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New Study Links Video Game to Improved Test Scores

Sep 13, 2016

A video game designed by Yale University is dramatically improving math and reading test scores in second graders, according to a new study.

Activate is a computer-based brain training program for elementary school students. Students log-in, and play a series of games.

Their progress is monitored by their teacher as they advance through more and more difficult levels. The games are designed to increase focus, self-control, memory, and cognitive skills that are essential for learning.

"The cognitive skills of attention, self-control, and memory are more powerful predictors of math and reading achievement in school than is I.Q.," said Dr. Bruce Wexler, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Yale. "For example, if you have attention problems in elementary school you are more than eight times more likely to become a high school dropout. Poverty and exposure to trauma reduce these same three cognitive skills. So these skills predict success in school, and they are compromised by poverty."

Wexler said Activate could go a long way to close the achievement gap that exists between poor students and their more affluent counterparts.

Now Yale has the research to back up Wexler's claim. The study, conducted by Yale and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing found that the reading and math test scores of second graders who played Activate three times a week for four months increased significantly over the course of the school year compared to students who didn't play the game.

The study said that progress made by students who played Activate was even greater than one-on-one math tutoring, and summer reading programs.

The study also concluded that doing a five minute brain warm up using Activate just before a math or reading lesson increased the student's performance, a phenomenon called "cognitive priming."

"What we are doing is engaging each child more inside their mind and themselves, warming up the parts of their mind that are important for cognitive learning that is to follow," said Wexler.

The study is published in the online journal Scientific Reports.