Music & Math: Numbers

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Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will learn about a composer’s process by listening to the song Numbers. Students will use numbers on dice to create their own composition.

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ENGAGE students

PREDICT. Without revealing the title, have students listen to about a minute of Numbers by Shruthi Rajasekar. After listening, ask them to discuss with what lyrics they heard and predict the title of the piece.
SAY. “The title of the composition is…. drumroll please….. Numbers! Shruthi Rajasekar is a composer from Minnesota, and we are going to learn about her thought process as she wrote this song.”

EXPLORE sounds

WATCH. Watch the Class Notes video, Numbers. (5 min.)

REFLECT. Discuss, journal, or draw a picture to respond to the following questions:

  • What are three ways you use numbers in everyday life?

  • How are numbers used in music?

  • Are numbers used in music in different ways?

  • Shruthi Rajasekar was inspired to compose a piece about numbers. What are some topics that inspire you? What would you compose a piece about?

CREATE. Use our Dice Composition Activity to allow students to practice composing by chance. Note: There are many variations with this activity, and you can adapt the activity to your resources or curriculum. Older students might use rhythm values or pitches. Younger students might use movement, letter sounds, or classroom instruments.

EXTEND learning

Choose one or both activities to extend learning.

LISTEN. Listen to another piece of music that uses numbers as lyrics, Knee Play 1 from Philip Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach. While students listen, invite them to journal or reflect on the following prompts:

  • What does this music remind you of?

  • How does it make you feel?

  • How is it similar to Rajasekar’s piece?

  • How is it different?

LEARN. Learn more about composer Shruthi Rajasekar in this interview and on her website

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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