Math/Music/Literacy Curriculum Unit

C.M. Sunday © 2021
Rational for the UnitUnit ObjectivesLesson Plans
Accommodations for Exceptional StudentsSensitivity to Diversity
Assessment Instruments

This is an interdisciplinary, team-taught unit designed to bring together students in instrumental performance classes with math students, and share the commonalties in an introductory music theory course, and the math concepts associated with fractions and acoustical principles. The design of this program is meant to accommodate 5th and 6th grade students of all developmental levels, and may be adjusted to fit the developmental levels of students served. Above all, the class should be dynamic and interactive, with music listening, dance, conducting, work at the piano, chalk-and-talk descriptions of math concepts (with students writing in notebooks), and demonstrations by live musicians.


  1. Drawings of how a piece of music makes the student feel.
  2. Drawings of staves, notes & rests, dynamic markings, clefs; creating a collage of music symbols.
  3. Numbers as they relate to music (pitch, rhythm, conducting).
  4. Acoustic properties of sound. Meaning and importance of A=440.
  5. Use of electronic instruments (metronome, pitch devices).
  6. Simple 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 conducting patterns (down-beat & up-beat).
  7. Recognition of instruments, sight and sound.
  8. Recognition of major and minor chords.
  9. Recognition of major and minor scales.
  10. Recognition of V-I and IV-I cadences.
  11. Recognition of steps and half-steps.
  12. Vocabulary of dynamics: Italian, French, German, English (say aloud in class).
  13. Vocabulary of keys, scales and intervals.
  14. Vocabulary: pitch, timbre, dynamics, duration, rhythm.
  15. Learning of parts of the scale via solfeggio, numbers and letters.
  16. Improvisation using all black keys (pentatonic scale) and percussive instruments.
  17. Passing around of musical artifacts: things from the violin case.
  18. Introduction of personalities: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Cage.
  19. Student conducting.
  20. Student repetition of rhythmic patterns.
  21. Student repetition of pitches.
  22. Student singing of one-measure pitch-rhythm patterns.
  23. Concert decorum; coaching of how students should behave during demonstration visits by guest musicians.


Section 1
Acoustical properties of sound. Pitch versus noise. A=440. Pitch, duration, timbre, rhythm, dynamics. Timbrel qualities of instruments and voices. How sound is produced. Site visits from musicians: string quartet, oboist, brass quintet, pianist, percussionist. Arrangements of musicians in orchestra. [Assignments: draw regular and irregular sound waves, demonstrate noise (striking an object) verses pitch (sing or hum); counting in units (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)]

Math: Acoustic properties of pitch v. noise (regular and irregular sound waves), types of scientific measuring devices (metronome, pitch mechanisms).

Vocabulary: Names of instruments, timbre, dynamic markings (Italian, French, German, English), voice ranges (alto, soprano, bass, tenor). Definitions of pitch, sound, noise, dynamics, rhythm, timbre (sound quality). Introduction to sections of the orchestra: strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion.

Section 2
Scales and intervals. Major and minor tonalities. Steps and half-steps.

Math: Division of octave into 12 half steps. Arrangements of steps and half-steps to produce sound patterns called scales.

Vocabulary: Learning of the parts of the scale via solfeggion, numbers, and letters. Major, minor, steps, half-steps, types of scale patterns including pentatonic scales.

Section 3
Timeline of Music History. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary. Types of instruments used and types of compositions. History of pitch. Examples listened to in each style period.

Math: History of technology with respect to musical instruments.

Vocabulary: Time periods, names of "original" instruments, e.g., viol, gamba, viola d'amore, etc.

Section 4
Key and tonality. Key centers. Major/minor (lots of examples on piano). Major and minor third, octave, second, forth, fifth, unison, seventh. Leading tones. Consonance and dissonance.

Math: Counting of intervals. Inversion of intervals.

Vocabulary: Names of intervals (major, minor, perfect, augmented). Introduction of accidentals; sharp, flat, natural, double sharp, double flat. Introduction of articulations: staccato, legato. Introduction of description words in music (Italian, French, German, English).

