Posted by: Dave Richeson | January 15, 2011

Music is math: ten songs about mathematics

Just for fun, here are ten songs about mathematics. Am I missing any good ones? Post them in the comments.

1. Finite Simple Group (of Order 2) by the Klein Four Group (lyrics). This excellent song was written and performed by graduate students at Northwestern University, where I did my graduate work. I think it is funny that I noticed the familiar stairwell before I noticed the familiar professors (in the background).

2. Nonagon by They Might be Giants (which I posted in this blog post). Of course, they have a full CD/DVD of math songs: Here Come the 123’s.

3. A Song About Pi by Irving Kaplansky, sung by Lucy Kaplansky (my blog post about the song)

4. Pi by Kate Bush (lyrics). This is a surprisingly nice song in which Kate Bush sings the digits of pi (too bad she made some mistakes—artistic license wins over mathematical rigor?)

5. One Geometry (rapped to the tune of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell William’s “Drop it Like it’s Hot”) by Steve Sawin (AKA Slim Dorky) (lyrics). I posted this video about the Poincare conjecture on the day that Perelman was chosen as a Clay Millennium prize winner—an award that he famously turned down.

6. Down With That (Bolzano Weierstrauss Rap) by Steve Sawin (AKA Slim Dorky) (a previous blog post has links to the lyrics)

7. Lobachevsky by Tom Lehrer (I gave links to other math songs by Tom Lehrer in a previous blog post)

8. I Will Derive (to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”) (lyrics)

9. Mathematical Pi (sung to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”) by Ken Ferrier and Antoni Chan (lyrics)

10. Calculus Rhapsody (to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”) by Mike Gospel and Phil Kirk (lyrics)

[Edit] OK, I said 10, but I forgot to add this one when I made the post live. Thanks to Blair for reminding me…

11. The twelve days of Christmath by Vi Hart (be sure to check out all of Vi Hart’s videos)

Bonus video. This isn’t a song, and it isn’t really about math. It is just a hilarious video about numbers.

24 is the highest number from Mr. Show

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Responses

  1. I’m sharing this with every math teacher I know. Great list! You wouldn’t happen to have a playlist of these I could subscribe to do you?

  2. I can’t believe you missed “Pi”, by Hard and Phirm!

  3. Great list Dave. Thanks for sharing. Here are a couple recommendations though not so strictly

    Vi Hart’s (Doodling in Math) – 12 Days of Christmath – take out the commentary in between & you have a great Christmath carole

    Vi Hart’s – Mobius Music Box – instrumental version of the Harry Potter theme, but mathematical in the approach taken to play it. She also arranged Pachelbel’s Canon to be played on 4 music boxes at one time

    John Sims – Rhythm of Structure: Math Graffiti Wall Project – more spoken word/mixed media, but entertaining & interesting

    Lose Yourself in the Digits – Song for Pi Day – take off on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself (in the Music)” from his film 8 mile

    Mathmaticious – parody of Fergie’s Fergilicious – light on depth of math concepts, but good parody

    Enjoy.

  4. And, of course, there’s a verse in Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue:

    Now I’m headed back again, I’ve got to get to her somehow
    But all the people we used to know are an illusion to me now
    Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives
    Don’t know how it all got started, don’t know what they’re doing with their lives.

  5. Thanks for the song suggestions. Keep them coming.

    Blair—thanks for reminding me about Vi Hart’s Christmath video. I had that written on my post-it note to put on this list, but somehow forgot. I added it as #11.

  6. Our Signal Processing teacher gave us a sample of Lehrer’s Lobachevsky to use for testing with frequency and amplitude modulation (and Nikolaï Ivanovich Lobachevsky was his name!). Really fun song (although the poor guy is innocent of all that!).

    Cheers,

    Ruben

  7. These are some excellent tunes! This was my attempt at this topic (with some overlap)

    http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/05/sing-song-for-making-sense.html

    More elementary songs.

    I also have to share my class’ video from the fall, with two original math songs!

    http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2010/12/change-channel.html

  8. In case people are interested, I’ve compiled a YouTube playlist with Dave’s suggestions and some of the others in the comments. I will add to it when I get a chance or as I come across new material. @John Golden, Thanks for sharing your list, I will add some of those.

    Here’s a link to the playlist:

    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=21FFD07E37238222

  9. Thanks, all, for your suggestions and your links. Very cool. I also got a few by email that I’ll add here:

    A song in Spanish about Thales’ Theorem (lyrics)

    And teachers at Lane Tech College Prep are putting together some songs about math. They call themselves The Postulates. The music hasn’t been released yet, but they have one performance online. The song is “Check Your Solutions” and is sung to the tune of The Raconteur’s “Salute Your Solution” (music starts at 1:30).

  10. You forgot my favorite Math song!
    Mandelbrot Set by Jonathan Coulton

  11. Finite Simple Group (of order 2) is part of the English classes that the new international TAs go through in the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics. The ESL instructor (yes, GT’s math department employs an ESL instructor, which helps a lot) has the lyrics typed out and uses it to teach the ITAs about words having more than one meaning, etc.

  12. I liked this one by Deidre Flint about the metric system. What ever happened to that?

  13. [...] leave you with Dave Richeson’s fun post at Division by Zero: Music is math: ten songs about mathematics. One I particularly love is I will derive. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Wild About Math bloggers [...]

  14. [...] a lighter note, we have Music is Math: Ten Songs about Mathematics from Dave Richeson of ‘Division by Zero’ fame.  My favourite of the bunch is ‘A [...]

  15. The calculus song “I will derive” is hilarious. In all seriousness, though, it is excellent for a learning tool because it helps people remember key mathematical concepts.

  16. Here is a math song by tool. Fan made video

  17. Given the title of the post I am surprised that Boards of Canada’s ‘Music is Math’ is missing:

    • I actually did consider including it. But I don’t know if it is “about math” :-)

  18. [...] Kate Bush’s Pi is also part of a collection of best songs about mathematics I just [...]

  19. I am crushed that you did not include “Lobachevsky”, by the great mathematician Tom Lehrer.


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