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,
"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
"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
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
"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.