piano
Image courtesy of Barney Moss

Have you ever heard of the “Mozart Effect”?

It’s the theory which suggests that people who listen to classical music will become smarter. This is because it temporarily improves their spatial-temporal reasoning which gives people the ability to mentally picture and move multiple objects to solve problems in their minds.

This skill is essential in exceeding in math so there are several studies that look into the link between it with music.

However, this particular theory sounds too good to be true… and that’s because it probably is. If it were as easy as this to improve brain function, kids would simply play Mozart music in their rooms the night before exams. While there may be definite links, there is another way to work the brain more reliably. Instead, one must actually play the music instead of just listening to it.

If a child wants to perform better in an exam, the core skill they must develop is concentration.

On top of this, factors depend on the subject at hand. And playing the piano is especially good for developing skills needed in practising math – spatial reasoning. This means that taking piano lessons is like killing two birds with one stone – you will have one piano teacher, teaching you the skills needed for both piano and math.

Concentration levels increase on several fronts

There is more to playing the piano than merely tapping the keys, you also must read and appreciate the music which takes a lot of focus. The pianist must understand the note and rhythm, translating it into movements on the keyboard.

It requires a combination of concentration and multitasking. This degree of critical thinking can be applied to studying mathematics, so once you begin to master it here, it will be transferred.

Kids perform better in school exams after taking piano lessons

Studies suggest that kids who play instruments improve academically with higher grades. For those who specifically played the piano, they especially perform better in mathematical ratios and fractions.

Psychologist Dr Frances Rauscher and physicist Dr Gordon Shaw led a study on children who received piano tuition by giving them spatial-temporal reasoning tests and comparing their scores to the results from kids who didn’t play any instruments.

Dr. Frances Rauscher said, “young children provided with instrumental instruction score significantly higher on tasks measuring spatial-temporal cognition, hand-eye coordination and arithmetic.”

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“A literate musician is required to continually mentally subdivide beat to arrive at the correct interpretation of rhythmic notation. The context has changed, but the structure of the problem is essentially the same as any part-whole problem posed mathematically,” she added.

The piano students scored 34% higher, showing that they were better at the brain function needed to be good at mathematics. This shows that the mix of concentration and the brain function needed for problem-solving and multitasking makes piano students succeed higher in maths grades compared to others.

So just get playing!

If you’re not convinced about the correlation between playing the piano and mathematics… there are still dozens of reasons to start playing. It can create inspiration and peace of mind, the pianist’s coordination improves and discipline increases, and the skill can open so many doors and opportunities.

Ultimately, the biggest reason is the passion. As Wassily Kandinsky puts it, “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

The hunger and drive that surrounds this instrument are incredible. Pianists acquire skills like no other and the reasons to get into the art are endless. To me, the fact that the improvements can be applied to subjects such as maths is incredible. It’s so complex and shows that it is worth investing in learning because spatial-reasoning is an important skill.

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So, there are indeed hundreds of reasons to love the piano and the main one is the creation of sublime music. But there is another – and that’s the connection it has with spatial intelligence and judgement. Anyone who learns the piano will watch the benefits it has on their brain and, of course, become an amazing musician.

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