The impact of participation in music on learning mathematics.

Sylwia Holmes, Susan Hallam

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    22 Citations (Scopus)
    102 Downloads (Pure)


    Music psychologists have established that some forms of musical activity improve intellectual performance, spatial–temporal reasoning and other skills advantageous for learning. In this research, the potential of active music-making for improving pupils' achievement in spatial– temporal reasoning was investigated. As spatial–temporal skills are considered to be high-level mathematical abilities, this study also aimed to explore if learning music might have an effect on pupils' achievement in mathematics, and whether spatial–temporal reasoning plays a role in this process.

    The study had a quasi-experimental design in which groups of children aged 4 to 7 participated in a music programme containing a variety of musical, predominantly rhythmical, activities. Parallel classes made up control groups. Throughout the intervention, pupils' attainment in mathematics, reading, writing and spatial–temporal reasoning was recorded and compared between the music and control groups.

    The findings of the project supported the hypothesis that music instruction has an impact on the development of spatial–temporal skills. A statistically significantly greater progression was observed in most of the intervention groups, as compared in all periods of measurement to the control groups. The attainment in general mathematics did not always differ between the intervention and control groups but the analyses provided evidence of a consistent and statistically significant enhancement in learning mathematics between the youngest participants of the programme. This knowledge could inform pedagogical practice, while further research in this area could offer more insight into the association between music and mathematics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)425-438
    Number of pages14
    JournalLondon Review of Education
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017

    Bibliographical note

    ©Copyright 2017 Holmes and Hallam. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


    • music
    • mathematics
    • education
    • psychology
    • cognition

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities(all)
    • Mathematics(all)
    • Psychology(all)


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