Musical Fractions - Creation

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SWBAT use their understanding of wholes, halves, quarters and eighths to create a short musical piece.

Big Idea

Musical learners will benefit from this alternative approach to representations of fractions. To quote a student, "NOW I get it!"


9 minutes

This is an entertaining example of music in cartoons.  If you use this video clip start it at 1:30 and stop at 3:30.  Don't start at the beginning, and there's no reason to show the entire video.  Ask the students to listen and see if they can tell when the pianist (the pre-Goofy) switches to 3 beats per measure.  Hint for you:  it's with the cats drinking milk.  

If needed, I use the classic construction paper number strips to review fraction equivalencies with the students.  If I've had them create their own (or had wonderful parent volunteers precut them for me!) then they can follow along

I have them show me, with the paper fraction strips on their desk:

1/2 + 1/2 = 2/2  or 1

1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1

1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2

1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 = 1

1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4

1/8 + 1/8 + 1/4= 1/2

Active Engagement - Maestros at Work

50 minutes

Prior to turning the students loose to create their own musical score, we review the Composition Checklist.

For students who are interested, I give very Basic Chord Progressional Information and explain that these notes sound especially pleasant together.  I stick with a major chord (1, 3, 5) a 4th (1, 4, 6) and a 5th (7, 2, 5).

I insist that students first create the treble clef (the top line, that usually carries the melody and is played with the right hand on a piano or organ).

Throughout this activity, I am conferring with individual musicians.   I am persistent in making sure that they use mathematically precise language (MP6) to talk about and define what we are doing. Additionally, I encourage students to think about the mood, theme, or story of their music, as I will tie their music to a creative writing activity later on.

My questions and comments focus on helping the students find structure in the mathematical relationships between the fractions/notes.  

Here are some examples of the relationships between the notes:

(4/4 = 2/4 + 1/4 + 1/4, 2/4 = 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/8)

I also ask students, especially those who may need extra support, about the quantity of like notes (4/4 = 1, 2/4 + 2/4 = 4/4 = 1, 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 4/4 = 1)  needed to complete a measure.

Here is an example of student work from a child explored the relationship between quarter notes and eighth notes.

Technical note about registering students for Noteflight:

In my class, students sign up for this program using their gmail accounts provided by the school.  This keeps it very simple for me.  They have a standard user name, which is a combination of their initials and numbers, and then their password is ALWAYS their matricualtion number.  If your school doesn't have a similar system I strongly suggest, based on my past experiences, assigning them a simple user name, creating a gmail account, and using a mandated, consistent combination of numbers/number letters for their password.  In 3rd grade teachers have access to their accounts.

They will be able to create 10 compositions before they are prompted to sign up for an account.


5 minutes

I ask students to complete this Exit Ticket to be certain that they are connecting what they are doing with musical notes to the concepts of benchmark fractions and also the ideas of some basic equivalencies, such as 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4.  

Another option is to project some of the students' final creations and select for level of difficulty based on the overall need of the class.  For example, if the students need more practice with the fractions 1/4 and 2/4 and 4/4, select only measures with quarter, half and whole notes.