This Simple Computer Game Seriously Boosts Children's Math Skills

Turning mathematics into a game appears to be incredibly effective. CroMary/Shutterstock
Robin Andrews 16 Jun 2016, 21:02

What’s the best way to get a child to learn mathematics? As it turns out – and probably much to the chagrin of many parents – one of the most effective ways appears to be teaching mathematics through videogames.

Multiple studies have shown that videogames improve cognition, reasoning and mathematical abilities in young children, particularly those around pre-school age, where the brain is undergoing a vital period of development. A new study reveals that even the most basic of digitized number games makes learning mathematics far more of a breeze for children than you may think. Just five minutes of simple estimation tasks radically and rapidly improves their ability to understand values and quantities.

Writing in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, a team of researchers describe how their game aims to make kids realize they can be intuitively good at mathematics, rather than forcing new skills or techniques upon them for the first time. For example, even the youngest baby – or even baby animal – is born with an inherent sense of understanding quantity, telling the difference between what is more and what is less using their “approximate number system”.

The simple videogame that helps kids count. Johns Hopkins University via YouTube

Despite the fact that this primitive number sense and the exactitude of mathematical quantification are both very different in terms of their precision, both are clearly linked. One cannot achieve the latter without a robust version of the former set in stone in their minds, after all. Seizing on this, the team from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) decided to develop a videogame based on this in order to improve the rudimentary mathematical abilities of children.

“That's the big question,” Jinjing “Jenny” Wang, a graduate student at JHU and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “If we can improve people's intuitive number ability, can we also improve their math ability?”

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