Learning to Teach Music-themed Mathematics: An Examination of Preservice Teachers’ Beliefs about Developing and Implementing Interdisciplinary Mathematics Pedagogy

Mar. 15, 2016

Source: Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, Vol 18.1, 20-36, 2016 
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to offer a group of preservice teachers with opportunities to learn about interdisciplinary mathematics pedagogy, plus the experience of implementing interdisciplinary mathematics pedagogy with elementary students. This study situated music within a series of mathematics lessons that incorporated the musical elements as a central, rather than superficial, component of the mathematics pedagogy.

The study took place at a medium-sized research university in a predominantly bilingual southwestern metropolitan area in the United States. Participants were 21 preservice teachers enrolled to an undergraduate elementary mathematics teaching methods course, during a summer semester. Among the 21 participants, there were 19 female preservice teachers and 2 male preservice teachers. Furthermore, 11 participants who were pursuing degrees as elementary generalists (preservice teachers preparing to teach in monolingual English classrooms), and 10 elementary bilingual generalists who were preparing to teach in both Spanish and English at dual-language elementary schools.

Analysis of the 391 pieces of qualitative reflections that were collected from the participating preservice teachers during focus group discussions, individual interviews, and self-refection essays.


The results revealed some empirical differences between generalists’ and bilingual generalists’ strategies and perceptions pertaining to the designing and implementing of music-mathematics integrated teaching methods and materials.
Furthermore, the results provided the participating preservice teachers with an opportunity to reflect upon the potential advantages, as well as challenges, involved in developing music into an educational resource for teaching engaging elementary mathematics lessons.

The advantages determined the importance of high-quality elements within four chief categories, including: (1) Lesson preparation and delivery ( (2) Students’ learning and applying math; (3) Students’ attitude and motivation , and (4) Differentiated instruction and personalisation.

The preservice teachers also pointed out a number of challenges that they experienced during their lesson preparation and teaching process, such as (a) the problem of time management during instruction; (b) difficulty meeting different students’ needs; (c) a disorganised instructional process and the resulting classroom management issues; and (d) gaps in pedagogical and content knowledge.

The findings imply that the participating preservice teachers recognized that integrating mathematics with an engaging real-life context such as music could potentially address some of the common mathematics education problems, including a lack of engagement and the presence of mathematics anxiety. Most of the participating preservice teachers indicated that music as a pedagogical strategy allowed them to go beyond traditional mathematics instruction, and stated that they believed such contextualised activities allowed students to understand mathematics concepts in meaningful ways.

Furthermore, findings from the study also indicated that both generalists and bilingual generalists were convinced that the interdisciplinary activities could be used as to help in creating an engaging learning environment for elementary students to participate in mathematics tasks and be involved with more challenging mathematics.
Although the preservice teachers in this study created several ways to integrate music within mathematics lessons, it is noteworthy that some differences between regular generalists and bilingual generalists were found.

Moreover, the regular generalists and the bilingual generalists described how they had experienced different challenges when they implemented their lesson to actual students. Specifically, under the theme of Classroom management and control, the regular generalists stated more challenges pertaining to going too fast during instruction, while the bilingual generalists reported more challenges pertaining to going too slow during instruction.


The primary goal of this study was to determine the participating preservice teachers beliefs pertaining to the craft of designing and implementing music-themed mathematics lessons, thereby furthering the examination of alternative approaches to improving the preparation of preservice teachers’ in their development of mathematics pedagogy. This study identified several potential opportunities for facilitating preservice teachers’ understanding of interdisciplinary mathematics pedagogy.

The authors argue that mathematics teacher educators and curriculum developers should support development and research regarding generating innovative teaching strategies that can more effectively engage students in learning mathematics via such pedagogical strategies as problem-solving, simulations, discovery, contextualised challenges, and interdisciplinary projects.

This study has provided empirical findings pertaining to the connections between music and mathematics to illustrate the concept of the entertainment-education learning strategy. To support the aim of improving preservice teachers’ knowledge for how to effectively implement mathematics teaching strategies with their future elementary students, teacher educators should strive to improve preservice teachers’ awareness of, and capacity for, making mathematics education more engaging for students.

Updated: Aug. 08, 2017