Much has been written about the benefits of using computer games in school. Many teachers have been won over, but there has been little hard evidence to back up their enthusiasm. British Educational Research Association(BERA) just released a report about the commercial game, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, can improve the speed and accuracy of primary children’s number work.
More than 600 10 to 11-year-olds from 32 primary schools in Scotland were randomly assigned to one of two groups: an ‘experimental’ group which used computer games and a control group which served as a comparison. Each child in the experimental group classes was given a Nintendo DS Lite games console. For nine weeks, they played Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for 20 minutes each day, first thing in the morning. The control group classes continued with their normal routine.
The impact of game playing on the following aspects were investigated:
- children’s arithmetic skills – both accuracy and speed;
- children’s perceptions of themselves and their attitude to school;
- the performance of boys and girls;
- the performance of children of different ability;
- the performance of children who had the game at home and those who didn’t.
Significant improvements in the maths test scores – that is, children’s performance in accuracy and speed of calculations – were identified. Interestingly, it was found these improvements in both experimental and control groups; all children improved their arithmetic skills over the nine weeks of the trial. However, the improvements in
the game-playing group were 50% higher than those of the control group in terms of accuracy, and twice those of the controls in speed.
In terms of correct answers, the least able children in the game-playing group improved the most. The most able gained the least, but then they had scored so highly on the pre-test that they had little scope for improvement. Similarly, the most able children improved the least in terms of speed. Middle ability pupils gained the most , while the least able children appeared to be concentrating on getting the sums correct, rather than on speed.
Teachers now have reliable evidence that this game can bring real benefits in terms of number work. But how about higher order of learning goals? The improvements in speed and accuracy of number work may have implications for other areas of learning. It’s definitely interesting to study. The other issue is that a set of 30 Nintendos and games does come cheap, is there another affordable or free choice that can get the same result? We believe so.
The full report is available to download here: Computer game improves primary pupils’ arithmetic