The Need


I, Deb  Bowers, middle and high school teacher, hated math as a student.

We were told as elementary students to memorize our math facts, though we were given numberlines on our desks. Math did not come naturally to me; but I succeeded by realizing with the use of the numberline that math was basically about patterns.  In college, I had a professor who made trigonometry simple. It was then that I decided that I could actually teach math! I quickly discovered that there was a problem with how we teach adding and subtracting.

Students are told to memorize THE RULES:  change everything to addition and add.  The problem with this is that we confuse the students with the exceptions to THE RULES: -3+5 isn’t really adding, it’s subtracting; two negatives make a positive in multiplication, but not in addition.

Every year, I encounter students making incorrect statements:

-3 – 5 = 8 because two negatives make a positive

-3 – 5 = 2 because you have to subtract, but two negatives make a positive

– 3 + 5 = -8 because you add, but they’re different signs so it’s negative


– 3 – 5 says minus, but you add.  – 3 + 5 says add, but you subtract.  “Ah!”  said one student, “I get it!  You just do the opposite!”


It’s no wonder they’re confused!

  • Algebra Tiles are good but can be too abstract.
  • The Rules can be too confusing.
  • “Drill and Kill” is frustrating and boring.

Math needs to be simple and concrete.

Having the students dance on the numberline HELPS!  They actually experience seeing positives and negatives as left and right on the numberline. Can you go below 0?  Of course!

Putting music to the numberline makes math interesting and fun! As students use the numberline, they will find the patterns themselves and make that numbersense their own. They will enjoy using creativity to make music and math questions of their own.

My musical background helped me to realize how much math and music go together! How can we  incorporate music into math to make it more fun?


The Musical Math Numberline!