Melodies for Math: The Intersection of Music and Mathematics


Article by Sena Chang, Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is part one of a Hanabi series that profiles high schoolers across the globe. Created to foster cross-cultural dialogue and understanding among high school students, the series aims to give readers a glimpse into unique passions and initiatives across the globe. 

In 17-year-old Swetha Tandri’s world, musical notes and mathematical equations dance together to communicate complex concepts.

Now a senior at Coppell High School in Texas, USA, at the age of 16 Tandri fused her two passions in music and mathematics to found Melodies for Math, an international organization promoting education in the field of mathematics through original songs explaining math concepts. 

When asked about the initial impetus for her ambitious initiative, Tandri explained, “Music and math have always been a part of my life. What sparked Melodies for Math was something that happened in the seventh grade—I’d always liked math, but when I got to middle school, I realized that everything was more focused on the answer, instead of the process. It’s probably [due to] how the curriculum is taught in general.”

Being a subject that was “cumulative” in nature, math can be challenging for many students. Tandri shared her own struggles to understand math, in addition to seeing other students face barriers. Almost swallowed by a quicksand of information in her eleventh-grade physics class and finding herself utterly lost, Tandri sought a more digestible, lucid form. 

Address this pressing need, she founded Melodies for Math, which has also become a cathartic experience for Tandri as it is a creative outlet that has served as the “middle point” between music and math. “I wanted to show them [her peers] that math was more than just a set of numbers—it was creative energy. Because that’s what I saw math as, as someone who’s into STEM and artistic stuff,” Tandri explained. 

Tandri also sounded off on the state of our education system, noting that “School is good for people who are still discovering things about themselves. But for people who already have a good idea—who have a foundation—I feel as though a lot of the stuff I’m doing at school just takes up a lot of my time.” She also explained how the rigidity of her education may have been a contributing factor in her pursuit of a creative, more easily understood form of education. 

Melodies for Math, whose ideas were inspired from a mere homework assignment in Tandri’s seventh-grade math class, is now an international initiative that has generated 13,500 video views and 14,000 website hits. Based on her experience, she has some advice for young entrepreneurs: “Before starting a non-profit organization, know what you want to accomplish with it. If you’re bringing something unique to the table, by all means, go for it. It’s a whole process. It’s really easy to compare your journey to others; just because something is true for one person, it doesn’t mean that the same thing is in store for you. Everyone has a unique pathway.” 

The intersection between musical composition and mathematics will undoubtedly be a part of Tandri’s future, as she continues to share her voice through a variety of media and empower other young individuals to “get their voices heard.” After high school, Tandri hopes to create an educational technology startup that includes art, continuing to explore the unique intersection of her two passions. 

“I just want math to be seen as this creative energy. Math mobilized me to make a change, and I thought, ‘Maybe there are so many people that have this creative energy that is dormant—bubbling under the surface—and that they just need someone to bring it out.” Tandri explained this idea served as the initial impetus for her organization: the wish to show others that the importance of mathematics in daily life transcends SAT scores and exemplary grades; rather, it serves as a bridge between understanding ourselves and our milieu.