Tips for Using Music to Engage Children in Mathematics

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“Giving children a stimulating mathematical environment as infants and toddlers is vitally important and can enhance future abilities in mathematics (Mazzocco, Feigenson, & Halberda 2011).”

This idea, as well as the following four pointers, comes from the NAEYC’s study, “The Patterns of Music: Young Children Learning Mathematics through Beat, Rhythm, and Melody.” We thought this article takes an interesting approach to the integrative benefits of music and math, adding to the fundamental belief that music and math have inextricable developmental links.

1. Maintain a steady beat throughout the mathematics lesson. For math teachers or parents, this entails having your child pat their knees, march in place, or lightly tap a drum during a math lesson or homework session. You will know if the tempo and rhythm is right if your child seems engaged in the math, not the music or activity itself. Fast tempos may overstimulate your child and cause them to yell or run around the room. If you see fidgeting, inattention, or talking to a friend about an unrelated topic, it’s possible that children are bored because the music is too slow or too soft.
2. Change the beat’s tempo and dynamics regularly. Flexibility in the music’s tempo and volume increases children’s attention to the activity. It requires them to understand the math lesson as a dynamic mental activity which requires the brain to constantly adjust to varying concepts and levels of difficulty. Changing the tempo of steady beat enhances listening that is also critical for verbal learning skills.
3. Observe, listen, and respond to the children’s musical behaviors. When in doubt if your child is comfortable with your music’s tempo, turn the music off for a bit and observe the child’s behavior. You can then match their energy and behavior with your tempo. Children also reveal what volume they need to hear by singing. You can have children sing a song before teaching a math lesson and base your tempo and volume off of how loudly and quickly they sing the song.
4. Try to keep the music and math activities concept based and open-ended. It’s important to remember that, for the purpose of improving your child’s math skills, the math lesson should take priority over the music activity. Secondly, it is the steady beat of music that is scientifically linked to pattern, spatial-temporal reasoning skills, and quantitative ability– not necessarily the verbal connection between lyrics involving numbers, shapes, counting, etc. While there is no harm in having songs that focus solely on specific skills such as counting or naming shapes, these activities do not take advantage of what the research tells us about how music affects the brain. Begin by developing an activity that facilitates the construction of mathematical knowledge by encouraging the child to think mathematically, and then add musical elements to enhance the activity.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me as a preschool or daycare curriculum, email us at

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