"Polyrhythm" Teacher Support


Polyrhythm Archived PoW || Student Version

Polyrhythm is no longer the current ESCOT Problem of the Week. The student version allows teachers to use the problem with their students without giving the students access to the archived answers. Teachers can use the link to the archived problem to get ideas of student thinking.

[Standards]  [Activities]  [Lessons]  [Dr. Math]  [Vocab]  [Other Resources]

In the Polyrhythm problem students will be investigating polyrhythms, and then have a chance to build their own to investigate the mathematics.

If you have something to share with us as you use any of the links or suggestions on this page (something you tried and changed or a new idea) we would love to hear from you. Please email us.

Alignment to the NCTM Standards - Grades 6-8
Number & Operations
- work flexibly with fractions to solve problems

- understand patterns, relations, and functions

Problem Solving
- solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts

Reasoning and Proof
- make and investigate mathematical conjectures

- communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others.
- use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely.

- recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.
Possible Activities:
Have students experiment with a lively drum experience (they can simply clap or tap on their desks), noting the chaos that happens. Have them listen to professional drumming to hear that it doesn't have to be chaotic. Follow up with a discussion about the differences between untrained and trained drumming. Here's a Quicktime video of a dancer and music that could be used:

Introduce or reinforce the idea of common multiples, as that is one of the things that drummers pay attention to.

Ask students to orchestrate the polyrhythms that they created in the problem. Then discuss which ones sound better -- and why, relating it to the numbers involved in the rhythms.


Resources to use with students:
Ask Dr. Math Archives
- Fractions of Musical Notes
- Math and the Piano
- The Math Behind Music: Pitches, Scales, Geometry

- common multiple
- phrase
- ratio
- rhythm


Other Resources
- Don Giovanni by Mozart - scroll down the page to find Don Giovanni Audio Samples
- Dance Drummer.com - view performances
- Fantasy Impromptu by Chopin - MIDI file
- Foundation Course in African Music
- Functional Melodies
        By Scott Beall
        Published by Key Curriculum Press
        ISBN 1-55953-37-1
- Jazz and Math: The Beat Goes On - PBS
- Understanding Rhythm - Guitar Principles.com
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