Section 5
Overtone series. More recognition of intervals. Singing and playing of intervals. Review of sharp and flat. Review of steps, half-steps, keys, tonalities, intervals.

Math: Overtone series, demonstrated on piano and violin.

Vocabulary: Acoustical principles; far away versus close, loud versus soft, short versus long, sharp versus smooth.

Section 6
Playing of major and minor scales. Listening of pieces in different keys. Review of steps, half-steps, keys, tonalities, intervals.

Math: Fractions in conducting: 2/3, 3/4, 4/4. Compound conducting patterns: 6/8 (6 counts, 2 beats), 12/4 (12 counts, 4 beats).

Vocabulary: Up-beat, down-beat, tactus. Review of orchestral instruments.

Section 7
Dynamics. Review of vocabulary in four languages. Examples and viewing of scores.

Math: Relative dynamic levels; very loud, loud, medium loud, very soft, soft, medium soft, crescendo and decrescendo (with symbols).

Vocabulary: Parts of the orchestral score; time signature, key signature, dynamic markings, clef signs.

Section 8
Rhythm and conducting patterns. Introduction of note values. Listening and conducting simple and compounds patterns.

Math: Note values and beats per measure.

Vocabulary: Names of notes. Dotted notes. Slurs and ties.

Section 9
Chords. I, IV, V patterns. Cadences: "amen" or IV-I, V-I, Piccardy third. Examples in works. Conducting cadences in pieces; practice cueing, beginning and ending pieces. Review.

Math: Building with thirds. Relationship of tonic, dominant, sub-dominant (I, V, IV) to tonic key. Four and eight bar phrases with cadences.

Vocabulary: Names of steps of the scale. Names of chords.


Exceptionalities with respect to hearing or sight deficits; changing seating such that students may see/hear better. Students will be interacting freely, moving to the piano, encouraged to dance or sing, and conducting patterns will be studied, with individual students conducting other students and recordings, so the class periods will be lively with little boredom or disinterest. Students should be encouraged to compete in their projects with other students, but in a friendly and professional manner.

Responses to music encouraged. Visits from professional musicians will also be incentives to participation and responsiveness. Each student will have a notebook where they can draw, write responses, and take notes -- but mostly the class is participatory. Every child can "pretend to be the conductor," improvise on percussion instruments, repeat or attempt to repeat short rhythmic and rhythmic/pitch patterns, and draw notes and other iconic information on the board.


While most of the music tradition typically examined is Western art music, world musics (ethnomusicology) will be examined, including the African, Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern musics. What needs to be emphasized is that there are musical geniuses with respect to performance and composition, within every ethnic group and that in today's world, there are no limitations or restrictions with respect to who may or may not study music at the highest level. Show examples from contemporary art music magazines, such as magazines like Stirngs, Strad, the American Federation of Musicians' publication, International Musician, or Chamber Music Magazine.


  1. Class Participation: Listening components (students will be explicitly instructed about how to listen), conducting components, and writing about music feelings.

  2. Student Portfolios: May include notebooks, larger sketches, tapes, compositions, photographs or other artifacts from the class.

  3. Mini-auditions/interviews: Students can practice an informal audition on their preferred instrument, discuss what has been learned and what they would further like to learn, and decide on choices for portfolios.

  4. Student Notebooks: Elements of these notebooks will include:
  • drawings of how certain pieces make the student feel
  • music iconography, e.g., notes, rests, clefs, staves, dynamic markings, articulation markings
  • conducting patterns
  • drawings of instruments
  • numbers concepts as they relate to music
  • music history Timetable
  • drawings of composers

  • Payment options:
    Click here to purchase with PaySimple
    • We also take Dwolla [Our acct. #812-301-5704]
    Email us or call: (806) 781-7549
    Quick Links:
    Free Newsletter
    Facebook icon Follow Me on Twitter Follow Me on Pinterest

    Copyright © SunMusic Strings