Can Gambling Games Help Students Learn?

Over the last few decades, gambling has remained one of the most controversial subjects. Before, gambling was restricted to purpose-built establishments known as casinos. Today, in turn, gambling is available 24/7 wherever you are on the internet. People can freely roam the gaming floors (game libraries) of the Royal Vegas Casino, play any game that they want, whenever they want, wherever they are. The game variety of the Royal Vegas exceeds anything that its real life counterparts have to offer. Its online games at are the only ones restricted to real money players, otherwise, any Royal Vegas visitor can play any game there, with no restrictions, not even the need of registering an account. The effects of this wide availability of gambling on society are insufficiently studied, yet it seems that gambling online is an activity far more casual – and inherently more innocent – than land-based gambling. Still, there is enough of controversy still surrounding the subject.

Gambling itself can, in turn, can have positive effects, at least this is what Paul Howard-Jones, professor of neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol has found. He believes that gambling could help students not only assimilate the curriculum easier but students to be much more excited about learning.

Professor Howard-Jones integrated a “wheel of fortune” type game into his classes. He divided his students in teams of three, and each team got a certain amount of points for each good answer. Then, to make things even more interesting, he offered them the chance to spin the wheel for a 50% chance to double their points. During the tests, he monitored the brains of the students, looking for signs of distraction and inattention. And the results were amazing.

During his trials, the areas of the brain indicating distraction and inattention – or “When they stopped thinking about the test they were being asked to do and started thinking about what’s for dinner tonight” – was rarely active. Other areas of the brain, in turn, responsible for more “visceral” pleasures like good food, were lit up during the test. As a result, all 24 students in the group were intensely focused on the task at hand, sometimes even ending up “screaming with excitement”.

Professor Howard-Jones’s “wheel of fortune” method was set to be rolled out to classrooms across the state, with 10,000 year-8 students expected to take part in this larger scale experiment. The professor expects the experiment to work even better in the case of younger children as the system response for risky decisions peak around the age of 13-14 years.

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Ella James is the editorial assistant at The Creators Commune. For all inquiries, please contact info@creatorscommune.com

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