Culture, Math and Music

There’s an insightful quote from STEM advocate Kareem Abdul Jabbar

This may come as a shock to a lot of kids, but music and math are intimately related. Great minds have been discussing the relationship for centuries. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, who co-discovered calculus, probably explained the relationship best when he said, “Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.” Music rhythms are mathematical patterns. When you hear a song and your body starts moving with it, your body is doing math.

The Official Website of Kareem Abdul Jabbar

The connection between math and music is a key to STEAM. However, while STEAM is important,  it’s not a panacea. In America there are broader cultural issues which impact people of color disproportionately. In another article on Kareem’s site Segway inventor Dean Kamen touches on a very important point:

“To think that it’s a supply problem or that it’s an education problem is ridiculous,” Kamen said.

Undermining efforts to promote interest in STEM education is a culture that places sports stars and celebrities on pedestals, but makes scientists and engineers the butt of jokes, he added.

This is especially true in underserved minority communities, said basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a sports legend in his own right.

“They see themselves only being able to be successful in the area of sports or entertainment,” Abdul-Jabbar said during a panel discussion at the summit. “If they can’t be Jay-Z or LeBron James, they don’t think they can be successful.”

Changing that perception requires parents, educators, media, and the business community holding up scientists and engineers as role models, instead of celebrities and professional athletes.

After all, there’s a much higher chance their students will go pro in tech than in basketball.

More Opportunities to Turn Pro in Science Than in the NBA

STEM needs a more diversity in general and the Arts/STEAM can help with that. In addition, we can benefit by expanding our awareness of how important STEM is in our daily lives.