Sounds like a winner for maths

26th December 1997 at 00:00
A touch of calming Bach may hold the key to pushing up Higher maths results. Silence may be golden in classrooms but the steady rhythms of baroque music at 60 beats a minute can improve scores, a leading researcher has claimed.

Teachers often shout to enforce their classroom management strategies, yet they might do better to switch on a CD player. Scotland's consistently poor showing in international mathematics league tables could, after all, be down to the lack of soothing background music.

John MacBeath, head of the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University, maintains there is firm evidence in other countries of significant progress in problem-solving if pupils are tuned in. Only certain pieces will do.

"It is the subliminal message. The rhythm of the music and the rhythm of the brain coincide and you subconsciously tune in," Professor MacBeath says.

A long-time advocate of combining music and study, he points to conclusive evidence from the United States and France. Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are also joining the chorus of approval. "There are three benefits," Professor MacBeath says. "The music has a calming influence on the more hyperactive kids, it stimulates the brain in problem-solving and improves kids' taste for classical music."

Half of the pupils interviewed for a supported study initiative say they prefer to swot listening to music, Professor MacBeath said. It may be a short step to classroom Bach.

In a recent test, sales of German wine rose by half when oompah music drifted across the supermarket shelves. The following week, traditional French sounds replaced the German bands. German wine sales dipped and French wine sales rose by 50 per cent. Shoppers said they never noticed the music.

Professor MacBeath said: "We need to learn how to use music. Depending on what you play, you can use it to energise, calm down or to be more creative. "

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