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This simple game makes kids better at math

[playful music and whistling]

Little girl:1, 2, 3

Woman: Do you think math is easy or hard?

Hard.

Is math hard for kids? Hard.

Easy! Easy.

Man: It's easy? Why? Uh. I don't know.

[playful music and whistling]

Computer female voice: Let's play a game!

Each of them will have some dots. Children are playing this computerized dot

game in which they see two collections of dots.

Now which ones more? The dots are flashed too quickly to count

so they just have to use that intuitive gut number sense that we know we share with other

animal species and that even newborn infants have.

Blue! Computer:That's right!

All kids have to do is tell us whether there are more blue dots or more yellow dots.

Yellow! Computer:You did it!

Awesome job! 1, 2, 3, 4

After the dot game we gave children a portion of a standardized math assessment.

Which one's closer to 3 when you count? The children who in the dot game had the opportunity

to sharpen their abilities by starting with the easier problems and gradually moving toward

the hard problems did better at math. 20!

Our research showed basically with a five minute simple computer game that has nothing

to do with numbers children actually could change their math performance from like a

60 percentile to like an 80 percentile. Good job! What about seven?

By making kids better at doing these really simple dot judgements we also made them better

at school based math at least temporarily. How did you know whether there was more blue

or more yellow? Because I'm intelligent! [laughter]

These results are really exciting to us because

they show a very clear connection between an evolutionarily ancient set of abilities

and a uniquely human set of formal math abilities. Computer: Yay!

That raises lots of interesting questions including how long this kind of effect lasts

and whether we can also improve children's math performance in a classroom setting.

[gasps] Blue!

Computer: That's right!

[playful music and whistling]