For the last several years, my husband and I have participated in our local church choir. My knowledge at reading music is minimal at best, yet I can “hear” the music well enough to hold the key and tune. During the many choir practices our leader was very patient in explaining and often demonstrating what the notes meant, related to beats and holds, etc. What I didn’t think about, however, is that much of music is math! In fact music is read like math symbols. The measures are an amount of time and each is divided into beats. The rhythm is defined by the time signature and even written as a fraction. Musicians need to understand the values of fractions in order to know how long to hold a note.
On a piano the notes from C to C consists of 13 keys, eight white and five black. Additionally the black keys are strategically placed in groups of three and two. A vibrating string on a musical instrument, along with it’s weight creates pitch which can be changed by altering the length and weight. So it is easy to see the relationship between music and math.
Another area, which I find fascinating, but know little about, is astronomy, which again, is uniquely related to math. When an astronomer searches the objects in the sky with a telescope, he uses special equipment that records numbers that correspond to different light emissions or even what type of light is being seen. Additionally, math is used when astronomers test theories using scientific laws, which enable them to make predictions regarding what we might be able to see in the sky when we stop to observe.
Astronauts also have need of math knowledge when orbiting in the atmosphere. They need to understand the science and engineering required to operate their spacecraft effectively. Understandably, the greater math problems and functions, are done by computer, but intense math education is necessary to be able to manage their environment and make any mission successful.
Carpenters are another group of people who have need for math: Geometry! To calculate the pitch of a roof, or an angle for a door frame, staircase or any number of areas where things need to fit, math is needed. A seamstress or quilter would also find geometry necessary, even though many would not even think about it.
These three areas in math: music, astronomy and geometry, as well as, very basic arithmetic; along with grammar, rhetoric and logic close out the basic Liberal Arts Curriculum I believe would be an interesting and fulfilling curriculum to use in a classroom. Of course, many other subjects can be included, and each of these could be fine tuned to any given student. These seven subjects provide a solid educational foundation for enriching our lives and those of our children.
As an adult, I think it is very important that we have life-long learning goals. I encourage you to find something interesting and challenging which you can research and sharpen your skills. It is not only important to keep our minds active, but also rewarding and fun!