Mathematics can find the numbers in music.

Pupils analyse the similarities and differences between genres of popular music with particular focus on the variable measures of tempo. Pupils work in small groups to listen to different music tracks, measure the tempos and interpret and present the results. Although not essential, this project would work well as a cross-curricular project with the music department.

Getting Started

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Mathematical content

Key Stage 3 National Curriculum areas covered include:

  • Key processes – identify the mathematical aspects of a situation; simplify a situation in order to represent it mathematically, using appropriate variables; identify and classify patterns; interpret and analyse their results and reflect on and communicate their results
  • Number and algebra – calculating with and manipulating rational numbers; using and applying ratio and proportion;
  • Geometry and measures – scale; units, compound measures and conversions.
  • Statistics – applying the handling data cycle; measures of central tendency and spread.
  • Curriculum opportunities - work on problems that arise in other subjects; work collaboratively as well as independently in a range of contexts.

Organisation and pedagogy

This case study supports four hour-long lessons of classroom activity for Part 1. The optional Part 2 requires one period of two hours and greater use of ICT. A mixture of class, group and individual work is involved with some homework tasks. In the first lesson teachers will need to play music tracks to the class and in subsequent lessons students will need to listen to music in groups. Therefore computers or external audio devices (CD players, iPods etc) with headphones will be needed, at least one set between two students. Computers are vital for Part 2, as students will need to use audio editing software.


  • Teacher’s Guide (MyMusic.pdf): A comprehensive document that gives a detailed overview, lesson plans and worksheets.
  • Starter rhythm tracks (mp3) are available on the website and DVD.
  • PCs require CD players and/or the ability to connect external audio devices, along with headphones and headphone-splitters and audio playing software such as Windows Media Payer, RealPlayer, etc
  • Open source Audacity software is required for Part 2. Details are given in the Teacher’s Guide.

A copy of the Audacity source code (zip) has been included.

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