Music programs should be given more of a priority in high school curriculums as a new study has found that music students score higher on math and science exams compared to non-musical students.
Unfortunately, when budget cuts are necessary, underfunded art and music classes are often first on the chopping block.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia discovered that music courses enhance rather than hinder a student’s math and science skills.
“It is believed that students who spend school time in music classes, rather than in further developing their skills in math, science and English classes, will underperform in those disciplines,” said Peter Gouzouasis, an author of the study. “Our research suggests that, in fact, the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects.”
For the study, the researchers reviewed the school records of more than 112,00 high schoolers in British Columbia. Each student started first grade between 2000 and 2003, completed the last three years of high school, and had taken one or more standardized tests for math, science or English.
Thirteen percent of all the students included in the study had taken at least one music course such as band or choir in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade.
Taking a music course seemed to help with test scores as the researchers found consistently higher scores in math, science, and English for those students who had participated in a music class.
“Students who participated in music, who had higher achievement in music, and who were highly engaged in music had higher exam scores across all subjects…” said Gouzouasis.
Instrumental music classes like concert band seemed to be more beneficial than choir or vocal jazz classes, the researchers found.
The team also discovered that playing an instrument for years improved scores so much that students with long histories of music education were a year ahead of their peers academically speaking.
“On average, the children who learned to play a musical instrument for many years, and were now playing in high school band and orchestra, were the equivalent of about one academic year ahead of their peers with regard to their English, mathematics and science skills, as measured by their exam grades,’ said Gouzouasis.
Even when the researchers controlled for demographic factors, taking a music class correlated with higher test scores.
“Learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an ensemble is very demanding. A student has to learn to read music notation, develop eye-hand-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble, and develop discipline to practice. All those learning experiences play a role in enhancing children’s cognitive capacities and their self-efficacy,” said Gouzouasis.
The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
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