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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Addictive Math Video Games Come to Texas Classrooms

By Carole Hornsby Haynes , Ph.D. August 22, 2018

Texas Education Agency (TEA) is implementing math video games to its blended learning programs in district and open charter schools for grades pre-K through 8. Why is TEA ignoring the volumes of research about addictive video games?

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, clinical psychologist and one of the nation's foremost experts on addiction, finds that video games and screen technologies affect the brain the same way as cocaine. Working with more than 1,000 teen patients, Kardaras found it much harder to treat tech addicts than heroin and crystal meth addicts. He believes that video games in general, and especially classroom video games, are really a digital drug.

Commander Dr. Andrew Doan, a recovering video game addict and head of Addiction Research for the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon, says the entire focus of the gaming industry is to make games as stimulating and arousing to children as possible because that amplifies the addictive effect and sells more games.

TEA has approved four online math vendors for its 2018-2019 Math Innovation Zones programs. The vendors’ websites leave no doubt that their software is designed to stimulate children and offer prizes/incentives. 

IXL “offers hours of intrigue with vibrant visuals, interactive questions, and exciting prizes”

Imagine Math – “student earns points toward meeting classroom goals, donating to charity, or customizing their avatars”

Reasoning Mind – (now Imagine Math) - “animated characters, and built-in incentives”

ST Math- “The very experience of solving tantalizingly tricky puzzles is intrinsically motivating. In doing so, students develop a conditioned response that drives them to take on the next challenge with energy and enthusiasm.”

TEA justifies its use of digital math with claims that, “The use of blended learning programs across the state has led to dramatic improvements in both student and teacher focused outcomes, particularly with regard to closing the achievement gap between students.”

Where is the quantitative proof of this claim?

Notice the current education reform buzzword in the TEA statement: “outcomes.”

With this latest education reform of math video games, we can definitely expect certain outcomes but they won’t be dramatic improvements.

First, the 2015 report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that heavy users of classroom technology performed worse on math and reading tests.

Texas public school students, who are being fed a daily diet of Common Core-aligned math and will now get a diet of digital video games, can be expected to continue poor academic performance.

Second, attention spans, which are already in the tank, will just grow worse with more digital screen time.

Edtech companies are pushing video games into American classrooms, claiming that students need video games since they can’t focus for more than five minutes with traditional academic instruction.

Never mind that research shows long term skimming of online information, coupled with interactive distractions, has resulted in lower comprehension.

Third, screen addiction is a rapidly growing problem among digital device users. Children under 10 are especially susceptible to screen addiction. The new Texas digital math curriculum is being pushed on to four-year-olds.

Why are antsy four-year-olds who can’t tie their shoes sitting still in front of a glowing screen instead of learning through physical and creative playing? They already have very short attention spans which will grow shorter with digital video games.

Fourth, we can expect more mental health issues as student screen time is increased. Two hundred peer-reviewed studies have connected screen time to increased ADHD, increased aggression, anxiety, screen addiction, depression, and even psychosis.

Governor Greg Abbott’s Safe School & Firearms Plan is supposed to find solutions to the mental health and physical safety issues in schools. Yet bureaucrats continue to create conditions and programs in public classrooms that cause mental health problems.

Silicon Valley executives send their kids to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula which bans computers. The school’s website states that electronic entertainment can negatively influence the emotional and physical development and learning of children and adolescents.

Perhaps Texas bureaucrats are more concerned with playing lucrative political games than the emotional and physical development and learning of Texas children?

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