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Engineering Connections Between Math, Physics, and Music (Strand 2)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Research to Practice: STRAND 2- Engineering Across the Curriculum: Integration with the Arts, Social Studies, Science, and the Common Core

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.617.1 - 26.617.7



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Paper Authors


Julie Steimle University of Cincinnati

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Julie Steimle received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education from Thomas More College. She served as development director and managed academic programs in two non-profit organizations, Pregnancy Care of Cincinnati and the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati, before coming to the University of Cincinnati in 2009. Ms. Steimle initially coordinated UC’s Supplemental Educational Services Program. Currently, she is the Project Director of the Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Math and Science Program.

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David Linley Macmorine CEEMS

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Ohio State, B.S. Math Education 1985
University of Cincinnati, M.A.T., 1991
Math teacher, Cincinnati Public Schools, 29 years

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Engineering Connections between Math, Physics, & Music (Strand 2)A math teacher at a performing arts school strives to make mathematical concepts relevant tostudents’ everyday lives and present them with the connections between math and bothengineering and science. The study of sound through music is an excellent way to introduce themathematics of waves. When presented with trigonometry, students are often confused andsometimes turned off by the subject. Using a free online program called Audacity, sound and itswave format can be studied, via more familiar terms to students such as amplitude andfrequency. This can help students more easily grasp sine and cosine functions when presented inAlgebra II, Pre-Calculus, or Physics.The teacher started the unit through an open-ended class discussion about sound, music, andsound waves. He used props, such as wind chimes, boom whackers, a standing wave generator,and a free online program called Audacity, to grab students’ attention and concretelydemonstrate concepts such as sound waves, amplitude, and frequency as well as theirconnections to math and music.Next, students view a video about a youth orchestra program in a third world nation wherevolunteers construct instruments for the students using materials from a local garbage dump. Anengineering challenge for this unit is to build, in teams, a musical instrument out of recycledmaterials that can be tuned to play one assigned note (A, C, E, or G) at a required pitch within 5Hertz of that note’s range. As a culminating activity, all the instruments will play “Mary Had aLittle Lamb” together.The teacher reports a higher degree of student understanding of sine and cosine functions as aresult of connecting those concepts to music and sounds prior to teaching the math in moredetail. Prior to the unit, students averaged a score of 47.13% on the pre-test. On the post-test,the average was 66.67%, which represented a statistically significant difference in a t-tail test.As verified by student survey data, the teacher also witnessed a tremendous amount of studentinterest and engagement in this unit. Student groups worked hard during class and frequentlystayed after school to complete construction on their musical instruments. As performing artsstudents, they appreciated the non-traditional method in which these mathematical concepts werepresented. By connecting the content to music, the teacher was able to capture their attentionthus resulting in better understanding and retention of the material.

Steimle, J., & Macmorine, D. L. (2015, June), Engineering Connections Between Math, Physics, and Music (Strand 2) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23955

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