July 24, 2016
Parents whose children struggle with math may have new reason to be hopeful: A recent study at the Johns Hopkins University suggests that young people can improve their performance by carrying out a few simple computer exercises unrelated to numbers or math symbols.
A team of researchers in the university's department of psychological and brain sciences found that 5-year-olds who played a five-minute computer game — and played it in a particular way — scored significantly higher than their peers on a given set of math problems.
Instead of asking the children to work with numbers, the game required them to work with pictures of blue and yellow dots — targeting the kids' "intuitive number sense" rather than any knowledge of math they might possess.
The findings are noteworthy because they suggest that a simple method actually exists for quickly improving children's math performance — and that it might work because it targets a brain function rarely associated with this area of learning.
"It's not the case that if you're bad at math, you're bad at it the rest of your life. It's not only changeable, it can be changeable in a very short period of time," said Jinjing "Jenny" Wang, a doctoral student in the Krieger School of Arts and Science's department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins and the study's lead author.