Thursday, September 25, 2008

SLF08: Can Nintendo’s Dr. Kawashima impact on mental maths? An extended study

Live Blog from Derek Robertson and David Miller at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Reporting on the reslults of a study looking at the impact of the Dr Kawashima games from the Nintendo DS on Maths in school. A small scale study found it had a positive impact on pupils maths skills. The study got a lot of good coverage in the media ("Even the Daily Mail was impressed") although there is still some suspicion (for example, see the BBC interview - "Snake oil?!").

Now reporting on the results of an extended study. Derek talked about Semiotic Domains. In school, teachers and adults have control of the Scool Domain. Children are in it, but they don't have mastery over it. However, in the Games Domain, the children have mastery. The hope is to overlap these domains and let children show what they are good at, but show it in the school domain.

With funding from various sources, they managed to get DS consoles for sixteen schools. They chose schools from four authorities with a geographical spread and a range of socio-economic backgrounds (although, they were weighted towards the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum).

David Miller from the University of Dundee then explained the methodology of the study. They used a randomised control study methodology and stratified randomised sample based on free school meal entitlement (an indicator of socio economic status).

Derek and David found that both the experimental group and the control group showed improvement in their maths ability. Both were statistically significant gains. (Good news for good teaching.) However, the experimental group's improvement was significantly better. Even more impressive was the improvement in the speed of completion where both groups improved but, once again, the experimental group's improvement was even better.

Slightly disappointing was that there was no real change in relation to the pupils' attitude to maths. When asked verbally, they said they thought they were getting better at maths but they didn't record this on the questionnaire form. Perhaps this is back to Semiotic Domain thing - they didn't associate the improvements in the game domain with improvements in the school domain. The researchers wondered if filling in a questionnaire on the DS might help.

They also found that less able children tended to gain more than the more able in terms of accuracy. However, this may be because it is harder to improve if you are already good. The "middle" group showed the most improvement in speed. Also, no difference between boys and girls.

The John Henry effect suggests that since you know you will be tested, a control group tends to over-perform. Obviously there is no way to check this but if there was a John Henry effect, the differences between the groups may actually be greater and the results from the DS trial could be even more impressive.

Lots of other questions were raised. For example, they found truancy/late-coming was reduced - is improved attendance sustained after the novelty has worn off? What other games can be used in schools? Does the increase in processing speed spill over into other areas? What is the potential for ASN or the disaffected? What potential is there for collaborative, shared, work on the DS?

A paper is available from the Consolarium blog.

{Extremely interesting study. Good research evidence. Solid methodology. Fantastic results. Brilliant! - DM}

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