Using GarageBand to Teach Equivalent Ratios

Growing up, music became an important part of my life.  I enjoyed the creativity that playing an instrument gave me, and still gives me to this day.  But one of the greatest gifts that music gave me personally was a greater insight into Mathematics.  I struggled with Math all my life, and it was not until I had been playing an instrument for about a year that I started to see those connections, and suddenly fractions began to make sense to me.

I knew that music would be a great tool to use with my students to help reinforce math concepts.  With this project, I decided to use the Beat Sequencer in GarageBand as that tool. 

To start the activity, open up GarageBand and swipe left or right until you get to the Drums, click on the bottom toolbar for the Beat Sequencer.


Image of GarageBand instrument selection section.  Selection of drums and beat sequencer.

Once it is open, you would just need to click on various boxes to turn on that beat and create a drum sequence. In this activity, I use it a little differently and have the students look at it a little differently. 


Blank beat sequencer page.  Showing 8 rows of instruments, and 16 columns of possible beats.

I create couplets (line pairs) for each ratio.  The bass drum and snare drum are the 1st ratio. The hand claps and closed hi-hat cymbal are the 2nd ratio. The open high-hat and floor tom are the 3rd ratio. And the 4th ratio is the tom-tom and the drumsticks.

Image showing how instruments are paired together to create section for each ratio.

I start creating a group beat by starting with ratios equivalent to 1:2. I allow students to turn on whatever beat they want, but it has to be on those lines.  So the bass drum will get only one beat on the entire line, and the snare drum will get 2 beats only. 


The image shows in the first row one beat is selected, and in the section row, two beats are selected.

Then we move to the second pair, which is the hand clap the closed hi-hat cymbal, and create a ratio of 2:4 


The image shows that in row three there are two beats selected, and in row four there are four beats selected.

And then continue the process to finish the 3rd and 4th ratios.


Image shows all the line are completed with the rations 1 to 2, 2 to 4, 3 to 6, and 4 to 8

Once you have finished, click the play button and listen to the beat you created.  I then have the students create a ratio and the equivalent ratios to random ratios such as 2:3. Below is a sample song. 


Enjoy music and ratios.


4 replies

August 27, 2022

What a creative approached to mathematics! Music does it every time!

August 28, 2022

This is wonderful! What a great creative activity! I struggle to find ways to use GarageBand (in general) but also as a math teacher. This is wonderful and the kids would really love it. Thanks for sharing!

September 02, 2022

This is a wonderful lesson to help connect math to real-world engagement. What a great lesson to help think fractionally and then be able to apply this new knowledge to other content areas like science! Thanks for sharing!

September 08, 2022

This would be a great addition to the Mathematics Area under Teaching and Learning!

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