ECU research finds educational video games improve kids’ mental maths skills

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Stock imge.

EDUCATIONAL video games improve children’s mental maths skills, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU).

The research, led by John O’Rourke and Susan Main from ECU’s School of Education, showed Year 4 students who practiced mental maths skills (short maths problems solved in your head without making notes) for 15 to 20 minutes each day using a brain training video game improved their mental maths scores by 15 to 30 per cent.

But Dr O’Rourke said while the students’ results showed a clear improvement, using video games to teach primary school students was still uncommon in WA.

“We 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 Dr O’Rourke said none of the seven schools involved in the research had taken up the program after the research finished.

He said video games were particularly useful in a subject like maths where engagement levels from students was lower, particularly among those who struggled with the subject.

“What we see when we introduce these games to the classroom is a real improvement in engagement and motivation,” he said.

“Even those students who aren’t engaged with maths are more inclined to participate once the games are introduced.”

Dr O’Rourke believes there are several reasons for schools’ resistance to video games in the classroom, including school administration believing games are not a good use of limited budgets and schools taking a conservative approach to introducing new technology.

Dr Main said video games were not going to replace classroom teachers.

“These games are just another tool to enhance the learning process in our classrooms,” she said.

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

She said young people were becoming more accustomed to digesting information and learning in a digital context and it was important the education system kept pace with this trend.

Research breakdown

THE research involved 236 students aged 9 to 11 from seven schools across Perth.

They were split into two groups: one that used Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training on a handheld Nintendo DS console and another which used traditional mental maths exercises.

Both groups worked on their maths skills for 10 minutes each morning over a 10-week school term.

They were tested at the start of the term and again at the end.

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