Recording: Voice, text chat, slides, web tour

Music and mathematics have been linked together for thousands of years, but rarely have students had the opportunity to explore the many connections that exist between them. To try to fill this gap, Mike Thayer of Hyperbolic Guitars is developing a course. At the event, we will discuss the course outline, as well as math and music links in general.

All events in the Math Future weekly series:
The recording will be at

Event challenge!

Help Mike find a resource - a web page, a video, a music piece - to go with one of the topics in the course outline. Full syllabus and details of the outline:

Major topics:
  1. What is sound, anyway?
    1. The physics of waves
    2. The mathematics of waves
    3. Resonance
    4. Elasticity
  2. The generation of sound by "simple" systems
    1. The vibrating string
    2. The vibrating rod
    3. The vibrating plate (e.g., drumhead or cymbal)
    4. Open and closed pipes
    5. The Helmholtz resonator (--> the vocal chords)
    6. White noise, pink noise
    7. The concept of "timbre"
  3. The perception of sound
    1. Human listeners
    2. Other "listeners": Digital recording
    3. The interaction between the generator and the listener: the science of acoustics
  4. What makes sound become music?
    1. What does a listener "listen for" in music?
    2. Basics of music and musical notation: Musical descriptions
    3. Basics of music: Psycho-physical (auditory) descriptions
    4. What makes sound "musical" (consonance, approaches to composition)?
  5. What makes musical instruments musical?
    1. General classifications of instruments
    2. A new way to generate musical sound: sound synthesis (electronic)
    3. History of instruments

Discussions beginning before the event

LinkedIn: "Math, Math Education, Math Culture" group

Hyperbolic Guitars blog:
Math Future email group:
This wiki: discussion tab

How to join

  • Follow this link at the time of the event:
  • Tuesday, January 24th 2012 we will meet online at 6:00pm Pacific, 9:00pm Eastern time. WorldClock for your time zone.
  • Click "OK" and "Accept" several times as your browser installs the software. When you see Session Log-In, enter your name and click the "Login" button
  • If this is your first time, come a few minutes earlier to check out the technology.

Math and music course philosophy

  • This course should attract musically-inclined students (and individuals) who may not have a "love" of mathematics, but who are willing to see where mathematics enters into their interest in music.
  • It should be HIGHLY INTERACTIVE - playing of music, demonstrations, perhaps even opportunities to design/build one's own instruments, composing music, creating scales, etc. Arguably the most important part of the course.
  • It should use DIFFERENT WAYS OF THINKING - apropos H. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences model, I think the course should allow for students with all different types of strengths to shine. Obviously, the musical and logical-mathematical ones will be incorporated explicitly, but as an example, can dance as it relates to music (physics perhaps?) come in somehow ("bodily-kinesthetic", in MI-speak)?
  • It should be TECHNOLOGICALLY RICH- we should take advantage of the Internet, advanced computing power and programs that are widely available, apps, what have you. It's the 21st century, right? And - the software resources should be open source preferably, freeware at the minimum. There will be costs for musical keyboards and such things, but hopefully those will come down in price and/or students would be able to use a cheap laptop (XO-style) to play on. NCTM has several interesting apps that could have relevance to this course:
  • It should be COHERENT. By that I mean that the course should have a flow, a logic, a reason for being and a "sweep". In a perfect world, it would also be possible to drop in and drop out of the course at various points of interest or lack thereof, but those who go through the course should get a sense of the ways in which a knowledge of mathematics can inform one's musical appreciation, and vice versa.

Event Host

MikeThayer.jpgMike Thayer is a mathematics teacher at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey. Before teaching at Summit, he taught mathematics and physics at the Beacon School in New York City. He is very interested in alternatives to current mathematical teaching approaches, and in the ways in which technology, music, and engineering can be used to support an understanding of mathematics. Mike blogs at - a space "dedicated to filling the gap between the quantitative and the qualitative... one post at a time."