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Chewing gum raises kids' math scores

April 22, 2009 | 11:03 am

Studies have suggested that something about chewing gum reduces stress, improves alertness and relieves anxiety. But most of this research has been found in a laboratory setting. Now, the first study in people also supports the idea that chewing gum boosts academic performance.

Gum The study was conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and was sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute. The study included 108 students, ages 13 to 16, who were assigned to either chew sugar-free gum during math class, while doing math homework and during math tests or to refrain from gum-chewing. After 14 weeks, the students' took a math test and their grades were assessed.

Those who chewed gum had a 3% increase in standardized math test scores and had final math grades that were significantly better than the other students. 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.

"We did not explore the mechanism behind this relationship. However, there is research demonstrating an increase in blood flow in the brain during chewing," the lead author of the study, Dr. Craig Johnston of Baylor college of medicine, said in an e-mail.

The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of Experimental Biology 2009 today in New Orleans.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Aina Cambridge of Lakewood in a 2003 chewing gum contest.

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Comments (35)

Great! Now if we could just get them to throw their old gum in the trash!

I've heard that it helps kids w/ ADD or who have a hard time concentrating. Plus, it's good for ear infections! Helps drain the ear tubes while chewing. Keep it to sugar-free and the kids (and adults!) will be OK.

Hello, i am not surprised that so many people have been doing this lately to help themselves because i am a high school student and i have been doing this since 3rd grade. i am a straight A student and i think gum helped!

I like to chew gum and it does relieve anxiety.

I am curious as to what the margin of error is, since +/-3% is not compelling evidence with a study of 108 people.

Other studies have shown that sitting on inflated balls instead of chairs or standing behind high desks also improve learning. Both require more muscle use than sitting. The basic principal is that some physical motion helps children learn.

funny.. back when I was in highschool, in Mexico, I had a math teacher who always brought us gum during exams, she said it would help us do better. She explained why, but I dont remember now.

Wrigley Science Institute == Wrigley Gum?

First of all, correlation is not causation. Chewing gum while doing math homework is not making students better at math. Doing math homework is making students better at math!!!

And to think, all of my teachers always made students spit out their gum if they were caught chewing it in class...

Did the "Wrigley Science Institute" study the health effects created by students leaving chewed gum under school desks? Oddly that was not a part of the study. My students have to suffer feeling OPG (other people's gum) when they reach for a book under their desk. Why does the LA Times print this obviously biased study which is a thinly veiled attempt to increase gum sales? Tomorrow you can entertain us with something about how increased sugar intake leads to obesity and diabetes. Was that part of the study? No. True the study was done with sugar-free gum, but students don't consume that.

Is the public willing to shell out more tax money for maintenance people to clean desks? No. We are laying off teachers, but don't worry. Who needs teachers when you can chew gum?

People, all this is is some basic psychology.
Muscle memory. By chewing gum while studying, the kids were linking up math with chewing gum. Once the tests came around, they could use the chewing gum as a trigger to have an easier time remembering math.

It's a study trick, albeit a useful one.

We weren't allowed to chew gum in high-school for some reason, I wonder if this would change a few teachers minds.

the test fails to highlight what kind of students it had for the test. May be the people who scored well after chewing the gum are good performers in academics too ?

I wonder if the difference is that the non-chewers are listening to the disgusting gum snapping of the chewers and they are unable to concentrate on their math lessons/tests. It drives me nuts listening to gum snapping and women seem to be the more likely offenders.

Yeah sounds like a placebo effect, granted they may not have known what they were testing - but the very fact that some kids were allowed to chew gum over others, could have given them some confidence in that they had more power than others - and the confidence led to higher scores.

I read year's ago that chewing gum stimulates the release of serotonin, which can play a role in the reported benefits.

I want to know what their alpha level was for doing the experiment. If it is anything other than 5% than they tweaked the experiment to support their hypothesis.

I cheweded 5 sticks of gums and i are berry smart!!

Well I know that this might sound irrational and unsupported. But personally, and I've investigated this myself over my painful couple of years of attempting to study, CHEWING GUM IS AN ACTIVITY WHICH STIMULATES THE MIND. Have you ever had those days where you are infront of a textbook, attempting to complete one page (if you are fortunate) of excruciating problems. The level of boredom and lack of interest into the matter of subject leaves you with a 'dull mind' where you are unable to absorb the information being fed to you.

The gum, or any other passive ambient side activity for that matter, for some time communicates to me that the information being fed is actual information rather than junk that we humans have developed so absolutely to filter out in nature.

This is the sole reason why some people I know have their favourite radio station in the background as they study, or have snacks to keep alert. I mean sure the snacks provide energy, but its the activity that keeps people alert. Previous studies have shown that a certain chemical responsible to the aid of mental alert [quote me on the chemical which I do not recall] are released through the bloodstream more effectively through excercise, that is repeated sets of bodily movements.

Well. If you kept up with me to this stage, then I know you either:
1) Empathised with my scenario
2) You wanted to consider my idea
or 3) You wanted to critically judge my perspective and burn it to the ground.

Either way, I find it really difficult to study without my MP3 on half of its maximum volume with me for the ambience. I literally fall asleep as I read my english novel for the topic of interest differs to mine far what I could have imagined. The only thing to keep me awake is that nice MP3. But hey, it could just be me.

Well, a friend once told me:
" So next time you go into that exam, remember that you've studied calculus [not saying that it's hard, for it's rather easy] by listening to your favourite song, Taylor Swift is nice b.t.w., and you are more able to remember what you have learned. "

Then again, it could all just be a placebo. But that certain placebo nonetheless is improving grades is it not?

I also agree, tweaking experiments might be a possibility.

But you've got to consider this about them, what are their motives in tweaking.

1) Scientists are really weak on reasoning to tweak experiments as they have a reputation to uphold and a certain methodology which is able to be repeated

2) Kids can only control their scores to a certain extent.

You actually would have to know the scores of the child and their overall performance rates to judge whether the child has improved or not in this scenario.
But "Tweaking to support hypothesis" insinuates that the scientists would have tweaked it to 'support their investigation claim for beneficial reasons unknown to us'. Unlikely in my opinion. Or rather very stupid, considering it's been noted in the media and the investigation is now prone to critical analysis by others.

I do not believe this if you say video games can make you smart I'd say that's true but a chewing gum?? I see no connections between being smart in chewing a gum

Oliver Beckwith sounds like a horrible teacher. Lighten up

II think it is great that some of the scores improved in math scores, however I think lots of scores could improve if the kids chew gum. I think everyone should chew gum it relaxes you, and keeps you off edge. People have to be responsible for where they put their gum(trash) when their done with it. I did my own study for a year chewing cinnamon gum. I had to talk for 8 hrs straight 5 days a week to thousands of people. In their face up close and personable. I did not get sick or lose my voice during that time. It was not sugarless gum and I won't mention the manufacture, but this seems to work. I think this study needs to be focused on more the then test scores. Wouldn't that be nice if the kids got better scores on their test and didn't get everyone in their family sick, by bringing all those germs home from school.

The Pen Man

I think this is a wonderful study and the results are surprising to me. As a teacher I will definitely be giving students gum in class( as long as it ends up in the trash and not on the floor or under desk).



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