Review of 50 Years of Research Shows That Combining Math and Music Enhances Test Scores

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Research spanning almost five decades has discovered that integrating music into math lessons improves children’s mathematical abilities. Music not only enhances the enjoyment of learning math but also keeps students engaged and alleviates any fear or anxiety they may have towards the subject. The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Studies, reveal that motivation and appreciation for math are heightened when music is incorporated into the learning process.

Various techniques can be employed to integrate music into math lessons. These techniques range from clapping to pieces with different rhythms when teaching numbers and fractions to using math to design musical instruments. Previous studies have shown a positive correlation between musical aptitude and mathematical proficiency. However, the actual impact of teaching music on math achievement has been less clear.

In order to gain more insight into the relationship between music and math, Turkish researcher Dr. Ayça Akın from Antalya Belek University conducted a comprehensive analysis of research published between 1975 and 2022. The analysis consisted of 55 studies from around the world, involving nearly 78,000 students ranging from kindergarten to university level.

The meta-analysis examined three types of musical interventions: standardized music interventions (traditional music lessons involving singing, listening, and composing music), instrumental musical interventions (lessons focused on playing instruments individually or as part of a band), and music-math integrated interventions (math lessons incorporating music). Before and after participating in the interventions, students underwent math tests, and their scores were compared to those of students who did not receive any musical intervention.

The results indicate that the use of music, whether in separate music lessons or as part of math classes, contributes to greater improvement in math over time. Integrated lessons, in particular, demonstrated the most significant impact, with approximately 73% of students who participated in integrated lessons showing significantly better math performance compared to those without any musical intervention. Similarly, 69% of students who learned to play instruments and 58% of students who had traditional music lessons displayed more significant improvements in math compared to students without any musical intervention.

Furthermore, the results suggest that music is most effective in aiding arithmetic learning compared to other math topics. The impact of music on math achievement is more prominent in younger students and those learning foundational mathematical concepts.

Dr. Akın, who conducted the research during her tenure at Turkey’s National Ministry of Education and Antalya Belek University, highlights the similarities between math and music. Both subjects utilize symbols and symmetry and require abstract thought and quantitative reasoning. Furthermore, arithmetic aligns well with music due to the shared core concepts, such as fractions and ratios. For instance, musical notes of different lengths can be represented as fractions and combined to create musical compositions.

The integration of music and math lessons proves to be especially effective as it allows students to establish connections between the two disciplines and offers additional opportunities for exploration, interpretation, and comprehension of math concepts. Moreover, if integrated lessons are more enjoyable than traditional math classes, they can alleviate students’ anxieties about math.

It is essential to note that the analysis is limited by the relatively small number of studies available for inclusion, which prevented the examination of factors such as gender, socio-economic status, and the duration of musical instruction on the results. Nevertheless, Dr. Akın concludes that while musical instruction overall has a moderate effect on math achievement, integrated lessons have a substantial impact. She suggests that collaboration between mathematics and music teachers in planning lessons could both alleviate students’ math anxieties and enhance academic performance.

More information:
Let me make mathematics and music together: A meta-analysis of the causal role of music interventions on mathematics achievement, Educational Studies (2023). DOI: 10.1080/03055698.2023.2216826 , … 3055698.2023.2216826

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Combining math with music leads to higher test scores, according to review of 50 years of research (2023, June 29)
retrieved 29 June 2023

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