Musical Math

Music Activities that Use Math Skills

"I love math!" These words are music to a teacher's ears, so to help you cultivate a love of math with your little ones, we're featuring three activities that use music concepts to reinforce math skills in our September blog post. Learn to recognize note values while practicing addition and subtraction; practice "parts of the whole" by breaking down long notes into equivalent shorter notes; and count beats to sharpen basic counting skills. Read on to learn more!

Music helps children develop important math skills. The following activities are simple and effective ways to help students strengthen math skills, including addition, subtraction, counting, and parts of the whole, through music. Be sure to tag @iknowit on social media if you try out any of these activities with your class!

Music Note Addition and Subtraction

In this activity, use the different values of music notes to help your students practice basic addition and subtraction. First, you'll want to familiarize yourself and your students with the values of some common music notes: 

- A quarter note equals one beat

- A half note equals two beats

- A whole note equals four beats

Similarly, you may want to incorporate "rest" symbols into your addition and subtraction practice too. A rest is a music symbol that represents beats of silence, where no notes are played: 

- A quarter rest equals one beat of silence.

- A half rest equals two beats of silence

- A whole rest equals four beats of silence.  

Finally, if you want to make this activity more challenging, you can consider incorporating shorter notes and rests: 

- An eighth note or eighth rest represents one eighth of the duration of a whole note, or one half of a beat

- A sixteenth note or sixteenth rest represents one sixteenth of the duration of a whole note, or one quarter of a beat

Musical Math Activities

You can use these basic note and rest values to create addition and subtraction problems for your students. One way you can do this is to put a problem on the white board in your classroom. Draw the music symbols you want to stand in for the numbers in your addition or subtraction problem. Students will write out the numbers represented by the music notes on a piece of paper and solve the problem. For example, you may write an addition problem on the board using the following music notes: 

Whole Note + Whole Note + Quarter Note + Quarter Rest = 

Your students will write and solve the addition problem on a piece of paper: 

4 + 4 + 1 + 1 = 10 

Music Note Addition and Subtraction

You could also do this activity using printable music math problems. Here's a beginner musical addition worksheet you can try with your class, and here's an advanced musical addition activity

Or, you may choose to have your students make their own music math problems. Challenge them to write a math problem using only music symbols and swap with a classmate to solve. 

Parts of the Whole (Note) 

Here's a fun music activity that will help kids understand the parts of a whole. After reviewing basic music note values with your students, including whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, and sixteenth note, pose a challenge: Students must find as many ways to show four beats, or the length of a whole note, as possible. 

Students will grab a piece of paper and write different combinations of notes to represent parts of the whole:

Parts of the Whole Math Activity

Students can draw the music notes themselves or write the names of the notes. You may require them to write the value of each note in parentheses too. 

You can also challenge students to find equivalent values for different notes, like a half note or a quarter note. 

Metronome Math 

This is a great hands-on math activity if you want to take musical math to the next level and actually have students play some notes on a piano keyboard! If you don't have access to a piano or digital keyboard, you can search for a free version online. You'll also need access to a metronome, but don't worry if you don't have one – a quick Google search will provide exactly what you need. In this activity, students will practice counting beats with the help of a metronome. 

Whether students are seated at a piano or using an online keyboard, instruct them to choose any note they would like to play on the piano. (To begin with, just choose one note.) You will start the metronome and instruct your students to play their note and count the beats for each note value you call out. For example, after starting the metronome, you say, "Whole note." Students will count 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 in time with the metronome as they play their note on the keyboard. If you say, "Whole note, half note," students will play the note twice as they count 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, 1 – 2. Do your best to keep your instructions short and easy to follow. 

Counting Beats Math Activity

Once students become familiar with this activity, you can have them play different notes on the keyboard for each instruction you give. Soon your students will be experts at counting and playing beats! 

Did you and your students like these musical math activities? We'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line in the comment section below. 

If you're looking for more fun, interactive math activities for kids, be sure to browse our collection of online math games on


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