Rhythm Wheels: Using Music as a Mathematical Learning Tool – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Rhythm Wheels: Using Music as a Mathematical Learning Tool

Lisa Tarsavage

Lisa Tarsavage

Pronouns: she/her

Research Mentor(s): Ron Eglash, Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: School of Information,
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 18
Presenter: 3

Event Link


Though ample research has been conducted studying how education can be improved, the research being done with CSDT – Culturally Situated Design Tools – is unique in that it combines STEM lessons, cultural art, and modern tech with the aim of simultaneously improving STEM education and reducing the implicit racism that devalues certain cultures. One component of the CSDT suite (csdt.org) is Rhythm Wheels, the program this study uses. It employs animations to educate users in the ways traditional music from the African diaspora (Carribean, hiphop, salsa, etc.) have math concepts like least common multiple embedded in them. Musicians from these traditions know this math in a form that is unfamiliar to Western education systems, but can be “translated” through a computational medium. This study will introduce Rhythm Wheels to high school students, drawing largely from underrepresented demographics. It will use a pre/post test contrast to examine how this may have impacted their understanding of the math and computing concepts, as well as how they think about culture. We hypothesize that combining computing, math, and culture studies together in education might enhance all three. These results may add to the ever-growing body of evidence for the idea that math and computing ideas already exist in traditional cultural practices, and that allowing students to translate them through computational media can create enjoyable activities that aid the decolonization of STEM.

Authors: Lisa Tarsavage, Ron Eglash
Research Method: Computer Programming
Background info: https://csdt.org/culture/rhythmwheels/index.html

Software: https://csdtorg/projects/18209/run

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