Babies & ToddlersKidsPre-School

How music can help with math readiness

Sequencing, simple counting, and patterns are all supported by musical patterns such as tempo, rhythm, and melody.

Did you know that music is one of the first ways children encounter math? Children’s bodies react to music without thinking. They rock, clap, and even look toward the source of the sound when they hear music. 

Musical elements, such as a steady beat, rhythm, and melody, reflect mathematical concepts. Even young children can respond to music and its mathematical principles. 

Here are three musical elements related to math and some activity ideas to try at home.

Consistent tempo

When you hear music and start tapping your toes, you are responding to a steady beat. The steady beat is repetitive and spaced evenly. You can hear the steady beat if you listen to popular children’s songs such as Bingo or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

What tempo has to do with mathematics

Emphasising the steady beat by clapping or moving to the music aids in the development of one-to-one correspondence in children. One-to-one correspondence is when one thing is matched with another, such as one clap for each syllable. 

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Toddlers can demonstrate an understanding of one-to-one correspondence through music even if they do not yet understand numbers. A toddler will most likely clap more than once if you clap once and then ask, “Can you clap more than I clapped?”

While singing a song, stomp or clap on each beat to emphasise the words that fall on the beat. On the downbeat, have your child stomp or clap harder. Remember, there is no wrong way to do this, so let your child just have fun with it.


Rhythm is similar to but not the same as a steady beat. The rhythm of a song changes, but the steady beat remains constant.

What rhythm has to do with mathematics

Rhythm teaches children to recognise one-to-one correspondence and to predict distinct patterns. Recognising and anticipating rhythmic patterns aids children in remembering or predicting the words of a song or rhythmic story.

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Even newborns can learn about rhythm by listening to their parents sing them lullabies. Rock your child while you sing, and gently pat their back so they can hear and feel the musical patterns at the same time. 


The melody of the song, or the tune, is the movement from one note to another. Consider the well-known song Old MacDonald Had a Farm, with its repetitive pattern “E-I-E-I-O”. The first E and I are repeated on a higher note, the second E and I are repeated on a lower note, and the O is sung on an even lower note. This is the melody of the song.

What melody has to do with mathematics

Melodies can help children recognise patterns, such as how notes are repeated within a song.

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To play a song, provide instruments such as a xylophone (or piano, if you have one), a shaker, a drum, or even a pot and a wooden spoon. As you play the rest of the song, ask your child to play their instrument on a specific note of a simple song (such as “star” in Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star).

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