Why Can Music Help You in Math?

Apparently, it is true! Listening to music really can help your math skills. This may be hard to understand, how two totally different subjects, music, and math, can be related in this way but there is a lot of evidence which shows how music can have a positive effect on math studies.

There are many benefits to be gained from listening to music. It helps with relaxation, heightens emotions and stimulates us. It has not been proved yet that listening to music can actually raise the IQ, but it has certainly been shown that it can assist in learning math.

 

How Can This Happen?

So, just how does music affect the brain in such a way that it improves mathematical performance?

Well, there are many answers to this question. But the surest one would be to focus on our brain activity. It seems that certain areas of the brain, including the right motor cortex and the corpus callosum are much bigger in those people who started to learn music before the age of seven.

Experiments have shown that these parts of the brain can be excited by music and are also used in higher functions of the brain and memory. These higher functions of the brain include the spatial-temporal thinking which is used in things such as chess, which involves thinking several moves ahead all the time, as well as mathematics.

Spatial-temporal thinking is used in geometry and areas of calculus requiring a transformation of images in time and space. Advanced mathematics involves writing complicated proofs and this includes natural sequences and thinking several steps ahead.

Apart from the spatial thinking aspect, there is another type of reasoning which is known as language analytical reasoning. This area of the brain is used in such things as equation solving.

The Mozart Effect

Music which puts emphasis on rhythm, pitch, and sequence can actually improve a child’s ability to learn math. This effect of music on math learning ability is sometimes known as the Mozart effect. Researchers discovered that Mozart’s compositions are very much in sequence and produce an enhancement of the spatial-temporal thinking. The positive effects include transforming and relating mental images in time and space and comparing physical and mental images.

Music From a Young Age

It seems that if a child is taught music from a young age, then they are already learning about mathematical sequences because there is a great similarity in the features and order in math and music that can relate to each other. When a child learns about rhythm, he or she is learning to count. Not numbers as such, but using logic to count the beats and bars, and going through the musical piece in a methodical or mathematical way.

There are no hard and fast rules about this, and it would be ridiculous to say that just because you start to learn a musical instrument at the age of five, for example, that you will automatically become a brilliant mathematician. Indeed a lot of musicians will have no desire to be mathematicians and might not have any idea that the two are so closely connected. The same is true the other way round. There are many aspects of music that are similar to mathematics and can even be expressed as such. But saying that, it is a certainty that not many musicians will be thinking about mathematical calculus or frequencies while they are playing a piece of music and not many mathematicians who will be thinking about music while performing their tasks!

What may be even more surprising is that only certain areas of music have a serious impact on one’s affect mathematical ability. So, if children are exposed to music and musical training from a very young age, they already have a head start in math.

The ‘Order’ of Music and Mnemonics

Music has a certain order and some composers write their compositions in a way that is extremely logical and follows a conventional structure. This is especially true for classical composers such as Mozart. For a child that is introduced to these compositions at a very young age, they are learning math even if they have not learned this in a regular math class.

In addition to this, when words are set to a piece of music, it can create a very powerful memory in one’s mind. By adding words to music, it gives a very easily retrieved piece of information to the brain. This is known as mnemonics, and it is a powerful learning tool – and not just for mathematics. It has been shown that this is a very effective way of learning, and students who use mnemonics constantly do better than those who use other learning practices.

To Sum Up…

So, in conclusion, it seems that it can safely be said that music certainly does improve mathematical performance and skills. With music targeting these areas of the brain that stimulate spatial-temporal thinking and language and analytical reasoning, there is proof that it can help with mathematical reasoning and problem solving.

It is not, however, a foregone conclusion that listening to music will turn everyone into a mathematical genius or even make them good at math. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. There are musicians who are absolutely no good at math and, of course, there are mathematicians who don’t like classical music.

So, despite the scientific evidence, there is a case for saying that music can help with many things and give people a chance to achieve certain things in their lives. The truth is that music brightens our lives and helps us all, not only the mathematicians among us.

Some people have even suggested that it is just a case of clever people being good at everything academical. This is not strictly true, but they may have a point!

So let us all enjoy the music, whatever our tastes, and if you happen to be a star in math as well, then blame it on the music!

2 Comments

  • Now I don't feel so insane for listening to music every single time I have to do even some serious calculations in math. I'm both engineer and musician, I play from my 5th year, now I see the connection.
    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Mathew!

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