Sunday, May 24, 2009

Do the Arts Make You Better At Math and Science

Researchers say... not as far as we can see:

Much of the research into the arts has centered on music and the brain. One researcher studying students who go to an arts high school found a correlation between those who were trained in music and their ability to do geometry.

A four-year study, conducted by Ellen Winner of Boston College and Gottfried Schlaug of Harvard, is looking at the effects of playing the piano or the violin on students in elementary school.

Winner said she was skeptical of claims that schools offering fine arts had seen an increase in test scores and a generally better school climate. She said she had examined those assertions and found that they couldn't be backed up by research.

The study Winner is working on has shown that children who receive a small amount of musical training -- as little as half an hour of lessons a week and 10 minutes of practice a day -- do have structural changes in their brains that can be measured. And those students, Winner said, were better at tests that required them to use their fingers with dexterity.

"It is the first study to demonstrate brain plasticity in young children related to music playing," Schlaug said.

About 15 months after the study began, students who played the instrument were not better at math or reading, although the researchers are questioning whether they have assessments that are sensitive enough to measure the changes.

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