Magic Numbers

Synchronicity can be the glue that binds ideas together. Alan Armstrong points out that all teachers (including instructors) need to become teachers of numeracy (along with literacy and well-being). I hear that that classroom colleagues in MGS are meeting in groups to discuss how this will be done*. I probe the theory knowledge of a gifted, multi-instrumental pupil and find some cloudiness in the numbers area. This is not due to lack of ability on the pupil, who is in a top Maths set, but due to the multi-modality which music imposes on numbers. With exceptions the numbers involved rarely rise above 7 and therefore we require these few, overworked digits to perform a multiplicity of functions (accidental pun). The big hitters in one area, are Z List celebrities in the next; numbers which seem like immediately family members in one context are, at best, distant cousins in another. Even the most mathematically gifted pupils will feel, at times, that they are drowning in a whirlpool of, polygamous, shape-shifting integers.

Confused? Join the club. That’s why I intend to produce some kind of table to help pupils (and any other interested parties) see at a glance the many faces and functions of these digits. Adapting the Kipling process, I’ll compile a prototype, run it past some pupils & colleagues, make necessary adjustments and additions and post it here – most probably on a new Lesson Support Page.

In the meantime, let me mention just a numerical oddity which struck me the other day while listening to an old mp3 download of Radio 4’s In Our Time. The conversation concerned the Fibonacci series, golden sections etc. and their prevalence in nature, architecture, art and music. It occurred to me for the first time that the Fibonacci series does not feature the number most prevalent in Western music – 4. Strange.

* unfortunately instructors rehearse ensemble at this time and can’t join in.