Math, Piano and Kids

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The scientific relationship between music and math is undeniable. Every note you hear is an exact ratio of every other note you hear, and rhythm, regardless of the style, is merely math expressed as carefully measured units of time.

The reason we selected numbers as the basis of our teaching system, and not notes, letters, colors, or animals, is that numbers are found within every musical construction. And they are instinctive to kids.

The distance between the notes C and G ( 1 and 5 in Piano By Number) for example, is also called a “fifth.” Piano By Number thus follows exactly the classical intervals (the distances between the notes.) All the theory in Piano By Number is directly derived from classical music theory.

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Children dance instinstively, and playing the piano is no more than a very complex dance played with your fingers. Rhythm and counting are the very basis of their leisure activities.

Kids count their cookies, their toys, their french fries. Numbers are an integral part of their lives.

When a child is started at the piano happily, it can be a very good force in their lives, and a good source of easily acquired self-esteem. The reason for this, with Piano By Number, is that numbers are second nature to a child.

The mathematical contruction of the piano keyboard is in itself a miracle, and easily understood by a child. The black keys are in groups of twos and threes: that’s math to a six year old.

Plus the piano keyboard is laid out as an analog instrument: every note has a single, unique key that is the trigger. 88 notes, 88 buttons (keys.)

In contrast, the violin, or trumpet, requires that all the notes be created from essentially three or four buttons: the child must memorize the combinations.

But at the piano, all you need is an index finger, and you can play any song you like. Especially if you’re six.

Next, the mathematical basis of the keyboard reinforces basic physical concepts. It easy to see that “up” is to the right when you see the numbers 1-12 on the keys. This may be helpful to a child unsure of which is left and which is right, or unclear whether 10 is higher than 8.

Piano fingering is another area in which math is essential. The fingers are numbered 1-5. The child is forced to associate the numbers with the fingers, or they are crippled at the piano.

Piano study also leads to an introduction of more advanced, even algebraic concepts.

For example, a child sees the chord C, and later sees the symbol Cm.

The child is responsible for knowing that the “m” requires one of the members of the chord to move from the original position.

Thus music begins the process of “interpolation,” where one is asked to infer more information based on what you see.

Kids learn that there are “procedures” that one follows when shown certain symbols.

Music and math part ways for a child, usually when they can play a recognizable tune, like Pop Goes The Weasel. This is an acceptable, fun use of math to a child:


1 1 |2 2 | 3 5 3 | 1 | 1 1 | 2 4 | 3 1 |

Algebra, of course, is useless to a child.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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