Mozart and Math Anxiety
Sima’s Blog Post #2 on Music in Bubbly Primes
Play with the Music
Have you payed much attention to the music while playing Bubbly Primes? I have. I find it very interesting, for reasons that I’ll get into in a minute. Before reading on, you might want to play the game a few times both with the music and also without it.
To adjust the sound, from the app’s start page, choose “Sound.” Three slider bars will drop down with a slider for “Device Volume,” one for “Game Sounds” and another for “Music.” You can adjust the volume of each until you find a combination that you like. I tend to keep the device (phone or tablet) volume high, the game sounds (popping and clanging) just below medium, and the music set near high.
If you are playing the game around other people, listen through ear-buds or headphones, but please adjust the volume down so you don’t hurt your eardrums with sounds that are too loud.
Of course you can also turn the game’s music off and listen to music of your own. It’s worth experimenting with that. Just start playing some music in your iPhone or iPad’s Music app. Press the Home button without stopping the music, and launch Bubbly Primes. The Music app will keep playing it’s music the whole time. See if there are any differences in your scores depending on whether you are listening to music or not, and what music you listen to while playing. Maybe you’ll have the same surprising result I had.
The Mozart Effect
What does research show? Many educators have believed for a long time that students who study music, learn an instrument, or just listen to classical music improve in their schoolwork, particularly in their mathematics skills. Some students do seem to fit this profile, but not all of them. Some researchers believe students can improve scores on math tests if they listen to classical music while taking tests. Some people even believe exposure to classical music improves IQs. These possible impacts have been called The Mozart Effect. There is quite a lot of good and also some not so good research into this effect, and the results are too mixed to provide any strong scientific conclusions.
The “Mozart Effect” and the Mathematical Connection, by Judy M. Taylor and Beverly J. Rowe, provides a very good summary of the state of research in this field. This paper also presents data from the authors’ controlled study, indicating positive results.
How about Bubbly Primes? At Nuhubit Software Studios LLC, the designers of Bubbly Primes, we make no claims regarding the Mozart Effect, nor the theory that classical music helps improve learning or testing scores. However, we do know that music affects people’s moods and emotions, something we have all experienced. For example, composers in the movie industry appreciate and exploit this strong impact. Imagine seeing a scary movie without its music.
The music in Bubbly Primes isn’t Mozart. It was written by John Dowland in the 16th Century, almost 200 years before the Classical Period and the time of Mozart. It is gentle music. Instead of putting exciting, jumpy, playful music in the background of the game, Bubbly Primes provides something that soothes emotions and calms the brain. When someone is anxious or tense, it’s hard to think clearly and to remember things. Being calm helps the mind focus, and work smoothly. That’s why we always tell people in an emergency, “don’t panic!”
I’m not a math wizard, but I’m not bad at it either. However, I do have a touch of math anxiety that kicks in whenever I’m under pressure, like when I’m taking a timed test, or in a tense situation and I need to calculate something quickly in my head. It feels like my entire brain blanks out and sometimes I can’t even remember how to multiply. The calming music in Bubbly Primes helps make my anxiety go away. It also seems to help me focus.
Our hope is that by hearing this music as they play this game, players will have pleasant experiences in which they feel calm and focused while working with numbers. If they listen often enough, and play enough, the connection between recognizing prime numbers, factoring composite numbers and feeling calm may strengthen. We hope that when students encounter numbers they must factor for division, fractions or algebra, the association with tranquil confidence they gained from Bubbly Primes and its music will kick in. As students taste success with numbers, they will gain confidence, and confidence is a powerful tool against anxiety.