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Can video games make kids smarter? Yale University researchers think so

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Could playing video games for five minutes make second graders perform better in a math class?

New findings published by Yale University researchers say the answer is simple: Yes.

The study, led by Yale professor Bruce Wexler, involved 583 second graders and a brain training game called Activate. The results showed that students who played the video game for 20 minutes three times a week for four months performed better on reading and math tests than their peers who did not.

The study made clear that in some cases students learned more from the video games than a tutor.

Students who played the video games showed better results on math exams than compared to students who received one-on-one coaching. The results also showed that students who played Activate during a five-minute warm up scored better on a separate educational video game immediately afterward, demonstrating that video games can be an essential tool to get kids ready to learn before class.

“The program increases focus, self-control, and memory — cognitive skills essential for learning,” Wexler a Yale professor emeritus of psychiatry, said in a statement. “And these are exactly the cognitive skills affected by poverty, so we believe brain-training programs like Activate can help reduce the achievement gaps related to poverty that are seen in schools across the country.”

The funding for the study came from the Roddenberry Foundation, which is led by the son of Gene Roddenberry, the founder of the Star Trek television series.

12-year-old Jeremy Shuler may be the youngest student ever to attend Cornell University when he starts classes there this fall. (Video: The Washington Post)