Learning to Play Piano Improves Math Skills

From a study by AB Graziano, M Peterson, and GL Shaw :

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 [emphasis added] 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 (age range six years eight months-eight years five months). 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 control training along with the Math Video Game [emphasis added]. These results were readily measured using the companion Math Video Game Evaluation Program. The training time necessary for children on the Math Video Game is very short, and they rapidly reach a high level of performance. 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.

People in medieval costume representing Ptolemy, Cicero, Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras and Tubalcain, with women representing Philosophy, Grammar, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy

he Seven Liberal Arts, with Ptolemy, Cicero, Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras and Tubalcain, C. 1435
Giovanni Dal Ponte

What this says, is that children who receive piano training in primary school learn proportions and fractions significantly better than those without piano training. A sample size of 237 is pretty impressive, and because the results were measured by a computer using a quickly-mastered computer math game, there’s little possibility of misinterpretation. So we see that children who learn to play piano at a young age learn proportional math skills at a significantly younger age, and significantly faster, than children without piano training.

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