Math with Mozart

Judy Taylor, Ph.D.

Written by Teal Neighbors

Photographed by Randy Mallory

 

Wandering through Longview Hall, you may hear classical music wafting from one of Dr. Judy Taylor’s trigonometry classes. Taylor has a teaching style that is fun yet focused, and she is passionate about helping her students succeed. This passion led her to the hands-on research of a theory known as the Mozart Effect.
 
“It helps my kids, and that’s what I want,” Taylor said about what inspired her to research the Mozart Effect. “I wasn’t going to do research just for the sake of research. It’s got to have the purpose of helping someone.”
 
Taylor was inspired by Dr. Frances Rauscher’s work studying the effects of playing a 10-minute clip of Mozart for students before they took IQ tests. Taylor first tried it during her days as a high school teacher by playing a Mozart CD during class time. After receiving her Ph.D. from Texas A&M in 2006, Taylor began her own research in earnest, communicating with researchers and reviewing previous Mozart Effect research.
 
During the spring 2009 semester at LETU, she played the music during tests. Without being aware of the study and with no reason given for the music, the students remarked that the music helped them stay calm while taking tests.
 
“Something I thought was just buying a CD and playing it for my students turned out to be something more,” said Taylor, beaming. “It’s definitely a God thing.”
Taylor used math classes from a previous year as a control group, with pre- and post-test statistical analysis of student SAT scores before and after the experiment to ensure the groups would produce unbiased results.
 
During the study, Taylor saw a statistically significant difference between the control group and the experimental group. One test, which in previous years generated a class grade average of 55 out of 100, jumped to an average of 71 when Mozart was played during testing times.
 
In February, Taylor was invited to present her research at the Southwest Educational Research Association, finding a receptive audience. One music student working toward his Ph.D. asked to use her paper in his dissertation. His professor had earlier scoffed that Mozart Effect research had been debunked long ago. The student was pleased to prove his topic was current and has academic merit.
 
Taylor is pleased to find a research topic that is relevant to the scholarly community as well as applicable to teaching. Working with accounting professor Dr. Beverly Rowe, Taylor will submit research this summer for publication in the Journal of Mathematical Behavior, a journal read by parents, school administrators and teachers. Taylor hopes it will help the research gain more professional footing and reach a wider audience of educators.
 
Taylor’s passion for students and teaching is apparent. She encourages them to work harder and reach higher by sharing her love for learning. “If you do what’s right, the enthusiasm catches on.”
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