Monday, 21 May 2018 11:24

Video games can improve mental maths skills: claim

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Researchers at Edith Cowan University claim that educational video games can improve children's mental maths skills.

Mental maths refers to small maths problems that are solved without taking recourse to writing.

In a statement, the ECU said year four students who practised mental maths skills for 15 to 20 minutes a day using a brain training video game bettered their mental maths skills by between 15% and 30%.

A total of 236 students aged from nine to 11 were chosen from seven schools in Perth and split into two groups. One group used the brain training methods made popular by Japanese neuroscientist Dr Ryuta Kawashima who is known for his appearances in the Brain Training/Brain Age series of video games for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS.

The other group used traditional mental maths exercises. Both groups worked on maths skills for 10 minutes each morning during a school term of 10 weeks. They were tested at the beginning and end of the term.

Dr John O'Rourke, one of the two researchers from the ECU School of Education who led the team, said while there was a clear improvement, Western Australian primary school students were not usually exposed to such methods of learning.

“Our research showed using video games can improve students’ mental maths skills, but we also asked the students and teachers what they thought of teaching in this way,” he said.

“Both groups were really positive about the games. Teachers reported improved engagement, motivation, enhanced problem solving and better organisation among their students.

“Students also said they felt more motivated and engaged and were surprised they were learning while playing games.”

However, he said none of the seven schools involved in the trial had continued using the video games after the research was over.

Dr O’Rourke said there could be different reasons for the decision:

  • School administration believing games don’t represent good use of limited budgets; or
  • Schools taking a conservative approach to introducing new technology.

Dr Susan Main, the other leader of the research, said: "These games are just another tool to enhance the learning process in our classrooms.

“Students still need support in the classroom but using these kinds of games to boost their performance is very effective.”

She said youngsters were getting more used to taking in digital information and learning and it was important for educators and the education system to keep pace with this trend.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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