Music And Dyscalculia: Does it help?

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Dyscalculia, as we know now completely, is a learning disorder that interferes with the number-learning ability of children. It affects number sense building ability. Also, they can’t identify numbers and signs or understand directions or spatial orientations perfectly. They are not good with currency bills as well. So, can’t they be taught numbers at all?

Well, it is not like that. Children with DD are given additional learning supports like math manipulatives, games, activities, etc. so that they can work their way around conventional means. One such learning supplement is music training.

In this post, we will acquaint you with the facts related to:

  • Music Training for Dyscalculics
  • Music Training and Managing Dyscalculia – the link explored
  • How it improves mathematical abilities
  • Types of music training activities for managing DD

So, let’s take both these points one by one!

Music Training for Dyscalculics

In order to make education extensively inclusive, a lot of alternative methods or multi-sensory programs have been tried and tested by education researchers. One of the multi-sensory programs is music training. It stimulates all of the basic senses of a learner. In addition, music training is found to be effective in improving cognition.[1] The researchers in various universities conducted studies that summed up

Music – Its role in managing Dyscalculia

The researchers of Music Training developed the 4E model of cognitive science framework which encompassed the impacts of music on the overall mental wellbeing of people. They broke down the impacts of Music into 4E’s (extracted from the study ‘Persistent Effects of Musical Training on Mathematical Skills of Children With Developmental Dyscalculia’), which are:

  • Embodied: It covers how music training impacts the learners bodies on the whole
  • Embedded: The research considers the environmental and external factors (cultural or socio-economic) and explains their impact on learners
  • Extended: Researchers propose that environmental factors and tools available collectively impact the cognition or learning abilities
  • Enactive: This approach in research offers guidelines on how to implement cognitive learning obtained from MT in life and establish a fluid relationship between mental and physical realms of a person’s life.

Based on the collective outcome of all these approaches, the researchers could establish the fact that Music Training is a wholesome remediation tool. Also, they affirmed that the MT can help in developing better numeric abilities. Some of the breakthroughs achieved in mathematical learning with the help of MT are explained here.

Music training – How does it improves mental abilities

MT offers a multi-sensory approach and strikes the same parts of the brain that take part in arithmetic processing. Thus, children evade the stress caused by numbers and whole-heartedly take part in activities required for developing numeric operational abilities. Fingelkurts et al in 2005, in the study, “Functional connectivity in the brain—is it an elusive concept?’,  pointed out that musical training promotes functional brain and its connectivity that smoothens distributive processing abilities.[2] These play an active role in numbers’ processing and establishing spatial relationships too. Some of the basic math skills in which learners may show remarkable enhancement are:

  • Number sense: The magnitude of any number becomes easier to measure for kids with constant intervention of musical training
  • Complex math reasoning: Learners show ease in solving all mathematical reasoning problems like spatial orientation, sequencing and clubbing or segregating on the basis of features with MT
  • Counting and calculation: Indulging students in activities like clapping, tapping feet, or making sounds drives them into making basic calculations mentally; thus, basic mathematical skills show improvement as a consequence of MT.

Broad classification of Music-based activities

Music Training is a comprehensive program. It can be customized as per the students’ abilities and curriculums’ varying requirements. The program involves remedial measures to provide an alternative to conventional teaching using the activities of musical training which comprise:

  • Melody development activities: Concept of sound, formation of notes from variations in sounds, strong and weak sound identification, prosodic interventions, producing sound in harmony etc. are included in melody development.
  • Rhythm development: Everything around and within us works on a rhythm. Trainers introduce children to concept of bodily rhythm, pulse, and eventually expand these ideas to progressions of external sounds. Children learn concepts of sudden noise, long sound, poetic expressions, clapping, thumping, etc.

In the process, they train the brain to identify sequence, pattern, magnitude, etc. Is the same not needed for mathematical-logical intelligence too? Thus, the process of internalizing the concept of numbers and number sense, and eventually patterns and quantities become less difficult for children with dyscalculia.

Developing numeric intelligence music way

Activities should translate mathematical awareness learning concepts into a doable form. This means activities should arouse interest and take away the stress, and make the whole learning process playful. Taking cues from the types of activities mentioned above, you can include the following activities in the MT program:

  • Sing number sequence in poem form: We all have vocalized A,B,C,D in a poem form. The same idea can be implemented while teaching number names, counting, or sequence. Develop a poem that embeds any of these concepts and give regular practice.
  • Clap around: Play games where you make children clap as many times as the number denotes. Four claps for number four, and like wise. You can also ask children to clap harder for bigger numbers and lightly for smaller numbers and ask them to repeat action.
  • Foot-tapping: It is a playful approach where kids tap their feet on a mathematical cue given to them. For instance, assign numbers to kids and ask them to tap their feet together when their number is uttered.

In addition, training students to play music is also a helpful activity that works for neural development and helps children become more receptive to instructions. It overall improves their cognitive abilities required for enhancing mathematical skills.

To conclude,

Only human beings are living species that can make music. Learning the art of making and understanding music truly justifies the intelligence humans are born with. Using this capability to develop math skills, thus, utilizes the immense creative abilities that dyscalculics might be having. Hence, musical training can help children with DD focus on their positives; it allows them to internalize math and its intricate skills while keeping the stress and math worry at bay.

References:

[1] Towards a neural basis of music-evoked emotions. by Koelsch, S. (2010), Trends Cogn. Sci. 14, 131–137.

[2] Functional connectivity in the brain—is it an elusive concept?, Fingelkurt et al, Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 28, 827–836, 2005

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