Valerie Yules Letters

Music and maths

Maths and Ears

Most maths is calculated by the eye, even in mental calculations that are made ‘visually’ by the eye of the mind.  Numerals arise from what are seen – the number of objects, the number of fingers and toes to count them on, and so on.

But in learning maths, the ear is important, and there is a close link between mathematics and music, even the concept of ‘the music of the spheres’ that runs the universe.  Music teachers and often mathematics and literacy teachers too, see the importance of music, metre and rhythm in helping children to get into mental mode for reading, writing  and calculating.

A very important use of the ear in mathematics is helping children to associate arbitrary symbols with mathematic concepts such as numerals and multiplication.

In my schooldays, waiting at the tramstop, regularly boys were chanting in the school behind the hedge.  They were chanting tables.

What is valuable in helping young children understand and use maths?

1. The treasury of number rhymes and songs, from infancy, linked with actns and pictures.  So many of them!  (And yet some tribes have stuck at the maths concepts of ‘One’ and “More’. Others have not got beyond ‘forty’, meaning ‘plenty’.) All these help to remember the numbers in sequence.

Here are songs for the babies, and for car-travelling: –

One-two-buckle my shoe

One-two-three-for-five, Once I caught a fish alive

I’ll sing you One-Oh, Green grow the rushes Oh (and many other long incremental songs like that).

Ten green bottles – or as we childrenonce sung it at a family concert and effectively stopped being evef asked to recite again, ‘One hundred green bottles’

Ten littlle Indian boys (a former euphemism for Nigger boys and now in its turn politically incorrect – so it’s ten little whatver boys)

And his name was little Bingo

There is a Ladybird book and other number books like that for parents and children.

2. Learning tables. Not so long ago, and in places still, ^^^

3. Mental arithmetic, both visual and audiroty linked

4. Remembering telephone numbers and the like. Can people be distinguished by how they remember these – by sight, by sound or by both?  This might be the easiest way to distinguish a child’s learning style for reading – if they already knew the written numbers.




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