Experts wonder if learning music boosts math skills

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by wdlove, Jun 15, 2004.

  1. wdlove macrumors P6

    wdlove

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    #1
    Her eyes closed, Irene Sun conjures up the decade-old memory of her baby sister falling asleep in her cradle. As Sun's hands glide gently over the piano's keys, the tranquil sounds of Chopin's lullaby, "Berceuse," flow through the Harvard residence hall, her unofficial rehearsal studio.

    To Sun, 17, playing piano is much like practicing her other passion -- science. Like a musician, a scientist learns the technical while seeking answers to more meaningful questions, said the Harvard history and science major, who credits a decade of studying piano for much of her other academic success.

    "The experience of being 7 and playing piano every day -- no matter what -- was incredible, because that's what I built off of in school, in science, in everything," she said.

    Conventional wisdom suggests that listening to music or learning to play an instrument somehow makes children smarter. But science isn't ready to declare that a fact.

    http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2004/06/15/playing_with_a_theory/
     
  2. musicpyrite macrumors 68000

    musicpyrite

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    #2
    That's really interesting, I've played the violin since 4th grade, and the clarinet since 5th grade (now in 9th, going on 10th) and since then I've skipped two years of math. But that really doesn't mean anything, I suck in English and Latin and I have dyslexia, so I'm sorta exempt. :eek:

    But I listen to music for 2+ every day.
     
  3. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    I dunno.

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died a pauper. So, I guess he didn't learn enough math skills. ;)
     
  4. MacFan26 macrumors 65816

    MacFan26

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    #4
    Absolutely it does. Both of my parents are music teachers and have done a lot of research on music and the brain. If it doesn't directly relate to having a boost in math skills, it is definitely helpful in other areas and learning in general. And yet, it is usually the first thing to get cut from school programs.
     
  5. musicpyrite macrumors 68000

    musicpyrite

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    Yup, that sux, next year I will have to pay to play in band. It's not a ton of money, but it's enough to piss me off. And to think, all of the kids get to play after school sports for free. :rolleyes:

    It's just stupid, I understand that sports are good, and important, but they have absolutly nothing to do with education. I beg to differ on music.

    Some people.... :mad:
     
  6. MacFan26 macrumors 65816

    MacFan26

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    #6
    No kidding? That's not cool, is this for a public high school?
     
  7. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #7
    I've always heard that people who play music, especially classical music, have great math skills. I'm not sure it works with me. I'm fine with large amounts of money, but I can barely manage a quadratic expression or polynomial evaluation.
     
  8. jazzmfk macrumors member

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    #8
    music and math

    Yeah, this is a very interesting topic. As a HS music teacher, I look around the band room and see the best and the brightest in the school (5 out of the last 6 valedictorians, 75% of the high honor roll kids, most of the academic scholarship winners, all the kids going to ivy league schools, etc...). In my classes, the bell curve is seriously skewed to the right (towards the "A" side of the ledger....).

    So are they better students to begin with? Does studying music make you better able to study other things? Do the lessons that band kids learn early on (must bring the instrument in on Tuesday for my lesson... or school starts at 8, but band starts at 7:15...) simply help kids be more responsible? Or is it that the study of music is both an art (phrasing, expression, beauty) and a science (rhythm, pitch, subdivision, fingering, technique), therefore helping to open the corpus collosum (sp?) - the "highway" connecting the left and right halves of the brain - therefore making more of the brain "usable" at any given moment? Or is it a financial thing (the old nature v. nurture thing....),e.g. if I can afford to pay for my violin lessons, mommy and daddy must be fairly well off, and therefore usually fairly intelligent (that's a big jump, but statistically justifiable....), and therefore encourage me to do well with my studies?

    The answer is probably some very complex combination of all of the above. The Mozart Effect, though recently downplayed (with a controversial study...), shows that music must have SOME effect on learning and the brain, at least in the short term. (Long term effects are really difficult to ascertain due to the lack of a control group.)

    As for the relationship of Music and Math - perhaps it has something to do with rhythm? Playing music in time requires the very precise division of time into sound and silence - over time (no pun intended), perhaps this helps turn some abstract concepts into concrete ideas?

