Jamming during math class raises scores

Proponents of music education praise it for its wide array of benefits. It’s math, it’s science, it’s art. Hell, for some of us, it’s like recess.

Despite the obvious benefits, thousands of school districts across the country have, when faced with budget constraints, cut from the music departments in the first round.

But not all schools have jumped on that ill-advised bandwagon. Some schools have adapted and are using music differently. And not just in the band and choir rooms, either.

Look at Sue Courey’s third grade class in San Francisco. When they began to work with fractions, they got a visit from the music teacher, Endre Balogh, who brought drumsticks for tapping out rhythms.

Keeping time with his foot, Balogh helped the students practice their fractions, engaging them with concept-checking questions as they went along:

“Which is larger, the whole note or the half note?”

When one third-grader gave the right answer, he pushed the student to tell him why it was correct, and another student explained.

The difference between learning math the boring old-fashioned way — anchored to your desk, barely  awake — and doing it with music has proved itself already in the test scores.

Since the school adopted Courey and Balogh’s program, fourth-graders have shown the highest improvement, with tests scores increasing from 55 percent proficiency in 2007 to 90 percent just four years later. Third-graders saw an improvement of 70 percent to 79 percent.

According to school principal Kit Cosgriff, the program has been a success on all levels, especially with students for whom English is not their first language, who make up about 60 percent of the school.

Cosgriff told the CoCo Times:

“I wanted to do something that would lay down different pathways in the brain for them.”

And if students can even have fun in the process, why not?