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Math Meets Music and Movement

Guest blogger: Mary Muhs, M.Ed.

How many times have you used counting while singing children’s songs? Did you know that children who participate in music or learn instruments are often more proficient in mathematics? Do your children march to their own beat? Whether you realize it or not, mathematics and music are interwoven and benefit one another.

When children are singing, clapping, stomping and dancing they are bringing mathematical concepts to life. Children learn the foundational concepts of mathematics way before they start learning the symbols and structure. By providing children opportunities to sing and use music, they explore foundational concepts such as matching, comparison, patterns, sequencing, counting, if/then prediction, shapes and space. Through one song, such as “Five Little Monkeys,” children are able to experience ordinal counting, patterns, sequence, if/then prediction, rhythm and a steady beat.

In music, when children create a steady beat, they are practicing one-to-one correspondence. One tap on the thighs equals one beat and so on. One-to-one correspondence is necessary for understanding number and being able to count the number of items in a set. Rhythm provides a less even beat and is unique to each song. With rhythm, the repetitive phrases form patterns within the song and children learn to predict and easily remember. Children are not necessarily aware that they are experiencing these mathematical concepts, but adults can talk about what they are experiencing by pointing out the skills they are learning.

Help children explore math concepts through music by:

  • Singing counting songs such as, “Five Little Monkeys,” “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” and “One Elephant Went Out to Play.”
  • Sing repetition in songs such as, “ B-I-N-G-O!” or “If You are Happy and You Know It”
  • Tap out a beat on an empty box with your hands and have children repeat it
  • Tap our rhythm on your lap, slowing it down or speeding it up
  • Incorporate instruments for children to create music on their own
  • Talk with children about the songs speed, beat and rhythm while singing or playing an instrument
  • Create an A-B-A-B-A-B or A-B-B-A-B-B pattern using their body parts to make the sound; such as by stomping their feet or clapping their hands

Mary Muhs, M.Ed.

Mary Muhs, M.Ed., has advanced the field of early childhood education for more than three decades as an early childhood educator, trainer, author, advocate, coach, consultant and national conference presenter. Over the course of her distinguished career, she has taught children in nonprofit and profit-sector settings and played a leadership role in the training and education of early childhood professionals. In her current role as department chair for the Rasmussen College School of Education in Minnesota, Muhs is leading the implementation of the school’s online early childhood education associate and bachelor’s degree programs. A frequent presenter at local, state and national conferences, she is sought out for her expertise on topics ranging from developmentally appropriate practices to social-emotional development and family engagement. In her local community, she supports infant and toddler programs as a relationship-based professional development coach for the Center for Inclusive Child Care, which provides training, support and resources for child care programs throughout Minnesota. She also serves as a CDA professional development specialist and as a higher education peer reviewer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Muhs received her Master of Education degree in early childhood administration from National-Louis University in 2006 and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in early childhood education and teaching from Walden University. She is passionate about teaching and inspiring adults who work with children.

Read more posts by Mary Muhs, M.Ed.

7 Replies to “Math Meets Music and Movement”

  1. i have noticed that so many of the children pick up concepts more quickly when it is being taught through music. It is a fun, effortless and enjoyable way of teaching patterns.

  2. I love these ideas about using music in my circle time lessons. I’ll be bringing out the instruments more often to try some of them!

  3. I love these ideas about using music in my circle time lessons. In particular, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” is one of my favorites to try.

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