No, not Global Thermonuclear War* — more along the lines of Chutes and Ladders. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today on a study by Geetha B. Ramani and Robert S. Siegler in which children who played a numerical board game for four 15-20 minute periods over two weeks showed improvement in certain math skills even two months later.
The results of the study were published yesterday in Child Development. The abstract for this paper reads in part:
….playing such a game for roughly one hour increased low-income preschoolers’ (mean age 5.4 years) proficiency on four diverse numerical tasks: numerical magnitude comparison, number line estimation, counting, and numeral identification. The gains remained nine weeks later. Classmates who played an identical game, except for the squares varying in color rather than number, did not improve on any measure.
(From “Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low-Income Children’s Numerical Knowledge through Playing Number Board Games”)
The authors have published another article (“Playing Board Games Promotes Low-Income Children’s Numerical Development”) on the same subject, which is labeled as being in press for Developmental Science, Special Issue on Mathematical Cognition. The abstract for this paper indicated that the numerical games “eliminated the differences in numerical estimation proficiency” between preschoolers from low-income families and preschoolers from more affluent families (boldface mine). Pretty powerful results there!
So get out those games and start playing!
* Did you know that there is a sequel to WarGames in production? I didn’t either! But don’t rush off to stand in line at the theaters: WarGames: The Dead Code (starring Matt Lanter) is expected to be released straight to DVD. I gotta say, though, I’m having a hard time envisioning a version of WarGames without Ferris Bueller.