The 6 M’s – Meter, Measure, Music, Math, Movement and More!

Kenya Snider

Lesson Goals

Students will demonstrate an understanding of 4/4 meter by creating and notating a 4 measure rhythmic pattern. They will be able to write a corresponding math sentence that reflects the measure of music.

This lesson is designed for teaching meter in 4/4 time. Students will use mathematical concepts of partitioning a whole into parts (fractions) and the equivalence of fractions. The material will most likely take 2 lessons, but could be compressed into 1 lesson.


Hula hoops (1 per 4 students, plus 1 extra if the class doesn’t divide equally into 4); Recording of “Nweti” by Amoya, recording of an instrumental song of your choosing that stays in a steady tempo in 4/4 (tempo should be andante-allegretto); hand-held classroom percussion instruments; Laminated cards with a variety of quarter, half, beamed eighth notes and whole notes with their corresponding rests (punch holes and tie yarn, so that students can wear them as a necklace); worksheets (to notate the 4 measure pattern) and pencils.


-Begin with an open-ended question – Can you measure music? What tool do you use to measure it?
-Prior knowledge: Music- review how many beats a quarter, half and whole note receives, and the notation; Math – review 1/8, 1/2, 1/4, 4/4,

1. Play “Nweti” and have students discover the steady beat.
a. Have students in a large circle that will travel. Use a 1 step forward to demonstrate the whole note, have arms show 4 quarter notes by pulsing low to high ending in a v shape.
b. Start by traveling to the whole note, next add quarter note arms (2 movements at once). Change the arms to half notes. Change the feet to half notes, and do arms in quarter notes. Have feet do whole notes, one arm do half notes, and another arm do quarter notes (a challenge!)
2. Hulu Hoops (like musical chairs) – lay them out on the floor. Play 4/4 music. Each student represents a quarter note. When the music stops, 4 quarter notes (students) should be inside the hoop. They should pull it up to show they are a complete measure. (they have grouped 4 beats).
b. Have each student select an instrument. Repeat the above activity. When the music stops, quickly number students into 1,2,3,4. Have them play their instrument in the hoop on their assigned beat.
c. Put signs with note values around the students’ necks. Repeat the same activity, but now they can mix up the rhythmic values (ex. 3 students could be a half note, and 2 quarter notes). Use the same count off for instruments to play. If a student has a half or whole note, they have to account for all of the numbers (ex. if the half note student is 1, then they have to sustain their sound through counts 1 and 2, and the second person would play on 3, 3rd person on 4.)
3. Teacher leads the class in notating a 4 measure rhythm. Start by writing a measure with too many many beats, and then one with not enough beats. Next, create 4 measure by drawing a line and dividing it into 4 parts (use the vocab “bar line” and “measure”). In a whole class discussion format, teacher fills in note values to create an equal 4 beats in each measure (use rests, too). Have students suggest what should come next etc. It is best to end on a longer note value or a rest. Under each measure show a mathematical expression. You can either write 1/2 + 1/4 +1/4 or you could have shaded circles that shade the part of the whole that each note represents (probably a better idea, depending on their level of understanding). Remember to discuss why a 4/4 meter feels like it does – because the beats are grouped in 4, and beat 1 is the strongest beat.
4. Students do the activity on their own with a partner. They select 1 instrument to play their pattern (ex. triangle). Each pair should have the same instrument. After checking their written work for correct beats, each partner group practices along with recorded music.Remind them to play beat 1 just a little bit louder than the other beats. Next, each partner group plays alone for the class (repeat 4 measures, so it is 8). If that works well, try combining 2 partners to form a quartet. Play at the same time (ex. 2 triangles playing with 2 wood blocks). Students can observe which combinations of sounds that they like. Connect the whole class and play all rhythms one after another along with a given song.

Differentiation Approaches

For AIG students, extend with single eighth notes and dotted note values, for struggling students – partner with a stronger math student. To incorporate technology – use Phil Tulga’s Playing Fraction Pies song.


The 4 measure notated rhythm will serve as the assessment, as well as performing the rhythm along with a recorded song in 4/4.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

3/4 meter – have students discover how a quarter note is now 1/3 of the whole measure.

Additional Details

  • Grade Level: Third
  • Arts Content Area: Music
  • Non-Arts Content Area: Math
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