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How music helps build mathematical understanding

There are a variety of ways children learn math. As we discussed in a recent article, students are exploring mathematical concepts everyday. When students begin thinking about the world around them, they are improving their understanding of math. Music is another method through which children can engage in mathematical thinking.

Experts believe that the basic elements of music, including the beat, rhythm, patterns, melody and words, can help spur students' skills in a variety of key areas, such as spatial reasoning, sequencing, counting, patterning and one-to-one correspondence. 

Take, for example, the song "BINGO," which involves both patterning and counting. While singing, children often replace the letter of the name with a clap during each round. Through the song, children are learning more about the relationship between music and counting. Even just listening to music could improve a student's cognition and ability to learn math skills.

Items such as manipulatives serve to strengthen mathematical understanding and knowledge, particularly when it comes to understanding patterns and counting. 

However, even before children engage in these more sophisticated exercises, one of the earliest experiences for most children, especially when they become upset, is being comforted by a parent or teacher. For many children, the steady beat or rhythmic pattern of being rocked back and forth or pat on the back is reassuring. At the same time, these activities represent patterning activities and an early introduction into mathematics.

The connection between steady beats and one-to-one correspondence

Through taking part in clapping or marching, children start to strengthen their understanding of numerical one-to-one correspondence. In addition, toddlers and especially preschoolers are usually familiar with the concept of "more."  For example, you might use a drum and tap it three times, and then ask other students to tap it a few more times. Usually they will understand what this means. 

The connection between rhythm, patterning skills and one-to-one correspondence

Just as a steady beat can help children understand one-to-one correspondence, rhythm and songs can help them develop a stronger mastery of these concepts, patterning in particular. During the toddler and preschool years, children are learning more about how to repeat as well as extend patterns.

For example, while singing "Old MacDonald Had A Farm," children are able to repeat or extend the "Moo, moo, moo" their teacher or classmates sing.


By understanding the link between music and building children's mathematical understanding, teachers can effectively integrate these exercises into their preschool classroom. It's not realistic to expect that young children, under the age of five, will suddenly master formal mathematical lessons or memorize facts, but by providing a stimulating and supportive classroom environment, you help introduce children to activities that build a strong foundation now and in the future.

ProSolutions Training offers many courses for teachers interested in integrating math into their classroom. These courses include "Ignite Their Minds: Making Math an Integral Part of your Teaching," "Block Play as a Creative Learning Strategy" and "Hands-on Excitement: Manipulatives for Teaching Young Children Math."

In addition, we offer CDA training and CDA renewal training for early care and education professionals seeking the CDA Credential, which is administered and awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. In 2013, ProSolutions Training became the first online training company to become a formal partner of the Council. Contact us to learn more.