Vera Goodman
3 min readJul 19, 2018

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IS STUDY OF MUSIC AS IMPORTANT AS MATHEMATICS?

Vera Goodman B.Ed., M.A.

A politician was asked this question when he spoke to our Save Our Fine Arts group. He paused to consider because he had never thought of that question before and was unable to form an answer. He is not alone. I expect most of us, including curriculum planners, have never asked ourselves this question.

Thousands of people will scramble for tickets to fill the Calgary Saddledome, regardless of cost, to hear their favorite musical group. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are performers. Over 8,000 people dug deep into their jeans to attend the Andre Rieu concert in Calgary. What a magnificent treat! The incredible blend of instruments and voices created a rich banquet that fed my soul and transported my mind.

Music, in all its forms, brings joy, comfort, and healing to everyone and is a vital force in our lives from the cradle to the grave. Mathematics is important in creating the standard of living we enjoy and in understanding our world and universe. We need mathematicians. Both Music and Math serve valuable roles. It is argued that studying Math improves intelligence and there is research that suggests that studying music improves Mathematics abilities. But Math is at the top of the totem pole in schools and Music is at the bottom.

Dr. Marguerite Nering of Calgary, in her doctoral dissertation on Music and the Brain (The Effect of Piano and Music Instruction on Intelligence of Monozygotic Twins — University of Hawaii 2001, 2002) showed an extremely strong correlation between the study of Music and increase in Mathematical intelligence.

She showed that Music study causes increased intelligence, especially in the area of Mathematics and in Overall IQ.

Her experiment consisted of using 10 sets of identical twins, ages 3–7, who had never had any music training. Using one of each set as an Experimental twin, she taught each student individually for a period of 1 year with two forty-five- minute lessons per week. All students including Control twins were tested with Wechsler intelligence tests both before and after training. Training of Experimental twins consisted generally of 20–25 minutes of piano, 10–15 minutes of theory and 10–15 minutes of enrichment — either listening to many different types of music, or movement such as drumming or dancing, or playing other instruments. At the end of training when all twins were tested again, Experimental twins IQ on average increased 4.1 points over their Control co-twins. Some of the younger twins showed 7 IQ point gains over their co-twin. By far the biggest improvement was in Mathematics.

For further information on this study visit www.mnering.com

Impressive research! Music and Math are definitely connected which may explain why many Asian children are so good in Math — they take training on an instrument at an early age.

I know one thing for sure. I don’t remember, and have never had to use, any of the advanced math concepts that I spent so many hours working on in school and university. They are even more unnecessary these days because computers quickly tell us what we need to know.

I would have appreciated a more balanced use of my school time so I could have become skilled in music, art, drama, and storytelling; competencies that would have improved my ability to cope with life in so many ways.

How can we change our current model of education to reflect the realities of life for the majority of our students? Can we put our creative minds together to consider how to transfer even a small amount of time and money from Mathematics to a Fine Arts curriculum that would empower all students and enrich their lives for a lifetime?

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