Answer Man: Something to chew on
Dear Answer Man, here's something I've wondered about for years, and now that students are about to take the MCA achievement tests in schools all over the state, this seems like a good time to ask: Is it true that giving kids spearmint gum while they take the test, or playing classical music, improves their test scores? -- No Name, Please
There may be credible research out there, not financed by Wrigley, that connects chewing minty gum with better test scores, but I've never seen it. A small but well-publicized study at Baylor University, reported last year, noted that eighth-grade students who chewed gum every day during math class scored better on end-of-semester tests than those who didn't. Unfortunately, Wrigley paid for the research (and presumably the gum).
I haven't found any hint that spearmint produces better results than cinnamon, Juicy Fruit or other flavors.
But common sense says that anything that helps a kid to be calm and focused during testing ought to help. Some schools hand out bottled water, bags of nuts with lots of Omega-3 oils, snacks and other inducements to boost brain power on test days. One expert says you shouldn't wear red when you're testing; another says inhaling lavender fragrance helps you to concentrate.
As to whether Bach will boost your test scores, I can't find credible, large-scale research that links a particular type of music with higher achievement during testing. I've seen one study that played various types of music, including heavy metal, for students taking math tests and found little difference in results. But it only makes sense that if gentle music lowers the stress level and puts people at ease, they'll probably produce better results.
I always chew gum and listen to Mozart when I write this column, which explains a lot.
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