The Math Vortex
STEM:   Science Technology Engineering & Math

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Nancy Wilson Chang
Math TeacherAbout.html



A Mathematician’s Lament      by Paul Lockhart

A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he finds himself in a society where music education has been made mandatory. “We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world.” Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project. Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made— all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or composer.

Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the “language of music.” It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school.

As for the primary and secondary schools, their mission is to train students to use this language— to jiggle symbols around according to a fixed set of rules: “Music class is where we take out our staff paper, our teacher puts some notes on the board, and we copy them or transpose them into a different key. We have to make sure to get the clefs and key signatures right, and our teacher is very picky about making sure we fill in our quarter-notes completely. One time we had a chromatic scale problem and I did it right, but the teacher gave me no credit because I had the stems pointing the wrong way.”

In their wisdom, educators soon realize that even very young children can be given this kind of musical instruction. In fact it is considered quite shameful if one’s third-grader hasn’t completely memorized his circle of fifths. “I’ll have to get my son a music tutor. He simply won’t apply himself to his music homework. He says it’s boring. He just sits there staring out the window, humming tunes to himself and making up silly songs.”

To

Download the full 25-page pdf article here.


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Teach Music like Math?

Below is my favorite essay, written in 2002 by Paul Lockhart, a math teacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, NY. This is one of the most brilliant critiques of traditional K-12 mathematics education that I have ever read. ~NWC

STE (M = Math)

STEM:  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math...  with Guitars!

Bay Bridge,      San Francisco CA

EHK-12 Guitars, Math,  & Science

My Edmonds News: September 19, 2012
Photo and story by Janette Turner

How do you make physics and geometry interesting to a teen? The answer, according to Edmonds Heights K-12 instructors Nancy Chang and Cathy Webb, is to turn those subjects into a guitar-making class. Recently, Chang and Webb filled us in on the class.

My Edmonds News: How did you come up with the idea to do this program?

Chang and Webb:  We were introduced to this amazing program through two fellow teachers in our Washington Alliance for Better Schools externship cohort. They took the course at the EMP last December and brought their guitars and curriculum to one of our professional development sessions.

My Edmonds News: What do you like best about engaging students this way?

Chang and Webb: The guitar building course meets students where they are and is relevant to their interests and passions. The math and science encountered in this authentic context has meaning and purpose. No one is asking, “When am I ever going to use this?” They’re using it now! Students are eager to learn math and science in this way because the knowledge and understanding is necessary if they are to build a quality instrument.


EHK-12 Teachers Build Guitars

August 15, 2012 - Photo by Richard Dickin - Tri-City Herald

Nancy Chang, left, a math teacher from Edmonds, is helped Tuesday by David Lake, an industrial arts and engineering drafting instructor at Kiona-Benton City High School, during a weeklong workshop at Hanford High School. Read more...
Edmonds Heights K-12   - Home

Guitar Building & Beyond - Semester 1

View our very first electric guitar engineering journey!

Celebrating Student Research and Design

Jonathan, Jefferson, Lucas, 
Jeremy, Sharief, Danie, & Simeon

Boeing, Edmonds Public Schools Foundations, and Edmonds School District Proudly Present

How Math 
Saved a Village

A Mathematical Folktale

To learn more about

Materials Education & Manufacturing

Technology Advisory Group Presents:

Career Connections

at Edmonds Community College

Edmonds Heights Guitar Building Students:

Presenters at professional development

STEM workshop for secondary  

education and career advisors


Lacey, Lucas, Jeremy, & Simeon

with Cathy Webb & Nancy Chang

Edmonds Heights Guitar Building


STEM Education & Guitar Building

NWC reads a story + Exponent math activity!

Get Involved in the Plot

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the important things are accomplished not by those best suited to do them, or by those who ought to be responsible for doing them, but by whoever actually shows up.

(Eliezer Yudkowsky, Research Fellow: Machine Intelligence Research Institute)