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The Beneficial Relationship of Music and Mathematics for Young Children

Essay by   •  November 20, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,393 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,974 Views

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Many educators would agree that music has the ability to unlock doors for young children to learn the various aspects of mathematics. The relationship of the two subjects can be traced back to the early stages of ancient history where they were taught together, unlike a majority of America's public schools. Fortunately, there are public schools beginning to recognize this close relationship once again and have developed lesson plans that teach mathematics, science and music in a much more conjunctive nature. Studies have proven time and time again that this is an excellent learning system to develop because children introduced to music at an early age have a higher rate of mathematical comprehension.

The National Association for Music Education (MENC) has compiled statistical information proving how well students have done when applying musical overtones to mathematical studies. A study of 237 second grade children used piano keyboard training and newly designed math software to demonstrate improvement in math skills. The group scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children that used only the math software (http://www.menc.org, 2005). These numbers hold true as students progress through school without regard to the students background. MENC continues to back their argument with the following:

In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students (NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey), researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12." This observation holds regardless of students' socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time (2005).

Being able to understand mathematics, regardless of the instruments used to teach it, is futile unless the student is able to follow through with their new found knowledge and achieve the grades they are capable of. MENC follows through with their research by stating that data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As and Bs was higher than the percentage of non- participants receiving those grades (2005). Clearly, the research performed by the National Association for Music Education goes above and beyond the materials needed to prove the success that can be achieved when students are exposed to music along side their other core subjects.

With the success rate of students who are involved with music becoming wide spread common knowledge, many schools are now offering more in-depth music programs and have found ways of integrating music directly into the lessons of other subjects. Additionally, music teachers have been tasked with teaming up along side teachers from other departments in order to come up with musical activities for children. Ruth Argabright addressed this issue in her article Connecting with Music.

"...since children love music, we become natural funnels for integrating other areas of learning. When other curricular areas are integrated with music, learning in these areas becomes more meaningful for students. Classroom teachers often use music as a "connector" in their teaching because they have found that music is an invaluable teaching tool. As a result, students receive a more rounded education (Winter, 2005)."

Argabright also goes on in her article to name a few of the excellent ways music will help children understand the early concepts of mathematics.

"Music is known to contribute to a child's total education and influence other areas of the curriculum by enhancing spatial reasoning ability, a key for unlocking math and developing the scientific mind, developing the ability to understand and use symbols in new contexts, helping students discover how to use mathematics in new ways, developing decoding and interpretation skills, increasing vocabulary and language skills, discovering and developing personal creativity, allowing students to exercise problem-solving skills, and encouraging students to develop self-discipline(Winter, 2005)."

Some specific ideas shared in her paper include building graphs to keep track of how often words show up in lyrics, building spreadsheets with data on musical tastes in the class room, and counting how many different types of notes show up on a sheet of music and how often (Winter, 2005).

Bear Creek Elementary School takes Ruth Argabright's ideas one step further by implementing music into the heart of their structure. This school is "a dynamic, innovative focus school that emphasizes the multi-faceted cognitive and conceptual connections among mathematics, science and music" (http://www.bvsd.k12.co.us, 2005). Through a close knit relationship with the University of Colorado, this elementary school has developed an excellent point of view.

Music shares many conceptual elements with math and science. For example, the concepts of structure, change and interaction are underlying themes that permeate all three areas. Other examples include patterns of rhythm and pitch, the mathematics of notation and the science of sound. Music complements science and mathematics because it nurtures different modes of reasoning and extends the scientific explanation of reality with a heightened affective component.

The idea of including music with math and science stemmed from the coalescence of several factors. These were: the national attention gained by research about the benefits of music study, an awareness of notable University of Colorado professors who also were skilled musicians, and the increasing

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