Exploring the relationship between music learning and mathematics learning in an interdisciplinary Pre-K curriculum
McDonel, Jennifer S.
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The purpose of this study was to examine children's musical and mathematical behaviors as they participated in an interdisciplinary pre-K curriculum. Research questions were: 1. What connections—if any—do young children make between music learning and mathematics learning? 2. Is there a relationship between young children's emergent rhythm development and emergent numeracy development? To address these questions, a concurrent embedded mixed-methods design was utilized. One intact class of 14 preschool children were observed at predetermined points throughout the Spring 2012 semester through participant observation and video footage of music classes, math activities, and other times where music was used in the curriculum. Interventions for classroom and music teachers were intended to foster developmentally appropriate practice in music and mathematics. Music aptitude and pre- and post-test measures of early music rhythm achievement and early numeracy achievement were correlated to embed a quantitative dimension. Observed rhythm responses included movement such as (a) continuous, free-flowing motion during songs; (b) steady beat motions of bouncing, tapping, and clapping; and (c) rhythmic body motions of tapping or clapping rhythm patterns; chanted responses of (a) echoed rhythm patterns, (b) improvised rhythm patterns, and (c) parts of poems. Sung responses included singing with a light quality in initial singing range, as well as resting tone and tonal patterns. Mathematical responses included subitizing, one-to-one correspondence, counting fingers, forward and backward verbal counting, and using finger patterns to count on, and add and subtract numbers less than 10. Limited, but supportive quantitative evidence was found regarding the relationship of early rhythm and early mathematics development. Emergent themes, community of learning and sharing, expanded social conventions, and reinforcement of learning, revolved around current thought that learning is both individually and socially constructed. That some children express themselves more readily through music and others through mathematics was supported; carefully selected song literature that meets both music learning and mathematics learning objectives can elicit observable musical and mathematical responses and may reinforce learning connections. Recommendations include replication with a design that addresses limitations of the present study and increased music and math pedagogy courses and professional development for pre-K classroom teachers.