Window of Opportunity? Adolescence, Music, and Algebra

Research has suggested that musicians process music in the same cortical regions that adolescents process algebra. An early adolescence synaptogenesis might present a window of opportunity during middle school for music to create and strengthen enduring neural connections in those regions. Six school districts across Maryland provided scores from the 2006-2007 administrations of the Maryland Algebra/Data Analysis High School Assessment. Findings from a sample of 6,026 adolescents showed that students enrolled in formal instrumental or choral music instruction during middle school outperformed those who experienced neither of those modes of musical instruction. Significant mean differences in algebra achievement occurred between the instrumental and neither-instruction groups (13.34, p < .001) and between the choral and neither-instruction groups (3.82, p < .001). For African Americans, means significantly differed between the choral and neither-instruction groups (9.39, p < .001). The greatest mean difference between any two comparison groups occurred between the instrumental and neither-instruction groups of African Americans (18.87, p < .001).

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