The Link between Music and a Child’s Math Abilities

The Link between Music and a Child’s Math Abilities
Learn about the influence of music on a child’s cognitive mathematical abilities.

As extensive studies and reports reveal, the study and practice of music serve to boost children’s mathematical abilities. While many schools struggle to manage time, course schedules, and the cost of music programs, expert educators assert that music education classes are imperative to a child’s development.

Research and Support

When examining the music education curriculum in most elementary schools, many students are forced to be pulled out of core classes in order to attend music lessons. While many school leaders feel that pulling students out of core classes leads to deficits in cognitive growth, data and investigative studies report otherwise. According to The National Association for Music Education (NAME), a 1995 study of Ohio elementary schools reveals that pulling students out of core classes for enrichment opportunities does not harm student achievement.

While most administrators and leaders express concern about enrichment pull-outs, the Ohio study shows that students who were pulled out of core classes for a thirty-minute string instrument session two times per week scored higher than students who were not pulled out of class in every assessed subject!

Specifically, in examining the math scores of the children, string students scored an average of nearly 215 points on the Ohio Proficiency Test, while non-string students scored an average of nearly 212. In further examining the assessment results of the string versus non-string students, and to make the analysis as fair as possible, researchers of the Ohio schools “Looked at students' scores on a previous standardized test, the Cognitive Abilities Test, or COGAT. Each of the 148 fourth-grade string students was matched to a non-string student who achieved the same verbal score on the COGAT. This made a total of 296 students whose scores on the Ohio Proficiency Test were analyzed, and the academic abilities of the non-string students selected for the study matched the academic abilities of the string students as closely as possible.”

In addition to the studies reported by NAME, The Napa School of Music further highlights the benefits of musical studies on a child’s cognitive development and performance. Citing various reports and studies, Napa reveals how the study of music has been shown to boost students’ performance on an array of standardized tests.

Specifically, as Napa explains, students who engaged in the study of music scored, on average, 41 points higher on the math portion of the SAT when compared with students who did not study music. Adding to this statistic, “Students who were exposed to the music-based lessons scored a full 100 percent higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” Also, in examining students' progress beyond standardized tests, studies show that students who eventually enroll as music majors at the university level tend to be the most likely group of collegiate students later admitted into medical school. Specifically, as Napa expounds, “Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66 percent of music majors who applied to med school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group.”

This TEDxYouth Talk discusses the relationship between music and mathematics.

Information for Parents Seeking Musical Enrichment for Children

While many public schools are forced to cut music programs due to budgetary and scheduling constraints, parents can still get involved in providing their children with music enrichment through various means and methods.

Parents are always permitted to attend PTA and public school meetings open to all community members. If a child’s school has reduced its music programs or fails to provide students with musical enrichment courses, parents should strive to attend these meetings to find out why these programs are cut to voice concerns and address the need for change. If a school has cut music programs due to budgetary constraints, parents can offer up community support pro-bono; for example, instead of hiring a music teacher, which many school budgets cannot afford, parents and community leaders can seek out music volunteers, such as parents or other mentors, to teach after school singing, choir, and music reading classes.

This video looks at the topic of music plus math not being just numbers.

Additionally, outside the public school sector, parents can provide children with music enrichment through a private tutor or private group classes. While non-public school classes can be costly, many communities do offer children and parents affordable music enrichment programs. For example, many community centers or colleges offer affordable classes or course discounts for community members with specific financial needs.

In addition, for families who live near a community college or university, parents can post ads to find a student mentor who is majoring in music. As most college students are often struggling to make ends meet while juggling the costs of living and tuition, many seek out tutoring opportunities as a source of income during their years of higher education. As a result, parents can often hire a young music major to tutor their child in enrichment activities at a more affordable price and rate than the cost of a private course or professional musical educator.

Empower your son and daughter by enriching the link between music and their cognitive abilities. Not only do you give them the gift of creativity and music, but you also enhance their learning opportunities in the future.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @publicschoolreview

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