Melodic Mastery: 7 Ways Music Enhances Mathematical Skills

A young child playing a piano.
Did you know that music can make mathematics more enjoyable for students? (Image: Vladvictoria via Pixabay)

Did you know that music can enhance mathematical skills and make mathematics more enjoyable for students? Researchers believe incorporating music into math lessons can keep students engaged and reduce anxiety about complex concepts like fractions. This is a great way to motivate children to appreciate math and encourage them to learn more. It’s pretty fascinating.

A recent study published in Educational Studies found that music can stimulate cognitive domains such as math, pattern identification, and spatial-temporal abilities. The study reviewed 55 studies involving almost 78,000 children aged between 5 and 19. 

Incorporating musical elements into math training was one of the strategies used alongside traditional music sessions where children sang, listened, and learned how to create music. Before and after the intervention, students took math tests to measure their improvement compared to students who did not participate. 

The results showed that students exposed to music in the classroom improved their test scores over time, with 73 percent showing significant improvement. Both students who took music lessons on an instrument and those who received more general musical support fared better than their peers who had no musical exposure. The research also found that music substantially affected younger students and those studying foundational mathematical concepts.

There are several reasons why music and mathematics are linked positively.

Incorporating music into mathematical instruction can yield these 7 incredible results

1. Improves comprehension 

Patterns and sequences are fundamental to both musical composition and mathematical analysis. Mathematics is concerned with numerical sequences and patterns, while music involves rhythm, beats, and patterns of notes. Children that actively participate in musical activities develop a strong foundation for comprehending sequence-based mathematical concepts like counting, addition, and multiplication tables.

Patterns and sequences are fundamental to both musical composition and mathematical analysis.
Patterns and sequences are fundamental to both musical composition and mathematical analysis. (Image: Bernd Kelichhaus via Dreamstime)

2. Promotes memory recall 

Memory and recall are greatly enhanced by music. Many of us can still recall the alphabet song or nursery rhyme we learned as children that helped us remember the alphabet or how words are put together. A similar effect can be seen when teaching youngsters mathematical concepts or equations using memorable songs or mnemonics. Combining musical and numerical exercises strengthens neural connections in the brain, improving memory.

3. Boosts spatial reasoning

Spatial reasoning is understanding and changing shapes, sizes, and how things fit together in space. It is essential to many math ideas, such as geometry and measuring. Playing a musical instrument requires a lot of spatial thinking because children need to be able to read musical notation, tell the difference between different notes, and arrange their fingers on the instrument. This practice improves their ability to think in three dimensions, which helps them do better in math.

4. Creates positive feelings

Many children feel anxious and even panic about math, as they perceive it difficult. But incorporating music into the learning process can help alleviate this fear. Children who engage in math exercises while listening to upbeat music tend to have a more positive attitude toward math. Music can help reduce anxiety in the classroom, making it easier for children to study math.

5. Develops problem-solving skills

Both musical composition and mathematical analysis involve problem-solving skills. Musicians often encounter challenges in interpreting scores, identifying pitches, and improvising. Similarly, mathematics presents various types of problems that require distinct solutions. As children develop problem-solving skills in music, they can also apply these skills to mathematics, improving their analytical, strategic, and problem-solving abilities in both fields.

Two girls drawing in a notebook.
Children who engage in math exercises while listening to upbeat music tend to have a more positive attitude toward math. (Image: via University of Washington)

6. Encouraging self-expression 

When children learn music, they can enhance their creativity and self-esteem while mastering an instrument or performing in front of others. This newfound sense of assurance doesn’t just pertain to their musical abilities but also their mathematical skills. As they become more confident in their musical capabilities through music-based education, children are more inclined to engage in math-related activities and approach math challenges with a positive attitude and a determination to succeed.

7. Increases numerical fluency

Being “numerically fluent” means having a natural talent for numbers and their manipulation. A strong understanding of fundamental mathematics is essential for mastering more advanced math concepts. Using musical rhythms and timing in counting exercises has significantly enhanced numerical fluency. Recognizing musical intervals, counting beats, and keeping time play pivotal roles in a child’s future success in mathematics.

Music in children’s mathematical education is a beautiful way to create a harmonious and beneficial learning experience. Music has many positive effects on mathematical development, such as improving their ability to recall information, reason spatially, reduce anxiety levels, and enhance problem-solving skills. By embracing the connection between music and mathematics, we can set our children on a more enjoyable and fruitful educational journey. 

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  • Haidene Go

    Haidene Go is a reader, a speaker, and a writer based in the Philippines. She is a wonderer, a wide-eyed observer of the world, and a lover of words. She has always been fascinated of the human’s capacity to externalise their complex feelings and thoughts through language. Through her written works, she hopes to capture the beauty of being human, her own and other’s.