Can playing video games make children smarter?

Last Updated 21 September 2016, 12:50 IST

Researchers claim to have developed a new computer-based brain training programme that may boost the performance of students in reading and math, even more than individualised tutoring.

The computer-based brain training programme Activate helped improve performance of students in reading and math, according to the study conducted by Yale University in the US.

The research of over 500 second graders found that math and reading scores on school-administered tests increased significantly more in children who used Activate during the school year than in control classes.

The effect on math achievement scores was greater than what has been reported for one-on-one tutoring and the effect on reading scores was greater than what has been reported for summer reading programmes, researchers said.

The findings illustrate that the benefits of the training, conducted three times a week for a four-month period, extend beyond getting better on the training games themselves and lead to improved learning of material that is very different from that in the games.

"The programme increases focus, self-control and memory - cognitive skills essential for learning," said lead author of the study Bruce Wexler, professor at Yale.

"And these are exactly the cognitive skills affected by poverty, so we believe brain training programmes like Activate can help reduce the achievement gaps related to poverty that are seen in schools across the country," said Wexler.

In a second finding from the same study, researchers discovered that doing a five-minute brain warm-up game just before beginning an Activate math or reading curricular content game can increase math and reading performance.

Different warm-up games produced maximal "cognitive priming" effects for math and reading.

Cognitive priming with short video games could be more powerful than techniques teachers currently use to create mind-sets to facilitate learning, Wexler said.
The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports. 

(Published 21 September 2016, 12:47 IST)

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