Repetition for child development

Learning how to hold a mallet!

This morning, Education Week published an article affirming spatial skills as a key to math learning. Movement and “task” activities (cutting paper shapes, building blocks, coloring in lines, clapping, stomping, singing) not only improve a child’s discipline ability to write neatly, they improve his or her capacity for abstract reasoning. The article quotes Claire E. Cameron, research scientist at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, on this point:

“We think of early-childhood classrooms as being really high in executive-function demands, but what children are being asked to exercise [executive function] on end up being visual-motor and fine-motor tasks.”

Here’s how it works. As you listen to music or make music, certain neuronsin the cortex of your brain start firing. The pathways created are the same pathwaysthat are used when you complete complex spatial reasoning tasks. The more of these pathways that are forged and the more they are in use, the stronger the connections become. Strong connections lead to easier access, which translatesinto better skills.

Although listening to music does give the neural network a workout, the gains in spatial
reasoning skills have been shown to be very short-term—15 minutes or less. This “Mozart
effect” is much longer-lasting when you engage in making music, however. Studies are showing that the attendant spatial reasoning gains can extend over months or even years (Rauscher et al, 1997; Gardiner, 2000; Hetland, 2000b). Studies focused on music for young children are also suggesting that math gains increase according to the number of years that students engage in active music learning (Gardiner, 2000), with some indication that the younger children are when they begin music instruction, the greater the gains will be.

Read more from Kindermusik about the benefits of music and math here, and comment below with questions or feedback!

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