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Curious to here opinions on this. I realize this is kind of offtopic but it is something that I find rather intriguing and I assume others would also.

I am particularly fond of classical music, particularly J.S. Bach and Liszt.

The mathematician Raymond Sullyman is an outstanding piano player, his youtube channel features himself playing the piano as well as music he enjoys posted on the channel.

The question I really want answered though is: Does listening to music while studying math impair math performance? Some sources state that only music with vocals distracts individuals.

I could see many ways that listening to music could impair performance but at the same time I see many reasons why it would be beneficial.


  • In situations that are naturally distracting. Personally I find silence just as "distracting" due to hearing unnecessary background noise. Papers rustling, people walking etc.

  • Some people say music gets them in "the zone" and keeps you alert. Some recent studies suggest music might be beneficial.

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closed as off-topic by a.r., Andres Caicedo, AlexR, Davide Giraudo, Magdiragdag Jan 31 '14 at 18:43

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is not about mathematics, within the scope defined in the help center." – a.r., Andres Caicedo, AlexR, Davide Giraudo, Magdiragdag
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I was addicted to music some $2$ years ago and I did hear it when studying maths. After stopping it, my memory got way and way better, just as my concentration. –  user93957 Jan 31 '14 at 18:08
What is the point of downvoting this question? It is properly asked, and although it does not include numbers/equations it touches the math a lot. I mean, who, from all those people doing math here, does not ask him/herself how to improve his concentration and focusing.. Personally I find my mathematical efficiency(for lack of words) bound with my focus, therefor it is for me important to find myself in a good conditions... –  quapka Jan 31 '14 at 18:19
Very intriguing question, but alas, I think it can only be answered empirically, and is better asked in the domain of cognitive psychology (controlled studies) and/or neuroscience (brain imaging). I did NOT downvote, BTW! ;-) –  amWhy Jan 31 '14 at 18:25
I like to hear music and I like to do maths, but I have found myself singing along ever so often when listening while doing maths, so when I'm trying to stay focused it's headphones off. –  AlexR Jan 31 '14 at 18:26
I have some history (10+ years) working with and without music and my experience is that it depends on what you are doing. In my personal case music helps when I use intuition and think in "soft ways" (sketching the proof, designing an algorithm), while it hinders me when doing concrete math (e.g. handling corner cases, fixing $\pm 1$'s in discrete formulas) and "non-soft thinking" (e.g. formalizing the proof, coding an algorithm). Of course, this is a very personal matter and there are multiple other factors (like outside noise, etc.). –  dtldarek Jan 31 '14 at 19:32

2 Answers 2

When i was a student i could study only with the t.v. turned on, and when it was silence i could not concentrate.
But now i am some years older and things have changed.
If it is a good day and i feel inspired and motivated, then i need no music to calm me down (or help me with my concentration )
If it is a bad day i just listen to classical music before i study maths.
I think this is the middle way which will work in any case .

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I thought about it quite a lot and personally I think listening to music (Or Music as a human Phenomenon) is the archetype of human learning. However, this is no place to elaborate on why.

So when you sense you are learning faster/better/deeper, the subject is not the math, which happens to be the only/central object occupying your vision (The number 1 sense for humans; Just try to think about reality/anything without a mental image), it is the music!

Regardless of the above: Music, and especially classical music, and especially Bach, occupies your cognition weather you want it or not at any given time.
If you know the music well your memory is hard at work, given you always know what is to be expected.
On the other hand, if you don't know it, you are always estimating what comes next, and registering things you did not expect, which upon 2nd/3rd exposure become "beautiful". :)

If not cognition, then simply mental energy is being "wasted" as your brain "FFTs" the input :D

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