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.
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.