Many college students (and some of you) are fond of playing computer games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. So they might really appreciate this post about Musical Pi from the 360 blog.

A summary: Jon Turner (professor of musical composition) has composed a suite based on the digits in the decimal expansion of the number pi. Listen here! (mine played in Quicktime)

A couple applications of this one for the classroom:

  1. Even algebra students know what pi is. It might help them to appreciate the randomness (and thus irrational nature) of the decimal expansion. The drum accents the distribution of zeros in the decimal expansion.
  2. In Math for Elemtary Teachers, we teach alternate bases. Here is a great example of a practical application of that… mapping base 10 to base 12 so that it will correspond one-to-one with the chromatic musical scale.
  3. For students that are interested in music composition, send them to the blog post on 360 to read more about how both math and composition were used to write the song.

I’d love to have a set of these “songs” to illustrate decimals by sound. (in case anyone is feeling especially energetic today)

  • pi (irrational)
  • e (irrational)
  • 1/5 (rational, one digit… period… BORING!)
  • 1/3 (rational, one repeated digit… hear how boring it is)
  • 1/11 (rational, two repeated digits… still boring)
  • 1/7 (rational, six repeated digits)
  • sqrt(3) (back to irrational)

Now we ask students to categorize these, based on the sound … and then explain their results!

  • sqrt(0.25)
  • sqrt(o.o25)
  • 1/22
  • 1/19
  • pi/3

Who says teaching algebra isn’t fun? Anyone want to volunteer to create the sound files? There’s a “how to” on the 360 blog.

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