    Here's a link to some research on the topic, including an excerpt from when the governor of Georgia proposed giving every newborn a cassette of classical music (an intriguing idea, perhaps ultimately ineffective...)
    http://members.aol.com/abelard2/zell.htm

    Here are some random quotes taken out of context (for "hmmmmm" purposes only)
    Preschoolers who studied piano performed 34 per cent better in spatial and temporal reasoning ability than preschoolers who spent the same amount of time learning to use computers. (Rauscher, Shaw, as reported in Neurological Research, February 1997)
    Preschoolers who took singing and keyboard lessons scored 80 per cent higher on object-assembly tests than students at the same preschool who did not have the music lessons. (Rauscher & Shaw, as reported in Symphony Sep.-Oct. 1996)

    Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw's results show that the spatial reasoning performance of 19 preschool children who received eight months of music lessons, far exceeded the spatial reasoning performance of a demographically comparable group of 15 preschool children who did not receive music lessons. The researchers note that well-developed spatial intelligence is the ability to perceive the visual world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects, and to recognize variations of objects. The researchers theorize that spatial reasoning abilities are crucial for such higher brain functions as music, complex mathematics, and chess. As many of the problems in which scientists and engineers engage in cannot be described in verbal form, progress in science may, in fact, be closely linked to the development of certain spatial skills.


    Moreover, scores on a puzzle task, designed to measure spatial reasoning ability, increased significantly during the course of the period they received the music lessons.

    ...listening to 10 minutes of Mozart's Piano Sonata K 448 increased spatial IQ scores in college students, relative to silence or relaxation instructions. The new findings replicated the effect, and found no increase in spatial skills after subjects listened to 10 minutes of either a composition by Philip Glass or a highly rhythmic dance piece, suggesting that hypnotic musical structures will not enhance spatial skills.


    As a music teacher, musician, composer/arranger, and Mensan, I find this to be a fascinating topic. And I never liked Philip Glass' music anyway....
     
  9. musicpyrite macrumors 68000

    musicpyrite

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    #9
    Yup. The administration basically said "if you wanna play, you gotta pay."

    I was like wtf?!!?

    F-U!!

    I'm not the only extremely angry person at my skool either...

    edit: 400th post...must..get...avatar... :D (to quote someones sig)
     
  10. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

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    Or, it could be that students who take music are the ones that are able to take more extraneous subjects. Otherwise, if they were poor students to begin with, they would have never taken music or drop out of music classes in order to focus more of their energies on the core classes.
     
  11. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #11
    Ha! Taking choir improved my gpa and being an accompanist moved my B in choir to an A. :D
     
  12. MacFan26 macrumors 65816

    MacFan26

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    #12
    awesome post :D
    Same was true at my school, all the people in band/orchestra etc. were all at the top of their class.

    Then the same should apply for all other activities, namely the sports.
     
  13. wdlove thread starter macrumors P6

    wdlove

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    #13
    I agree there should be an activity for those that play sports.

    I also agree that there is a correlation between music and high academic achievement. Some of the reason could also be discipline, it takes it to do the practice that it needed. That discipline is bound to be transfered in the the academics.
     
  14. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

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    The question is, does A lead to B, where A is music lesson, and B is academic exellence. But the A and B can be reversed as well.

    I was good at my classes, I had lots of classmates in my math/english/sciences that were in band/orchestra, but I was not in band/orchestra.

    And there were others like me that were not in band/orchestra.
     
  15. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #15
    This is definitely a factor.

    One thing that figures in is that when musicians concentrate on playing/listening to music, they use left-brain centers that are also used in performing abstract math -- these are centers for patterns and object manipulations. Non-musicians listen to music primarily with their right brain. Musicians actually are excercising some of the same parts of their brain that they use for math when they do music.

    It is a really interesting topic. There are lots of possible explanations. Just like girls who do sports do well in academics, a lot of it might be how peer pressure is different in different circles, self-esteem issues, etc....
     
  16. kuyu macrumors 6502a

    kuyu

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    #16
    I think that music definately helps in mathematics. I've been playing the guitar for about 8 years, and I'm fairly good at math (being a finance major it's all I do at school nowadays).

    I don't know if the music helped in math, but I seem to exemplify a positive coorelation. However, my best friend is an INCREDIBLE musician (can play any instrument he picks up, and well enough to perform on stage with them all). But, he sucks at math. He's 22, junior in college, and about to take algebra one for the 3rd time!!!

    I personally think he's more of an outlier, and his math skills are a result of poor teaching more than anything else. I'm going to help him this time around, because he has to pass to graduate.

    Yay for music, it's our window into the soul. :)
     
  17. gwangung macrumors 65816

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    #17
    It's my belief that folks who think the arts are "extraneous" have got it extremely backwards.

    These are usually the same folks who are concerned about values and Western culture. Yet, where are Western values and culture made most concrete and real for youngsters? In the arts, of course...You're SHOWN Western culture and values in action..which is a lot more effective than being TOLD them.

    And these people want to throw away the tool that would best help them transmit their culture....
     

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