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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Iowa City students finding math in music | The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines

Photo: Liz Zabel
"Artist in Residence Henry Cardenas helping kids see numbers differently" according to Liz Zabel, The Gazette. 

When thinking of music, the first thing that comes to mind likely isn’t math — but as this year’s M.C. Ginsberg Artist in Residence, Henry Cardenas has combined the two in his curriculum for Iowa City fifth-graders.
Henry Cardenas (right), M.C. Ginsberg Artist in Residence, helps Manny Medina (left), 10, create music at Hills Elementary on Dec. 13, 2016. Cardenas, a musician originally from New York now studying elementary education at the University of Iowa, is this year’s M.C. Ginsberg Artist in Residence, a program that has supported artists to incorporate art into the Iowa City school district’s curriculum since 1991. Cardenas will tour through the district from November to early May, teaching basic math concepts through music production.
(Liz Zabel/The Gazette)

From November through early May, Cardenas — a musician originally from New York studying elementary education at the University of Iowa — is spending two hours each week at elementary schools in the Iowa City Community School District teaching math concepts through music production.

Earlier this month, Cardenas visited Hills Elementary, where students equipped with headphones and personal laptops created tracks of electronic music using a free online program called Audiotool. Students compiled drum beats with vocal tracks and other instrumentals, resulting in a unique track of their own.

Students may not have noticed, but while making music, they were also learning about math through topics such as rhythm and tempo.

“Music has a strong relationship with math,” Cardenas said. “You can distill it down to patterns and numbers — keeping rhythm requires understanding of fractions and decimals, for example — it’s just rewiring them to understand it in a different way. ... It helps them see numbers differently.”

At the end of the class, Cardenas asked if any of the students wanted to share their work. Hands shot up in excitement.

“They had a lot of fun,” said Michelle Harbison, their teacher. “They loved his lesson and are very proud of what they have put together.”

Harbison said that even after class, students continued to work on their projects at home and were excited to come back to class two days later to show Cardenas what they’d created.

“I think it’s wonderful that we have these types of opportunities for students and that their interests could lead to a career,” Harbison said.

Cardenas’ curriculum is modeled after another program he worked with in New York City called Building Beats, a nonprofit that provides DJ and music programs to undeserved youth in Brooklyn. The idea is to teach entrepreneurial, leadership and life skills and to make the music creating process accessible and fun for students. Cardenas wanted to take a similar approach to teaching music in Iowa, but unlike Building Beats, which has several weeks to teach students, Cardenas has only two sessions, usually about an hour or so each.
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Source: The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines


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