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Enhanced Learning of Proportional Math Through Music Training

It was predicted, based on a mathematical model of the cortex, that early music training would enhance spatial-temporal reasoning. We have demonstrated that preschool children given six months of piano keyboard lessons improved dramatically on spatial-temporal reasoning while children in appropriate control groups did not improve. It was then predicted that the enhanced spatial-temporal reasoning from piano keyboard training could lead to enhanced learning of specific math concepts, in particular proportional math, which is notoriously difficult to teach using the usual language-analytic methods. We report here the development of Spatial-Temporal Math Video Game software designed to teach fractions and proportional math, and its strikingly successful use in a study involving 237 second-grade children. Furthermore, as predicted, children given piano keyboard training along with the Math Video Game training scored significantly higher on proportional math and fractions than children given a controlled training along with the Math Video Game. These results were readily measured using the companion Math Video Game Evaluation Program. The training time necessary for children to reach a high level of performance on the Math Video Game is very rapid. This suggests that, as predicted, we are tapping into fundamental cortical processes of spatial-temporal reasoning. This spatial-temporal approach is easily generalized to teach other math and science concepts in a complementary manner to traditional language-analytic methods, and at a younger age. The neural mechanisms involved in thinking through fractions and proportional math during training with the Math Video Game might be investigated in EEG coherence studies along with priming by specific music.

Music lessons, and even simply listening to music, can enhance spatial reasoning performance, a critical higher-brain function necessary to perform complex tasks including mathematics.
Source: Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 1994


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