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Music helps children learn Maths

Posted by Francis O' Toole on March 30, 2012

Music helps children learn Maths

Listening to music in maths lessons can dramatically improve children’s ability in the subject and help them score up to 50 per cent higher in examinations, a new study has found.

For tapping out a beat may help children learn difficult fraction concepts, according to new findings due to be published in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics. An innovative curriculum uses rhythm to teach fractions at a California school where students in a music-based programme scored significantly higher on math tests than their peers who received regular instruction.

“Academic Music” is a hands-on curriculum that uses music notation, clapping, drumming and chanting to introduce third-grade students to fractions. The programme, co-designed by San Francisco State University researchers, addresses one of the most difficult – and important – topics in the elementary mathematics curriculum. “If students don’t understand fractions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling,” said Susan Courey, assistant professor of special education at San Francisco State University. “We have designed a method that uses gestures and symbols to help children understand parts of a whole and learn the academic language of math.”

The programme has shown tangible results at Hoover Elementary School in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Courey’s study included 67 students. Half the group participated in a six-week Academic Music curriculum and the rest received the school’s regular math instruction. Students in the music-based programme scored 50 percent higher on a fraction test, taken at the end of the study, compared to students in the regular math class.

“Academic Music brings music into the classroom and gets children to learn math in a different way that’s symbolic and not dependent on language,” said Kit Cosgriff, principal at Allen Elementary School. “In every lesson I’ve observed, the children have been excited and enthusiastic about learning fractions,” Cosgriff said.

Irish independent

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