The Rhythm of the Subtraction of Fractions

Academic music program significantly increases arithmetic scores

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Third graders are a rambunctious group, and yet - quality elementary education is very important for continued education. How can teachers better connect with young students? The answer might be with music.

An elementary arithmetic program called ‘Academic Music’ shows promising results in a new study. The program, which focuses on learning fractions, uses rhythm patterns of clapping, drumming, and chanting to help the elementary students learn.

"Music education is known to have many benefits for children."

"If students don't understand fractions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling," said Susan Courey, Ph.D., assistant professor of special education at San Francisco State University. "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."

Students of Hoover Elementary in the San Francisco Bay Area participated in the study. Half of the 67 students were enrolled in the Academic Music program for 6 weeks. The other half had regular math instruction.

The music program used rhythm exercises, like drumming and clapping, in addition to musical notation worksheets. The worksheets focused on addition and subtraction of fractions using music notes.

At the end of the 6 week period, all 67 students took a fraction based math test. The students in the music program scored 50% higher than those not in the program.

Students from Allen Elementary School in San Bruno are already familiar with the program. In 2007 the school fully integrated Academic Music into it’s math curriculum. Allen Elementary was not involved with the current study, but math test results from the school have improved since the program was implemented.

"In every lesson I've observed, the children have been excited and enthusiastic about learning fractions," says Kit Cosgriff, principal at Allen Elementary School. "It's a picture of what you would like every class to look like."

The study will be published in March 2012 online in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 22, 2012
Last Updated:
March 22, 2012