Students Discover Music, Math Through Recorder Program

“Let’s try a quick math problem before we play our recorders,” said music teacher Pete Lindblom to Bush Elementary School fourth graders. “How many B notes are before the rest sign? Do you have that number in your head? Now, how many B notes are after the rest sign? You should have two numbers. I want you to subtract the lower number from the higher number. What is that called in math? It is called the difference between two numbers. What is the answer?”

Lindblom asked the fourth graders for the answer to this math problem during a recent recorder lesson.

In order to answer the question, students had to understand how to read music using whole and quarter notes. This mini-math lesson is just one small part of a district-wide recorder program, also taught by Mary Crandall.

The recorder program gives all third- and fourth-grade students an opportunity to receive music instruction every eight days. The teachers begin with how to hold the recorder, the basics of music, and move to higher-level music education including how to play the recorder and reading music.

“There is so much research that music helps students become better learners in the classroom,” said Lindblom.

“The recorder program allows us to not only teach music but also incorporate math and English Language Arts into our curriculum. One of our goals as elementary music teachers is to prepare students for middle school where they can choose to play a musical instrument or participate in chorus. We hope an early introduction to music will spur a lifelong interest but also develop important skills that transfer to all areas of their lives.”

“I love the recorder lessons,” said Bush Elementary School fourth-grader Annika Spitzer. “Music is so important because it helps improve your memory, which helps you in school. I play the violin and want to play at Jefferson next year. But, after trying the recorder I might learn the flute too. I think music is important for kids because it’s a way to express our feelings and just have fun. Whenever my teacher tells our class it’s time for recorder lessons, the entire class cheers!”

Each third and fourth grader in the district receives their own recorder, which they will be able to take home.

The teachers are using a cutting-edge computer program called “SmartMusic,” which is an interactive tool.

As students play along with music onscreen, the program gives them immediate feedback on their performance by showing correct pitches and rhythms in green and incorrect in red. They also are able hear their part in context with SmartMusic’s background accompaniment of a full ensemble. The visual experience of seeing the notes as they play along makes it easier for students to learn. The competitive nature is downplayed and students love seeing how they do through immediate feedback. Recordings can even be emailed to teachers or parents.

“All third- and fourth-grade students having the opportunity to learn an instrument and use a cutting-edge computer music program, which makes learning music a fun experience for all everyone,” said Lindblom.