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Favorite School Subjects: Music and Mathematics are Related

Updated on August 28, 2021
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

John Philip Sousa, The March King
John Philip Sousa, The March King | Source

Many Subjects Are Related

My favorite class subject in school changed somewhat from early childhood through college, but I found that the different subjects were really quite well-related. I also learned that language is inseparable from personality and one's culture and that music and art are related to all of this in human development from early development in the womb.

My first interest was in art and patterns and this has apparently never changed, even though my interests grew through arts and music, onward through mathematics and sciences. It is all art and music to me. I can look at a graph or the inside of a spiraling seashell and literally hear music.

Learning about our new world begins the moment we are born and it is important for parents, siblings and extended families to encourage this learning in every way.

Extensive research has shown that talking to the baby in earliest childhood onward, as well as movement, music, and art all prepare the brain and the Central Nervous System to learn at its best. Deaf children can still be prepared through movement.

In fact, the leading percussionist in the world, Dame Evelyn Glennie, is deaf, and she plays beautiful xylophone music.

A baby is not "finished" when he or she is born. Just as the body grows, the brain and entire Central Nervous System continue to grow and expand, to develop new cells called "neurons." It never stops - white matter grows at a quick rate in middle and old age. The brain and nervous systems apparently never stop healing after injury as well; we simply cannot live long enough in some cases for healing to be completed. Music and art can help in this healing, making them even more important.

Mathematics, Vibrations, and Music

Evelyn Glennie is Scottish and has been named a Dame by the UK, the equivalent of Knighthood and the title Sir. She received this honor for her work in music, although she is totally deaf and became the first full-time professional solo percussionist in the world.

She performs by standing barefoot at her instruments and feeling the different vibration frequencies (that's some mathematics and physics) in each tone she strikes. While playing, she can tell of a tone is off key on her xylophone by any frequency that feels "off."

I have watched her play the drums and the xylophone barefooted so that she can feel the vibrations of her instruments, knowing in that way how they "sound."

Different sounds, including musical notes, have different frequences.
Different sounds, including musical notes, have different frequences.

I have watched her play the drums and the xylophone barefooted so that she can feel the vibrations of her instruments, knowing in that way how they "sound."

One of my other favorite musicians is Irish -- one of the group called The Irish Tenors, Ronan Tynan. He is a physician and a double leg amputee that won many medals in the Paralymics.

If the deaf and the injured can accomplish so much, how much more should we who can hear and run be able to achieve?

Polar Graphs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A nautilus shell is similar to and different from polar graphs.
A nautilus shell is similar to and different from polar graphs.
A nautilus shell is similar to and different from polar graphs. | Source

Early Childhood

My earliest favorites in the classroom and at home were reading, art, and music. This helped me to be able to recognize patterns, parallels and analogies in all subjects. it was this art and music that helped me to learn logic later on.

Middle and High School

During these years, I continued to enjoy art, but increased my interest to match my abilities in science and mathematics. The most fun I had in math classes was constructing a variety of graphs, diagrams and solid (three-dimensional) geometric figures. Later I added fractal plots. This was all artistic as well as number-related. It all worked together.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A piccolo trumpet.
A piccolo trumpet.
A piccolo trumpet. | Source

My Favorite Class: John Philip Sousa

My favorite class in high school was marching band. I had a late start in instrumental music, two years later than the other children in elementary school, but was able to advance quickly and receive the John Philip Sousa Award.

I played first chair cornet/trumpet and sometimes filled in on French horn as well. I could not handle the trombone, though --My arms were not long enough to reach the last two slide positions.

We did not have band camps, because they were too expensive, but we practiced and drilled all summer long with out ban director, who was a retired US Navy Officer.

Beginning a week after classes let out in June, we attended two hours of classes three times a week until August, at which time we began practicing four hours daily in the mornings Monday through Friday.

When school began, we continued to practice three hours a day, from 7:00 AM - 10:00 AM or 11:00 AM, Monday through Friday, throughout football season. Sometimes we went to school to begin practice at 6:00 AM. Our other classes were scheduled after marching band.

It was in band practices that I developed good physical coordination and memory. We memorized all of our musical pieces and many intricate marching drills, most of them to John Philip Sousa marches and popular music.

We marched to make flowing pictures on the football field, one image melting into the next.

Physical coordination, memory and concentration helped me to be able to do complicated mathematics problems in geometry and calculus in my head - A teacher asked me how I arrived at the correct answer for one problem and I said I did not know. We figured out that my brain had been able fulfill all the steps unconsciously and go straight to the answer. Harvard has been studying the effects of music on learning and the brain and their results show at Harvard: The Biology of Music.

The John Philip Sousa Marches I Memorized

Music continues to be important to me. Certain types of music can increase my concentration in other tasks. The styled of music that are most effective are Baroque, some forms of percussion, Native American Flute, and Asian Flute.

In addition, I remember many of the John Philip Sousa Marches I memorized and here is that list out of the 136 marches he wrote:

  • America First
  • El Capitan
  • Columbia's Pride
  • The Directorate
  • Esprit de Corps
  • The Federal
  • The Gladiator
  • King Cotton
  • The Legionaires
  • The Liberty Bell
  • Mother Goose
  • The Occidental
  • Old Ironsides
  • Semper Fidelis
  • Sound Off
  • The Stars and Stripes Forever
  • The Thunderer
  • Wisconsin Forward Forever
  • The Wolverine March

Below is a presentation of The Thunderer, performed by The President's Own Unites States Marine Band and The Black Horse Troop March, performed by the United States Air Force Band of the Rockies, Marching Band.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


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