A link between music and math may sound bizarre for many of us. When we think of music, we think of graceful fluidity and mood-enhancement, while math will usually trigger memories of complicated equations or rigid functions, sets and statistical correlations. As such, it may come as a surprise that there is indeed a link between the two and that they are quite similar in nature.

math music textbook
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Although, it’s only been within the past few decades that doctors and scientists have begun to study this phenomena, the academic results of music instruction on young children and the benefits of music therapy in overcoming neurological disorders have been simply amazing. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that learning to read music such as when learning an instrument specifically like the violin or piano, that children understand and perform better at math. Via Connolly Music

Music has been found to have various positive effects on the brain, including enhancing a person’s spatial-temporal reasoning. It’s this brain function that allows you to anticipate the subsequent outcome during a game of chess, for instance. It’s this very type of reasoning that is associated with the highly popular and controversial Mozart Effect.

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On this basis, although musical training won’t immediately make your child a math genius, it will significantly affect his or her reasoning functions and brain synopses. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that this would have a resulting improvement in math skills, and scientists are working to establish whether this is a fact.

Many of those scientists are working to identify the correlation between ST reasoning and math applications. Especially how geometry and other higher math principles are effected by ST. Via Connolly Music

One such scientist is Denny Gulick, math professor that started piano when he was 4 years old and was a musical natural, with memorization skills and perfect pitch. At 5 years, he learned the multiplication tables up to the 16th thanks to his father, who also taught him pi to the 15th decimal place.

For Gulick, his mind was equally adapted to both math and music, sparking his interest in this particular area. In the 5 decades he has spent at the University of Maryland as a professor, he has discovered a number or correlations between classical music and math.

“The connection is that — to my way of thinking, and I have thought about this for decades — there are patterns [in music], especially with Johann Sebastian Bach,” Gulick said. “There are a lot of patterns, and mathematics has a lot of patterns. … In fact, mathematics is really about patterns.” Via LiveScience

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One of the reasons why scientists believe that musical training could indeed improve mathematical skills is that the former has been found to enhance executive functioning skills. Nadine Gaab, a scientist working at the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience talks about this:

Studies also have shown that children and adults with musical training have heightened skills in an area called executive functioning, Gaab said.

This involves the mental processes that allow brains to plan, focus attention, remember instruction and successfully juggle multiple tasks, according to the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Musicians are particularly good “at switching tasks quickly and switching rules quickly,” said Gaab. Via LiveScience

Anita Collins, a professor specializing in music and neuroscience at the University of Canberra, agrees with the notion that music education could give a musician’s brain some learning advantages.

Anita Collins, a professor at the University of Canberra specializing in neuroscience and music, said that music education makes any human being operate more effectively from a cognitive perspective, which means “the brains of musicians can learn faster, excel at more complex topics and think creatively about problems.” Collins emphasized that musicians are more perceptive than others when they are listening to classical music, observing the nuances and intricacies involved with the repertoire. Via LiveScience

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Another interesting link between music and math can be found in music notation and the process of learning how to differentiate between tonal pitches.

The musical staff is divided into logical pitch progressions that have a mathematical equivalent… each bar of music is allocated a certain number of beats to create the rhythm, and each note has a mathematical equivalent that indicates its length within the bar… Introducing children to these type of basic mathematical concepts at an early age increases their ability to see those connections (and equalities) with fractional operations in math later on. Via LiveScience

There’s a lot to suggest that learning music can have a positive impact on a child’s mathematical skills. We’re looking forward to more concrete evidence from researchers on the same.

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