Middle school students who study music do better in algebra, concludes a study by Barbara Helmrich of Baltimore’s College of Notre Dame. From Miller-McCune Online:
Students who studied a musical instrument did the best, followed by students who sang in a choir. Those who didn’t study music had the lowest algebra scores. The effect was especially strong for black students.
Middle-school music instruction “takes place during a time (age 10-12) in which a proliferation of new synapses occurs in the developing brain,” Helmrich writes. She thinks music helps form and strengthen new synapses.
The particularly robust results for African-American students suggests “offering music education in middle school might present an alternative strategy for narrowing the achievement gap” between students of different races, Helmrich writes in the Journal of Adolescent Research.
Of course, there could be correlation-causation issues lurking.