Chewing Gum Makes Teens Smarter
This is the news my 6-year-old has been waiting for: Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found that chewing gum in class makes kids smarter.
The study, which was conducted by the Wrigley Science Institute, a research arm of the Wm Wrigley Jr Co -- you know, the Wrigley's Gum people -- followed 108 students between the ages of 13 and 16. The students were in one of four math classes in a Houston area charter school with a population composed mostly of low-income Hispanic students. Half of the students were given Wrigley's sugar free gum to chew (both in class and while they did homework) while the other half got nothing.
At the end of the 14 week period, researchers reported that the students who chewed while they added exhibited a three percent change in their scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills achievement test. That's a small number, but it's statistically significant (you would know that if you had chewed gum in math class).
So what's the correlation between chewing gum and learning math? According to Gil Leveille, executive director of the Wrigley Science Institute, it's simple: Chewing reduces stress, which lowers levels of cortisol in the body. And kids who are less stressed learn better.
Will schools be jumping on the chew-while-you-learn bandwagon any time soon? That's doubtful, not because the science here is bad, but because kids are notorious for sticking their used gum under desks and chairs, which makes a disgusting mess. But if we're really serious about finding creative ways to help kids learn, it might be time to rethink the age-old no gum policy. Leveille has a solution: "We'll have to provide the janitors with scrapers."
I think the idea that a mindless activity might help kids focus is a good one -- rememeber the studies that said listening to classical music helped with memorization? But this study seems to walk a fine line between giving kids an academic boost and encouraging junk food consumption. What do you think? Would you let your kid chew gum in school?
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.