According to new research conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU), educational video games can help to improve children’s mental maths skills.
The research, led by Dr John O’Rourke and Dr Susan Main from ECU’s School of Education in Western Australia, showed that Year 4 students who practiced mental maths skills for 15-20 minutes each day using a brain training video game improved their mental maths scores by 15-30 per cent.
Mental maths refers to short maths problems that are solved in your head without making any notes.
The research involved 236 students aged 9 to 11 from seven schools across Perth. Students were split into two groups, one which used Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training on a handheld Nintendo DS console and another which used traditional mental maths exercises.
Dr O’Rourke said that while the students’ results showed a clear improvement, using video games to teach primary school students was still uncommon in Western Australia.
“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 Dr O’Rourke also noted that none of the seven schools involved in the research had taken up the program once the research was completed, with video games in classrooms still uncommon outside specific ‘technology’ classes.
He said video games were particularly useful in a subject like maths where engagement levels from students was lower, particularly among those students who struggled with the subject.
“What we see when we introduce these games to the classroom is a real improvement in engagement and motivation. Even those students who aren’t engaged with maths are more inclined to participate once the games are introduced.”
Dr O’Rourke outlines limited school budgets and a conservative approach to introducing new technology as some of the reasons schools are showing resistance to video games in the classroom.
Dr Main added that these sorts of video games weren’t designed to replace classroom teachers, but rather serve as another tool to enhance the learning process in classrooms.
She said young people were becoming more accustomed to digesting information and learning in a digital context and it was important educators and the education system kept pace with this trend.
“Students still need support in the classroom but using these kinds of games to boost their performance is very effective,” said Dr Main.