27 Dec

Do Re Mi - and excel in maths

Meet Endre Balogh, founder of the nonprofit Toones Academic Music program in Foster City, California, a program that helps children to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.

Music, clapping, moving around, drumbeats, children laughing. It sounds like they are having a lot of fun and better yet, the kids are actually learning math and music at the same time.

– Here at Allen Elementary School, we have designed an innovative curriculum to help children between ages of 5 to 9 to learn by play and excelling in music and math, says Endre, the Director and lead teacher at the TAM’s education center.

– It really all started 10 years ago when I met my college Sue Courey, Ph.D., co-writer of the Academic Music research study and today the vice-president of the Toones Foundation. We were both taught at a school in San Francisco and started to collaborate for a short study about arts-based learning. We later designed a program that would help children significantly improve their performance and their academic skills.

– Over the recent four years, the Toones program has shown a steady improvement in California Standards Test scores for math, increasing from 55 percent to 90 percent proficiency. It is also an award-winning program that is recognized nationally by the American Educational Research Association.

Early on in his teaching career, Endre, a professional saxophone, clarinet and flute performer with a B.A. in Music from San Francisco State University, became interested making lessons more fun with activities like games and music.

– Before, I taught socially disadvantaged children and to Hispanic, African, Asian and white minorities. After school, I saw that the children were often too tired to enjoy the music class. I wanted to make the lessons more enjoyable by learning numbers and fractions. So I started to experiment with combining math with music to make it more fun.

How can you really learn factions in a musical way?

– It is easy, Endre says. A fraction can be divided into a music measure and notes have different lengths as well. So a whole note can be held for four beats and can be divided into two half notes of two beats each, a four quarter note is four beats and so on. Then they solve the problem where a fractional note adds up to a full measure of music.

– The 12 lesson program is influenced by the Kodaly methodology. Students can clap, use their drumsticks and chant to recognize and memorize the lengths of each musical note. Then I use hand signs to the pitch different mathematical concepts, so it is and ear and an eye based learning at the same time.

Over the years Endre has taught his program to as many as 2000 - 3000 students. Today he teaches up to 13 classes, 26 lessons (30 minutes/lesson for Primary Grades, K-5th) a week.

– Although, more students are in each classroom today, the size has actually grown from 20 students to now 33, the results are really good and match the earlier test scores.

As lessons are short but frequent to reinforce the learning process and the children are most certainly enjoying the simple counting games by clapping, drumming and chanting and practise fractions, simultaneously.

Endre and Sue hope to expand their academic music program by showing other teachers how to use it in their curriculum. They are convinced that the Toones methodology that can be taught in any regular classroom by teachers, no matter which subject they teach.

– You know, Einstein was a great violin player. The more parts of the brain you actually train, the better you will do all round, says Endre.