In recent years, as testing pressures have increased and a greater emphasis has been placed on core curriculum like reading and math, there’s been a sideline conversation about the role of the arts in K–12 education and their overall value in preparing students for the future. Schools across the country have seen their arts programs trimmed or disappear, which goes against many educators’ instincts that say that creativity and the arts help students to become stronger readers, writers and mathematicians.

As it turns out, the research supports that instinct. But there is also a camp that feels we shouldn’t have to justify art’s place in education in the context of reading and math—that art fosters its own set of skills and knowledge that is just as valuable.

Here’s a summary of some of the key research and thinking:

Art and The Brain