Rhythm helps kids master math problems

March 25th, 2012 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 25 (IANS) An innovative use of rhythm in a music-based programme enabled school kids score significantly higher on math tests than peers who received regular instruction.

“Academic Music” is a hands-on curriculum that uses music notation, clapping, drumming and chanting to introduce third-grade students to fractions. Co-designed by San Francisco State University researchers, it addresses one of the most difficult and important topics in the elementary math curriculum.

A fraction represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. A fraction describes how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, five-eighths, three-quarters.

“If students don’t understand fractions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling,” said Susan Courey, assistant professor of special education at San Francisco, the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics reported.

“We have designed a method that uses gestures and symbols to help children understand parts of a whole and learn the academic language of math,” added Courey, according to a university statement.

The programme has shown tangible results at Hoover Elementary School in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Courey’s study included 67 students. Half the group participated in a six-week Academic Music curriculum and the rest received the school’s regular math instruction.

Students in the music-based programme scored 50 percent higher on a fraction test, taken at the end of the study, compared to students in the regular math class.

“Students who started out with less fraction knowledge achieved final test scores similar to their higher-achieving peers,” Courey said.

“Lower-performing students might find it hard to grasp the idea of fractions from a diagram or textbook, but when you add music and multiple ways of learning, fractions become second nature to them,” added Courey.

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