Listen (or Play!) and Learn

I am being lazy again, but I dug this out of my archives thanks to my brother who commented on Monday’s post on Facebook. Unfortunately most of the links there to these research studies are no longer working. But I can provide a link to NAMM Foundation research page.

This post is dated March 11, 2009 on my old blog.


I was intrigued when I read that the top academic countries in the world place a high value on music education. The study is showed that countries like Hungary, the Netherlands and Japan that rank high in science achievement also have required instrumental and vocal music training at elementary and middle school levels.

I dug a bit deeper and found that music study equips students to grasp advanced math and science concepts. Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to create, maintain, transform, and relate complex mental images, even in the absence of external sensory input or feedback. More simply put, this reasoning skill deals with proportional reasoning–fractions, proportions, ratios, and thinking in space and time. Music, math, science, physics, and chess all involve spatial-temporal reasoning.

In one study second-grade students were given four months of piano keyboard training and newly designed math software. A second group was given just the math software. The group given the keyboard training scored over 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than the software-only group.

In another study with pre-schoolers, one group was given private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons, while a second group received private computer lessons. The children who received the music training performed 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability.

Other studies seem to indicate that simply listening to music can enhance spatial-temporal reasoning. I was warned of the dire consequences of allowing my son to have headphones on “while he was supposed to be studying.” (He wasn’t listening to classical music either.) Because his school work and test scores proved that the activity didn’t seem to be hindering learning, I didn’t interfere.

In the current academic climate which stresses teaching to testing and where funding cuts often limit classes in the arts including band and vocal music, it would appear wise for parents to make sure that their children have a solid foundation in music. An investment in a keyboard and lessons may well be an investment in a child’s learning ability. At the very least, make sure after-school activities involve music, perhaps even while doing homework!

Keyboard photo by Manuella Hoffmann via Creative Commons
Calculator photo by Jek Bacarisas via Creative Commons



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