Music and maths - is there a learning connection?

Music and maths - is there a learning connection?

We know the brain adapts and physically changes when it's exposed to new experiences and this remarkable plasticity is the the basis for learning. 

Brain mapping using MRI images provide us with glimpse into which part of the brain is active during particular tasks.

Some research papers have used brain mapping to suggest that learning music develops the same cognitive spatial-temporal part of the brain as mathematics - so there's a possible maths benefit in learning music.

C scale notation over musical staff

Let's put the neuroscience to one side. As a parent of two children who are learning a musical instrument I notice quite a few obvious connections:

  • Many aspects of maths - such as times tables and series - are based on repeating patterns. So too is music
  • Rhythm is a form of counting
  • Reading music requires counting - for example to know when to come back in

The Value of Practice

In music it’s pretty well accepted that to be good you have to practice a lot. However in mathematics education “practice” appears to have slipped down the agenda.

This is a shame because children need a lot of time and practice to master the basic numeracy skills that underpin their future understanding and confidence in maths.

The goal in learning both maths and music is to become fluent - to build an instinctive sense of the notes or numbers that feel right. When you've achieved this it stays with you for life and it’s very rewarding.

I can’t prove it but my hunch is that learning a musical instrument complements a child’s learning in maths and other subjects.

We don't know for sure whether there's a brain development benefit but the self discipline, concentration and persistence children gain through learning a musical instrument goes a long way to equipping them for the academic and professional challenges that lie ahead.

The same is true for all extra-curricular learning be it languages, drama, sports or indeed maths.

I'm Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About KomodoKomodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths - without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths - you can even try Komodo for free.

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