Timm Ringhofer's Alternate Journal Review

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Making Music with Mathematics by Maria L. Fernandez, The Mathematics Teacher, February 1998, pp. 90-95.

I chose this article because the relationship between music and mathematics has always intrigued me. I also thought that this article would give the three music related students in the cohort something to relate to and think about in their spare moment.

Technology can be of a great use in the math classroom. The use of Texas Instruments graphing calculators and calculator-based laboratory (CBL) has allowed the teacher to be able to show graphs and do experiments that would not have been possible even 10 years ago unless the technology was very expensive. The amount of money spent on equipment for this particular experiment would be around $400, less if the TI-82 and CBL were already purchased. This will be the case for Falls High School next year!

Students were asked to bring two 20-ounce pop bottles to class. By placing a certain amount of water in a bottle, and then blowing air over the top of the bottle, a certain note will be heard. One of the bottles will be for actually playing the note and the other bottle will be used to hold water to add or subtract from the note playing bottle. As the note is played, the CBL with the use of a CBL microphone will record the sound and produce a curve on the calculator, which shows a pressure versus time graph. This curve is a sine curve from trigonometry, which means this topic would probably need to be done by tenth grader students or above. From the graph, the students will be able to determine the frequency of a sound wave in hertz. The students then compare the frequencies to a table which states the frequency for the 12 notes of each octave to determine what note approximately they have. This leads to a discussion of how hard to blow air above the lip of the bottle, the type of bottle, the depth of the water in the bottle and its relationship to the level of air in the bottle, and so on. The final product for the students is to play a common song such as Mary Had A Little Lamb.

The time and effort to set up a lab like this would be quite significant. However, the great number of different discussions that would come from this would be probably enough to do a graduation package on it. It could be used possibly for both math and music as well. When our school has all the necessary equipment, this would be one lab I would like to do in my classroom.

-- Anonymous, February 03, 1999

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