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Lumosity Presents Largest Ever Study of Arithmetic Skill Development in Adolescents and Young Adults

Posted Feb 21 2011 8:07pm

On February 18 and 19, 2011, researchers from Lumos Labs unveiled what we believe to be the largest data set ever presented on arithmetic skill development in adolescents and young adults. The research, presented at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco, CA, demonstrates dramatic improvements in arithmetic skill throughout adolescence with the most rapid development occurring between ages 14-15.

Raindrops Baseline Performance By Age

The data was collected from the Lumosity website using the game Raindrops . Over 440,000 individuals between the ages of 13-21 played at least one game of Raindrops, giving the researchers an opportunity to compare baseline performance across these ages on a basic arithmetic task. In Raindrops, users must rapidly solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems in an engaging, game-like context.

Users improved on baseline performance each year from 13-21.  It is not surprising that adolescents and young adults improved on their ability to rapidly perform basic arithmetic operations across this age range; however, researchers were surprised to find that much of this improvement (44%) occurs in just one year — from age 14 to age 15. By age 17, arithmetic skill development begins to slow considerably.

Ben Katz, Cognitive Game Designer at Lumos Labs and lead author on the study, said, “We found that adolescents dramatically develop their ability to perform basic arithmetic operations across this age range. These dramatic improvements occur despite the fact that the vast majority of students have already been taught these skills in school prior to the age of 13. While many factors no doubt play into this continued development, we are suggesting that developmental improvements in speed of processing and working memory that we know occur throughout this time frame may be critically contributing to improvements in the facility with arithmetic.”

In addition to the baseline results, researchers also looked at a subset of users who completed at least 26 sessions of Raindrops training. They found that users at every age can improve in their ability to perform these arithmetic operations — all ages demonstrated improvements on the task equivalent to at least 1 year of development after 26 sessions. Again, there was a dramatic developmental jump between the ages of 14 and 15. According to Katz, “Everyone from at least the age of 13 seems to benefit from this type of training. We were somewhat surprised to find that 15 year olds improve much more than 14 year olds. This suggests to us that adolescents 13 and younger may be better able to learn math skills if we can augment their basic cognitive abilities in other ways, for example by enhancing speed of processing and working memory with other training tasks on Lumosity. We’d like to extend this research to test this idea rigorously in the near future.”

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