Math like music

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This story is a part of the ongoing conversation about children’s participation in math and the arts with Malke Rosenfeld of Math in Your Feet.

Why Art Is Important by Kirsty Kelly
Photo by Kirsty Kelly

What if we could learn math like children learn music within a cultural tradition? What if we could learn math by being immersed in meaning and expression from the moment we’re born?

What does it look like when children fully participate in a culture as persons of recognized value?

Here children provide a high-energy improvised beat for a joyful street performance. The children are at the center of the action, and the adults smile as well as provide visual, gestural and verbal cues to encourage the children.

And here a little dancer’s performance is the heart of flamenco. It is obvious she is steeped in the music. We see the same kinds of encouragements as in the video above: warm smiles and supporting cues.

Alexandra Beller is following intuitive dances of a toddler to compose a profound interpretive piece, Milk Dreams. In our interview (coming up on this blog), Alexandra said:

“When I watch my company doing that material, I am totally transported. It’s a complete other world. I have never experienced anything like that. I can’t speak for a while. It’s a completely different space.”

Those teachers and parents who follow young children’s mathematics also describe how they feel transported to incredible, unexpected Wonderlands. While children take adults on adventures to the new frontiers, adults help to sustain connections to the homeworld. Kids and grown-ups make a great team, together.

Children in the first two videos perform music and dance at very high levels. But the third video shows the same mix of child inspiration and adult support with an obvious beginner: a baby! Children who have been supported that way from a very young age can do amazing music and dance. How do we build or find such a culture of participation and mentorship for children, so they are immersed in amazing mathematics?

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Posted in Grow

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