Education

Study: Board Games Boost Preschoolers’ Math Skills

By Debra Viadero — August 04, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Long, long ago, in the time before video and computer games, young children whiled away many an hour playing board games like Chutes and Ladders. Little did we know then that we were sharpening our math skills at the same time.

At least that’s what a pair of psychologists are claiming in a study published this month in the Journal of Educational Psychology. For their study, researchers Robert S.
Siegler of Carnegie Mellon University and Geetha B. Ramani of the University of Maryland divided 88 preschoolers from Head Start classrooms into three groups. One group of

children played linear board games five times over the course of three weeks for 15-to-20 minutes each time. A second group spent the same amount of time playing circular board games and the third group counted poker chips, identified numbers, and engaged in other simple math-related activities.

The children took pretests to gauge their baseline math abilities. Then everyone was tested again three weeks later. What the researchers found at the second testing was that the linear-board-game group outperformed similarly-skilled students from the other two groups on a wide range of tasks designed to gauge their understanding of numbers and numerical magnitude. Even more striking, though, was that this group also did best later on at “learning to learn” new arithmetic tasks.

The researchers said their findings may partly explain why disadvantaged children come to school with weaker numerical skills than children from middle-class homes. Most middle-class homes have a Chutes and Ladders game stashed on a shelf somewhere—or at least they used to. But studies show that such activities take place less often in low-income households.

Yet that’s a disparity that may be relatively easy to address. That’s because the new findings also showed that the children with the weakest math skills at pretest rapidly caught up with their peers after a few game-playing sessions. And anyone can make a board game with paper, a pair of dice, and a cardboard spinner.

A word of caution, though: Previous studies by this same research team suggest that the design of the game matters. A cardboard game modeled after Candyland, another popular linear board game, did not prove to be as effective as the Chutes and Ladders model.

Personally, I predict a resurgence in sales of Chutes and Ladders.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP