A study conducted in 1993 revealed that students who listened to Mozart’s Sonata in D major immediately before testing showed an improvement in tests of abstract spatial reasoning and intelligence. The Mozart Effect became popular after this study was published. An entire line of products for young children was developed for the sole purpose of increasing a child’s intelligence by listening to Mozart and was extremely popular with parents of young children. However, further study revealed the Mozart Effect is only temporary. Passive listening before performing a task only helps with that particular task. That doesn’t mean music doesn’t affect a child’s learning in a positive way. In fact, continued study has shown that active musical participation does have long term, positive effect on learning.
Children who play musical instruments gain multiple long term benefits including improved math and reading comprehension, increased test scores and higher academic grades overall. Actively engaging in music also raises self-esteem and improves a child’s ability to reason, which has a direct impact on a child’s ability to learn.
Learning and playing music increases a child’s spatial reasoning ability. Learning to count beats teaches patterns, and comparing those beats teaches children the basic concepts of more and less. Understanding whole notes, half notes and quarter notes increases a child’s understanding of fractions and decimals. Concepts of dollars and cents are also easier to understand.
Playing music increases a child’s ability to solve complex problems. Children who play music have a better understanding of Algebra and Geometry. They are able to recognize patterns and shapes and then arrange them in the proper order to solve complex equations.
Musically trained children have increased reading comprehension skills, a stronger vocabulary and increased phonetic understanding. The ability to read complex sentences increases in children who play a musical instrument. Musical notes are read left to right, which teaches children the basic reading pattern. Playing an instrument requires the musician to look ahead at least two measures in order to plan what notes to play next. In reading, this skill helps a child scan written text for important information and key phrases without losing the context of the information presented.
Children who take part in music education can remember more and recall those memories easier. Playing music requires the child to read notes, look ahead at the notes to come, keep rhythm and physically play the music at the same time. This necessary multitasking requires different parts of the brain to work simultaneously and increases brain development. The ability to store more information and recall it easily benefits children in other areas as well. They are better equipped for academic tests that rely on remembering and presenting information that has been heard or read over the course of time.
Studies show that children who have actively participated in learning an instrument score higher on standardized tests. Standardized testing is used extensively in elementary, middle and high school education programs. Other standardized tests include the ACT and SAT, which are used by colleges to determine whether the child is qualified for admission into a college program. On average, students who are involved in music education score 30 points higher than their peers who don’t play an instrument.
Listening to music is a good way for children to relax and relieve stress, and while it’s been shown that immediate increases in spatial reasoning are gained by listening to music right before a test or complex task, these benefits are lost soon after the task is complete. The best way to enhance learning through music is by teaching children to read and play music and integrating music education into every day activities.