The Incredible Mozart Effect - Babies Music and Intellect
Music and Math
If you want to understand how music affects the brain’s ability to do such things as math, picture an orchestra warming up for a rehearsal. The violins are playing the same piece as the flutes and the drums, but they are playing it in their own time and in their own way. The result is chaos. Then the conductor raises her baton. All the musicians begin to play their parts in the correct order. This kind of cooperative behavior, doing the right thing at the right time, is similar to the way in which the brain reacts when it hears music. Music changes the way in which the neurons fire in the brain. Even passively listening to a piano sonata for ten minutes brings a more orderly and efficient pattern to the electrical impulses that pass through the higher-level processing areas. There is more coordination of electrical impulses, or as a neuroscientist would say, more “coherence.” The brain is better prepared to handle the kinds of intellectual skills needed to balance a checkbook or compute algebraic word problems. Of course, your baby is not about to do any banking, but within a few short years, she will be learning to read, write and do arithmetic. Wouldn’t it be great if these tasks could come quickly, easily and thoroughly? Exposure to music has the ability to help set up that kind of success.
Music and Reading
If, instead of just letting kids listen to music, you gave them a chance to learn about music and to explore it – to pick out notes on a keyboard, to clap to the rhythm, to play along with simple percussion instruments and to hear the relationship between notes – what might the effect be? Are there any real-world examples of how active musical training affects areas of academic performance? Yes.
The Kodaly music education system, which was developed in Hungary by Zoltan Kodaly, and has since grown in popularity in the United States, is a prime example of a structured approach to early musical training. In this program young children learn traditional children’s folk songs by engaging in singing games that include physical movement – such as marching and clapping – to reinforce the different aspects of the music. Irving Hurwitz and colleagues, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, looked at first-graders who had received this type of training, and compared them, on academic measures, to children who had not. The impact of formal musical training was dramatic: with all else being equal (IQ level, socioeconomic status, the teacher who taught them reading), children who had received musical training had higher reading scores than children who had not.
“Musical rhythms are mathematical equations, like 4/4 or 2/4 time. You use addition and subtraction skills: how many more beats do you need? How many more ways can you divide it?” ANITA COOPER, PEABODY PREP CONSERVATORY
The Incredible Mozart Effect: In their famous Mozart Effect study, Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw of the University of California, Irvine, looked at how exposure to music influences visual-spatial abilities – one of the abilities that enables us to solve mathematical problems. Rauscher and Shaw had university students listen to a Mozart sonata, a relaxation tape or silence. The findings were striking. After listening to the Mozart sonata for only a few minutes, performance increased 62% over a pretest score on a visual-spatial task. This compared to a 14% increase for the silence group and an 11% increase for the relaxation tape group.