Why Not Admit There is a Problem With Math and Music? Dan Formosa at TEDxDrexelU by TEDx Talks   6 years ago

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NOTE FROM TED: We've flagged this talk, which was filmed at a TEDx event, because it appears to fall outside TEDx's curatorial guidelines for its assertions about math and music. TEDx events are independently organized by volunteers. The guidelines we give TEDx organizers are described in more detail here: http://storage.ted.com/tedx/manuals/tedx_content_guidelines.pdf


Dan Formosa's work covers many areas of design. A unifying theme is the idea that great design requires that we first understand people. This talk is not a class in math or music. It's a discussion about challenges to understanding math and music, topics for which literacy rates are low. Both subjects can alienate us at an early age. Dan poses this as a design problem. The talk was part of a day-long TEDx event hosted by the design department at Drexel University, that carried the theme "Why Not Admit..." The audience consisted of 100 people, mostly design students. Dan's talk is about visual communication (information design) and its effect on learning.

In the talk Dan draws from childhood experiences in math and music class. In math class (as with many people) the Pythagorean Theorem was presented as a formula to be memorized, but was never illustrated – something that would have been much more effective.

For music, he discusses the difficulties we encounter when deciphering a notation system in which up to 16 keys on a piano are depicted within 5 lines and 4 spaces – a graphic system in which the spatial positions of notes don't map to their acoustic spacing, and sharps and flats need to be interpreted. It's an expert system, and the learning barrier is high.

In accordance with the "Why Not Admit..." theme, and the fact that this is a university event for designers, this talk is asking questions, not suggesting answers. It's intended to trigger ideas to improve literacy (and maybe make anyone who has tried and failed in the past feel better about math and music.)

Comment, March 16 2018: This is NOT a music class, as some viewers have assumed. It's a discussion about difficulties in understanding math and music, and a critique of the way many of us are taught – with teaching techniques that, at an early age, can make us believe we are bad at math or music. In the discussions of sharps and flats that "don't exist," and the difference between E# and F, Dan is discussing his past grammar-school challenges of connecting notes on the scale to keys on a keyboard. (That "past experience" context was apparent during the talk but may not be clear to everyone when watching the video.) Also, the Nashville number system is shown as an example of a work-around that some musicians are using, not as a proposed replacement for notation.

About TEDx: In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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