Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Making Waves off the Grand Concourse

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Making Waves off the Grand Concourse

Article excerpt

Music as a Motivator for Math and Science (MMMS) is a project in the New York City Public Schools funded by IBM/EduQuest as part of its program for encouraging innovative uses of technology in K-12 education. During the summer of 1992, in camps run as part of the program, a series of lessons were developed, one on Waves and another on the Scientific Method.

This paper offers a brief background of the overall program and then describes the two series of lessons in step-by-step detail as they were implemented in the classroom. While the lessons can be used independently of the MMMS, they illustrate the program's utility as a hook to students "tuned out and turned off" by the traditional curriculum.

* Background

The Music as a Motivator for Math and Science project is administered by the Fund for New York City Public Education. It is a collaborative effort of its developer, Dr. Jacob Schwartz, and a half dozen other city and educational agencies.(1)

The goal is to use a computer-based music system to motivate and assist middle-level students in learning math and science. It also provides an enriched music appreciation and music composition course.

MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) technology allows for easy planning and feedback in music composition by the beginning musician and eliminates the need for performance skill. The computer system also helps illustrate many math and science concepts and offers opportunities for tangential topics. Project implementation, including software and curriculum development, was initiated in 1991/92. In the project site--Intermediate School 227, Queens (Louis Armstrong School)--the target population comprised about 30 seventh-grade students who were two or more years behind in reading and/or math. They participated in two 45-minute elective classes, weekly, in the spring 1992 semester, using a curriculum developed around the goals of the project. In addition, two summer camps were held in July, 1992--a two-week, ten-hour program at IS 227Q and a four week, 40-hour program in Community Junior High School 14, (Arturo Toscanini Junior High) Community School District #9. Neither school has any specialization in music.

* Music Helps Explain Waves

The equipment used in the MMMS is as follows. The CPU was an IBM PS/2 Model 57, with a YUMI MIDI board. A Korg CM-1 synthesizer was used. And the sequencer, Calliope, was designed especially for this course by David "Dr. Porkchop" Bacon.

The sequencer has two music modes. One mode consists of seven pitch sliders that can be adjusted in four ways: a scroll-type adjustment via mouse; numerical entry on a 12-point (half-tones) scale; numerical entry on a 100-point scale; or numerical entry of frequency ratios to a middle note (middle C). The range of the pitch sliders is two octaves. Any number of sliders can be turned on at once and each slider's volume adjusted. The sliders can also be played in sequence and their time duration adjusted.

The other, main sequencer mode consists of a repeating loop of beats, represented by boxes. Boxes may be filled in by the mouse to represent a sound of variable volume. Percussion instruments are represented by a single line, while tone instruments are a stack of twelve lines, each representing a half tone. Several loops can be onscreen and used at the same time. As the number of beats in each individual loop can be adjusted, the entire loop will repeat at the least common multiple of the individual lengths. Other factors can be adjusted, including the volume of each instrument, the tempo and various display options.

Additional equipment used for MMMS lessons includes Math Exploration Toolkit and Freelance Plus software packages as well as a HeNe laser, a slinky, a pendulum, the Grand Concourse, a stereo with a large bass speaker and several "black boxes." The original reason for this series was to teach students about the oscillatory nature of sound in preparation for lessons on harmonics, etc. …

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