Online multiplayer games help boys to develop better math skills

Video games – everyone loved playing them while growing up. They are a great way to spend time at home and kill boredom. However, they do get a bad reputation for promoting sedentary lifestyle in children. But now scientists from the University of British Columbia revealed an interesting benefit – those boys that do enjoy multiplayer online games daily, score higher in math tests.

Boys play video games much more frequently than girls, which is why most games are tailored for their taste. Image credit: Mohkermani via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are all kinds of video games available on the market. And children and teenagers love them all. However, boys seem to be a little more interested in gaming than girls. Boys are also more interested in math – they often score better grades in math than girls. Scientists say that playing multiplayer online games will increase your math ability, but it doesn’t explain all the difference between girls and boys when it comes to math. Scientists analysed cases of 56 Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation (OEDC) countries and found that teenage girls scored two to three percentage points lower than boys, but only up to one third of this difference can be explained by video games.

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been providing data about the educational systems of OEDC countries for more than 15 years. Authors of this study were interested in the 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. Now scientists analysed this data and matched it with multiplayer online games statistics. Boys play these kind of video games three times the rate of girls – 47 % of boys play every day in comparison to 16 % of girls. Meanwhile, equal amount of girls and boys (around 49 %) use online chatting services. However, games do help boys develop better math skills because they encourage enhancement of strategic problem solving and visual-spatial skills.

Should girls be encouraged to play online multiplayer games in order to close this gap? Scientists are not sure it would help. Furthermore, as the lead researcher Nicole Fortin said, “some girls who play computer games face harassment in the gaming community, which deters them from fully participating. Issues with gaming content and the gaming community need to be addressed first”. Game manufacturers know their audience, which is why most of the games are directed towards boys.

Even though video games could help developing math ability, they are still not some sort of an educational tool. Educators need to find ways to interest girls in math – video games can only help on the side.


Source: UBC


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