From the editor
Welcome to this issue – in which we focus on some connections between mathematics and music.
The interview is with Marcus du Sautoy, the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, who is also professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, and is well known for his popular mathematics books and his many TV and radio programmes about mathematics. You may have heard on Radio 4 recently his series A Brief History of Mathematics or watched his BBC documentary, The History of Mathematics. You may also have seen his Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and read his books Finding Moonshine, The Numb8r My5teries, and The Music of the Primes.
In 2004, in an article with the same title as his book, The Music of the Primes, Professor du Sautoy wrote:
“It is one of the failings of our mathematical education that few even realise that there is such wonderful mathematical music out there for them to experience beyond schoolroom arithmetic.”
This is related to Richard Skemp's message to mathematics educators that he expressed in 1983 in Mathematics Teaching, 102, in The Silent Music of Mathematics.
Professor Skemp thought about the sad fact that “all the mathematics they (his great-niece and her class mates) did at school was pages of sums” in the context of his observation that “most of us… need to hear music performed, better still to sing or play it ourselves, alone or with others, before we can appreciate it.”
He reminded readers that:
“We would not think it sensible to teach music as a pencil and paper exercise, in which children are taught to put marks on paper according to certain rules of musical notation, without ever performing music, or interacting with others in making music together. If we were to teach children music the way we teach mathematics, we would only succeed in putting most of them off for life."
Richard Skemp believed, as do most mathematic educators today, that:
“For most of us mathematics, like music, needs to be expressed in physical actions and human interactions before its symbols can evoke the silent patterns of mathematical ideas (like musical notes), simultaneous relationships (like harmonies) and expositions or proofs (like melodies).”
In 1983 he asked:
“So why are children still taught mathematics as a pencil and paper exercise which is usually somewhat solitary?”
Do we still need to ask this question today?
It is ironic that Professor Skemp held “Mathematicians (with a capital M) largely to blame for this”!
In this issue of the Secondary Magazine we have ideas for classroom activities that are definitely not solitary exercises – you will find them in An idea for using ICT in the classroom, An idea for the classroom, Focus on… and the Subject leadership diary.
Page header - musical score - photograph by Jorge Franganillo some rights reserved