Students feeling intimidated by algebraic equations and the like take heart. A study shows that chewing gum can help you.
In a research conducted at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, US it was found that students who chewed gum during math class had higher scores on a standardized math test after 14 weeks and better grades at the end of the term than students in the class who did not chew gum. Teachers observed that those who chewed gum seemed to require fewer breaks, sustain attention longer and remain quieter.
Just how chomping gum helps kids crunch numbers is not quite clear. The study, funded by chewing gum maker Wrigley, was presented at the Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2009 in New Orleans.
The researchers at Baylor studied four math classes or 108 students aged 13 to 16 years old from a school that serves mostly low-income Hispanic students.
About half got free Wrigley's sugar-free gum to chew during class, homework and tests. They chewed at least one stick of gum 86 percent of the time they were in math class and 36 percent of the time they were doing homework.
The other half went without.
After 14 weeks, the gum chewers had a three percent increase in their math scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills achievement test, a small but statistically significant change.
They found no difference in math scores between the two groups in another test called the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement. However, the gum-chewers did get better final grades in the class than their non-chewing peers.
Another Wrigley-funded study found that college students in a lab who were given difficult computer tasks had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they were chewing gum compared to when they were not.
"For the first time we've been able to show in a real-life kind of situation that students did perform better when they were allowed to chew," said Gil Leveille, executive director of the Wrigley Science Institute, a research arm of Wm Wrigley Jr, which is now a part of Mars.
Leveille said Wrigley has gotten feedback from many of its gum customers who say chewing gum helps them stay focussed.
So, four years ago the company started the science institute to see if some of these claims have merit.
Leveille told Reuters that perhaps chewing gum helped reduce stress so students could do their best work. And while he is aware that many schools have a dim view of students chewing gum in class, he hopes the findings may change that a bit.
"It's not a matter of chewing. It's a matter of gum disposal," Leveille said, adding that that can be overcome by teaching proper disposal behaviours.