Gamers underachieve in maths — report

5 Oct 2006

Children who play computer games for one hour or more a day fare less well at maths than their peers, a study published by the Department of Education and Science has found.

According to the study, Counting on Success, which assesses the mathematics achievement of pupils in Irish primary schools, pupils are continuing to perform well in maths when tested across a number of key areas.

However, pupils who spend one hour or more per day playing computer games do not achieve as well as others in the subject. The study involved the administration of a maths test to more than 4,100 pupils in fourth class in 2004 as well as completion of questionnaires by their parents and teachers.

“One of the most interesting findings of the study is that pupils who spend considerable periods using video games or playing with games consoles have lower achievement in mathematics than children who read at home, play games or undertake other pastimes,” commented Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin TD. “It is important that parents encourage their children to benefit from a balanced range of activities that contribute to their overall development.”

Hanafin welcomed the increase in pupils’ achievement levels in several strands of the curriculum. “It is very heartening to note that there is improvement in aspects of the pupils’ achievement, such as their ability to reason, to undertake algebra, in their understanding of shape and space and their ability to manage data.”

According to Hanafin, the survey showed that there has been no change in the problem-solving skills area generally but this is something that is being addressed by the department.

With the revised curriculum only being fully implemented in classrooms from the 2002-2003 school year, the pupils being tested would not have had full experience of the greater use of resources and practical activities within the new curriculum, she added.

“The new maths curriculum is much more focussed on problem solving, discovery and understanding, as well as providing children with hands-on experience so they can then relate what they learn in the classroom to the world around them,” she said.

This report is the fifth in a series of national assessments of mathematics achievement in primary schools. The survey on which the report is based was carried out by the Educational Research Centre on behalf of the Department of Education and Science and it is the first national assessment of mathematics since the introduction of a revised mathematics curriculum in 1999.

By Elaine Larkin