Math and Music Come Together in Unique Course

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Published January 10, 2022
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The Montclarion
Students in the course worked on projects related to the harp. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

Students at Montclair State University celebrated how music and math intersect through presentations at Alexander Kasser Theater from Dec. 16-19.

The students are members of the Mathematics and Music course, which was made possible by a collaboration between arts and cultural programming, and the department of mathematics.

Bogdan Nita, a mathematics professor, teaches the course.

“This is by far my favorite course to teach,” Nita said. “And this year, it exceeded all my expectations.”

Students work on their project for the course. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

Students work on their project for the course. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

The course focused on the harp and split the students into groups to study certain aspects of it. Projects included the history of the harp, the length of a string in relation to its frequency, equal temperament scale, tension in the strings, linear density of harp strings and final formula and design.

Steven Greenstein, a mathematics professor, explained that it was fun to watch several disciplines come together.

“What I really, really appreciate about this project is that it’s authentically situated at the intersection of mathematics, music and design,” Greenstein said. “It’s a legit STEAM education project and it was a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Students presented their projects to the public in Alexander Kasser Theater. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita.

Students presented their projects to the public in Alexander Kasser Theater.
Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita.

Arts and cultural programming alongside the department of mathematics have worked together in the past in the December 2018 Peak Performance of “Smashed” by Gandini Juggling, which highlighted the geometry, patterns and physics involved in juggling.

Jedediah Wheeler, the executive director for arts and cultural programming, shared what he enjoys about collaborating with the mathematics department.

“The [mathematics] department has an uncanny knack for highlighting the synergy between science and art, and bringing to light that creativity is the hallmark of scientists and artists alike,” Wheeler said.

A large crowd came to view the projects created by students in the Mathematics and Music course. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

A large crowd came to view the projects created by students in the Mathematics and Music course.
Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

Undergraduate and high school students also collaborated with Montclair State’s MIX Lab to design new shapes for harps using 3D printing technology.

Arnold Rosas, a senior mathematics major, shared what he enjoyed about the course.

“Math can be attributed to many things, but it being the manifestation of music is the most beautiful,” Rosas said.

3D printed models of new harp shapes next to a traditional harp. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

3D printed models of new harp shapes next to a traditional harp.
Photo courtesy of Bogdan Nita

Enmanuel Dilone, a senior mathematics major, said the projects are attracting the attention of people within and outside of the university community.

“From the beginning, we knew the class was building to a final project, and we worked on it diligently to get a good grade, but we did not know our posters were going to get so much attention,” Dilone said. “When professor Nita told me our presentations were going to be exposed at the Kasser Theater and that they were drawing attention from faculty and people outside the school, it came as a surprise to me.”

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