Researcher Barbara Helmrich of Baltimore’s College of Notre Dame examined a sample of 6,026 ninth-graders enrolled in six Maryland school districts. All had completed an introductory algebra course in either eighth or ninth grade and taken the HSA, a test that assesses how well they learned the subject.
Helmrich divided the students into three groups: Those who had received formal instruction on a musical instrument during the sixth, seventh and eighth grades; those who received choral instruction during those same years; and those who received no formal musical training.
She found the students who studied music significantly outperformed their peers. “Formal instrumental instruction impacted algebra scores the most,” she reports. “Choral instruction also affected scores, but to a lesser extent.”