalinec-Craig said.

Just about any music can be used, depending on what the group of students has experience with. In the end, the study showed that while there were some complexities, bringing music to the classroom was successful at offering a different and unique way of learning.

“It just created more connections for kids to see fractions in something that’s tangible," Kalinec-Craig said.

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