Numbers and Songs

Grade Levels: 5 - 7

A novel and enjoyable way for students to highlight math concepts or facts is to write a song about them. Even if they don't have any particular musical talent, most students will plunge into this project with great enthusiasm.

Goal: Working in groups of two to four, students will compose songs that express an idea in mathematics. Upon completion of the project, students will be encouraged to perform or record their song for the class.

Suggested Time: Two to three class periods

Math Skills to Highlight: Skills will vary depending on student songs.

Materials: Development:

Consider working with your students' music teacher for this project. While you work with students on the math for this project, he or she can help them write songs.

  1. Begin this project by explaining to your students that they will work in groups to write a song that identifies a math concept or fact. If you have students who study music or play musical instruments, try to organize groups so that each group has at least one of these students. Students who have a musical background can assume roles of leadership in this project.
  2. Distribute copies of the Numbers and Songs Student Guide and review it with your students. Encourage them to select the type of music they like, and write their song in that style. Writing a song will be easier if they choose a type of music with which they are familiar.
  3. Hand out copies of Tips for Writing a Song and discuss the information with the class. Note that students who don't have a musical background might simply compose a song using a beat, much like a rap song.
  4. Discuss that most songs use lyrics that rhyme. If you have access to rhyming dictionaries, encourage students to use them. If these dictionaries are not available, encourage students to generate their own lists of rhyming words.
  5. Using the board or an overhead projector, ask students to help you create examples of rhyming words, such as the ones below:
    • run, fun, sun, son, done, none, ton. . .
    • high, sigh, cry, tie, pie, lie, try, multiply. . .
    • dad, pad, tad, bad, add, sad, fad. . .
    • hide, cried, tried, divide, wide, sighed. . .
    The lists can go on and on. Do a few examples and your students will understand what to do.
  6. For students who have a musical background, and who want to set their lyrics to musical notes, hand out copies of the Music Sheet. Suggest that if they play musical instruments, they might use their instruments to match the notes to their lyrics. Note, however, that only students who have the interest and musical ability will be able to manage this.
  7. If groups have a member who plays a musical instrument, encourage the group to include the use of the instrument with its song.
  8. If some groups have no members who play an instrument, assure them that using only lyrics in their songs is fine.
  9. If your students have access to a computer and software that allows songwriting, encourage them to use it. It is truly astonishing what students can do using such equipment.
  10. Suggest that students videotape or tape-record their songs. Perhaps they can do this in the music room or at home.

Encourage students to perform their songs for the class. A note here: If a group is reluctant to perform, accept a tape or video, or even just a written copy of its song.


Videotape your students performing their songs in a "Festival of Math Music."

Excerpted from Hands-On Math Projects with Real-Life Applications.

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