There’s lots of talk in the tech, education and government sectors about the importance of STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Mathematics) education. That's a good conversation to be having.
We need kids to learn STEM so that they can compete in a marketplace that demands that knowledge and a society that requires it.
The problem is, with all their marketing smarts (particularly among the tech types), they’re missing the easiest doorway to kids wanting to learn STEM.
Teach them music.
From the moment they’re in a classroom, make sure there’s music in the curriculum. As they grow, make sure there’s a music teacher at the school. And a band. And orchestra. And instruments. And a choir or glee club.
Put on musicals for the parents to watch and be so proud. Or choral concerts with the school choir and orchestra playing together. Teach them to dance.
Have a list of music and dance teachers in the community - all of whom have been vetted for their safety with kids and their music chops - to give to parents.
Why? Because music is math. Whether it’s rhythm or harmony - music is math.
Think intervals. What does a fifth sound like? Or a third? And aren’t those fractions? And how is harmony created? Or discord, dissonance, counterpoint and resolution?
Now think rhythm. For those of us not in the know, we may think four-four time. Or a waltz in three-four time. (Which also look like fractions, by the way.)
But let's be real. Kids are listening to rap - and that's all rhythm all the time. And rhythm is counting.
I asked my brother, a professional musician, what the most difficult time signature was that he remembered playing.
It was 19/8. And for those of you who think that’s nuts (which he called “fun”) and can’t imagine how to count it (which I couldn’t), the answer is 332221222.
Or if you think that 'classical' music is played in only one time signature, you’re wrong. Listen to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and you’ll be confronted with what my brother (again... professional musician) says has the most complicated / quickest / highest number of time signature changes in a single piece that he can recall...and he can recall a lot.
Then there’s the soul-satisfying aspect of being part of something that simply makes you feel good - no matter the challenge. Because whether it’s singing a song or dancing a dance or playing an instrument, music transcends...which means kids transcend with it.
It inspires. It teaches. It guides. Music makes you more - whether you’re the one creating it or participating in it by being in the audience.
What else do you get? You get collaboration and listening skills and self-expression. You get innovation.
And all the while, music is math. And math is part of STEM. And STEM is success. For you. For kids. For society.