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The impact of participation in music on learning mathematics.

Holmes, S; (2017) The impact of participation in music on learning mathematics. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Music psychologists have established that some forms of musical activity improve intellectual performance, spatial–temporal reasoning and other skills advantageous for learning (Hallam, 2015; Rauscher, 2000; Schellenberg, 2004; Costa-Giomi, 1999, and Graziano, 1999). The research reported here explored the potential of active music making for developing students’ spatial-temporal skills and the role this played in improving their progression in mathematics. The study had an experimental design in which a group of 178 children aged 4-6 participated in a music programme containing a variety of musical, predominantly rhythmical, activities. Taking account of the earlier research which suggested that generalist primary teachers are not confident in delivering music lessons and that they feel inadequately prepared during their teacher training (Rogers et al., 2008, Hallam et al, 2009, OFSTED, 2009, Henley, 2011), the music programme created for the current study was aimed at non-specialist teachers. Based around popular nursery rhymes, the activities were easily accessible even for teachers who were not confident in singing in front of their class. The programme addressed the need for clearly specified progression and provided teachers with guidance about how to assess students’ skills and their advancement. All activities were explicitly suited for Foundation Stage (FS) and KS1 pupils and were arranged to promote a range of competencies. To make it accessible for schools, the programme did not require any equipment, resources or staffing which would stretch schools’ budgets. The programme lasted two years and throughout the intervention pupils’ attainment in mathematics, spatial – temporal reasoning, and music was recorded. This included assessment of specific mathematical and musical skills. Parallel classes made up control groups. Attainment in all areas of measurement was compared between groups to examine the impact of music instruction on learning mathematics. The findings demonstrated that the younger music groups achieved statistically significantly greater progression in mathematics over time than their peers from the control groups. This relationship was observed in the main study and in the combined groups. These results paralleled statistically significantly greater achievement in one or both spatial – temporal tests. The older groups also recorded statistically significant differences in outcomes in one or both spatial – temporal tests in all three periods of measurement. These scores were related to higher attainment in mathematics but this change as scores was not sizeable enough to reach statistical significance. When results in specific mathematical skills were considered, only some of them were related to the musical training. The most basic mathematical skills like number recognition to 10, counting to 10 and to 20 were not impacted on by participation in music lessons. Skills related to geometry, 2D and 3D shapes, attributes of shapes, and symmetry patterns, were closely related with the music programme. This was the result of the impact of the music instruction on spatial-temporal abilities. The strong relationship between musical training and arithmetic skills, for example, addition and subtraction, using number line, and problem solving was an unexpected finding. However, as these tasks require mathematical skills related to spatial abilities like number sense and strategy choice, the enhancement of spatial-temporal skills through participation in the rhythmic instruction is likely to have influenced these higher levels of mathematical attainment. The results of the current study cast light on how musical, spatial-temporal, and mathematical skills are intertwined and explored how the music programme might be useful in learning in specific areas of mathematics whilst feeding into the overall mathematical development. These findings provide theoretical and pedagogical knowledge to inform teaching practice. The inexpensive and easy to deliver music programme could enable teachers, who lack confidence in teaching music, to engage their early years and Yr1 pupils in musical activities which would also support the development of mathematical skills.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The impact of participation in music on learning mathematics.
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Music, mathematics, cognition, spatial-temporal reasoning, psychology of music
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1541236
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