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Permit me to rant.  

The other day, NPR ran a story about how kids are learning fractions through music.

My first thought when I read this story was:

Well DUH, you morons.  What the hell have us music teachers been screaming about for the past 40 years of budget cuts?  And NOW you realize this?

But then I read the story more carefully.

And got madder.

Here's how it begins:

Math teachers know that fractions can be hard for the average third-grader. Teachers at a public school in San Bruno, Calif., just south of San Francisco, are trying something new. They're teaching difficult math concepts through music, and they're getting remarkable results.

At Allen Elementary School, a roomful of third-graders sits facing music instructor Endre Balogh, their backs straight, eyes ahead, beating a mouse pad with drumsticks. As Balogh taps a rhythm, the students follow.

So first of all, they're acting all surprised that Music actually can teach this.  One would THINK that they are getting ready to make a case for increased music education in the schools.  But no, that's not where they're going.
In the program, called Academic Music, students first learn the basics of reading notes. Then, they learn how to add notes, which is essentially adding fractions. Balogh is drawing the music notes on the board and adding them together.

San Francisco State University researcher Susan Courey designed the curriculum with Balogh in 2007, because as a former third-grade teacher, she knows how tricky fractions can be.

That's right.  It's a CORPORATE scheme.  They are treating this like some sort of super-secret-just-now-thought-of "innovation" that those "tenured" music teachers haven't come up with.

And what's even worse, they are acting like these kids have NO MUSIC AT ALL IN THEIR SCHOOLS.  Which is increasingly the case.  Schools get rid of the elementary music programs first.  They'll keep the band, because they need something at football games, and it does raise money for the school.

But music is ALWAYS the first to go.  Even though it's listed as CORE CURRICULUM in the NCLB law--which means there MUST be a fully certified teacher to teach the subject.  

And NPR takes the tone of "anyone can walk of the street and teach this stuff"--walking the TFA and Students First line without realizing it.  The teacher who developed it has also done other research in elementary math pedagogy.  

And this is the most insidious part--from an article in The Examiner:

No music teacher is needed to use the twelve lesson Academic Music study program. Curriculum materials for teachers are soon to be published by the authors.

Continue reading on Music makes learning math easier - Birmingham science news |

Really?  No music teacher is needed?  You MORONS, what do you think the kids have to do to interpret the notes?


You can't just show notes on a page and say "This equals 1/4, and this equals 1/8".  The students have to FEEL it.  They have to SUBDIVIDE it.  I can teach KINDERGARTENERS to read and perform eighth note rhythms--AND get them to comprehend them instinctually.  

And what math teacher is going to all of a sudden have to teach LITERACY and READING SKILLS to a math class?

Now, a program to help math teachers communicate and remind students of the correlation is one thing.

But programs like this are designed to ELIMINATE the general music class altogether.

I'm so pissed my thoughts are basically incoherent babbling right now.

Here's a clue--next time, instead of doing "research" to have math teachers teach music, why not HIRE MUSIC TEACHERS in the schools and DO IT RIGHT.

You can tell the music teacher--can you do a bit highlighting fractions in your classes?  Can you pass along some key words and phrases to the math teachers to reinforce the learning?  We are MORE than happy to oblige.  As they say, there's an app for that.

And don't get me started on literacy.

8:16 PM PT: Here's my main argument as a music educator.  In this story, they rightly show how music is really applied mathematics.  BUT, they do not take into account that music educators have been teaching this stuff for years.  Don't believe me?  Ask music educators you know.  Also, the story is less about advocacy for keeping music programs in schools and more of an advertisement for a "fractions unit" that doesn't need to be implemented by a music teacher.  Using music as math and literacy is how we increasingly have to justify our very existence to school boards.  And think about a school with no music program that tries to implement this.  This is a twelve lesson program that ONLY works if the kids know how to READ MUSIC.  And you can't get that in twelve lessons.

Originally posted to zenbassoon on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:34 AM PDT.

Also republished by Friends of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, DKOMA, and Protest Music.

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