Piano and Computer Training Boost Student Math, UC Irvine Study Shows
Source: Arts Wire CURRENT at Arts Wire
Irvine, Calif. -- Taking piano lessons and solving math puzzles on a computer significantly improves specific math skills of elementary school children, according to a study by UC Irvine (UCI) researchers. (as reported by AMC MUSIC NEWS)
"The importance of this new music brain study lies in the fact that the research has now gone from the laboratory, theory, and discussion to a practical application in the classroom," AMC Music News notes."
The results of the study, published in the March issue of the journal NEUROLOGICAL RESEARCH, are the latest in a series that link musical training to the development of higher brain functions, said UCI physics professor emeritus Gordon Shaw, who led the study. According to AMC Music News, Shaw is known for his 1993 research that showed college students scored higher on spatial-temporal reasoning tests after listening to a Mozart piano sonata. His book MUSIC ENHANCES LEARNING: KEEPING MOZART IN MIND" (Academic Press) is scheduled for release this month.
AMC Music News reports that researchers worked with 135 second-grade students at the 95th Street School in Los Angeles after conducting a pilot study with 102 Orange County students. Children given four months of piano keyboard training, as well as time playing with newly designed computer software, scored 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than other children. The piano teaching and software helped children regardless of income level, boosting achievement of students in low socioeconomic setting
Piano instruction is thought to enhance the brain's "hard-wiring" for spatial-temporal reasoning, or the ability to visualize and transform objects in space and time, Shaw said, according to AMC Music News. He continued that music involves ratios, fractions, proportions and thinking in space and time. At the same time, the computer game--called Spatial-Temporal Animation Reasoning (STAR)--allows children to solve geometric and math puzzles that boost their ability to manipulate shapes in their minds.
Students who used the software and played the piano also demonstrated a heightened ability to think ahead, Shaw said. "They were able to leap ahead several steps on problems in their heads," AMC Music News quotes him as saying.
Research participants included Amy Graziano, a postdoctoral researcher in UCI's Department of Physics and Astronomy who designed and coordinated the project, and Matthew Peterson, a former student of Shaw's who is now a doctoral student in the Department of Vision Science at UC Berkeley. The study was funded through grants from the Texaco Foundation, The Gerard Family Trust and Newport Beach philanthropist Marjorie Rawlins.
The study is the latest in a series linking musical training to the learning process. Prior UCI studies based on a mathematical model of the cortex predicted that early music training would enhance spatial-temporal reasoning, and a 1997 study indicated that preschool children given six months of piano keyboard lessons improved dramatically on such reasoning.
AMC Music News reports that the researchers plan to expand the study to six schools this fall to demonstrate its effectiveness in a variety of settings, and are seeking educators in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties who are interested in participating and can furnish a music teacher and computers. They also are developing new written math tests with Michael Martinez, UCI associate professor of education, and preparing materials to integrate piano training and the STAR software into the standard second-grade math curriculum. They eventually would like to apply the findings to the K-12 math and science curriculum, as well.
"New Research from Dr. Gordon Shaw"
UCI CENTER FOR THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF LEARNING AND MEMORY --
MIND INSTITUTE -- http://www.mindinst.org
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