By Sarah Wegner
Over twenty years ago, students caught chewing gum would probably be sent straight to detention. Even today, gum is mostly banned at schools for fear of stickiness and the bubble gum blowers. But a growing body of research shows that chewing gum can be beneficial when it comes to class room skills such as concentration and expansion of memory.
So why are many teachers against letting students chomp away? Let’s take a look. I took a few minutes to talk with some of my teachers to ask a simple question, How do you feel about gum? A few said they don’t have a problem with students chewing gum; they DO have a problem with the trash they choose to leave behind or where they decide to put their gum after they are done chewing it.
Others say that it can cause distraction amongst the class because when a student pulls out a pack of gum someone from the other side of the room wants a piece so they ask for one and then another student asks for one and it sometimes just gets crazy. It can also be a distraction in the way the students chew the gum. Some feel it is okay to smack the flavor out of the gum, but others know how to be responsible and chew with their mouth closed. For the students who don’t, it can be annoying and this could cause a distraction.
We also have the students who will buy the Super Bubble kind of gum and blow bubbles and pop them during a lecture like they are sitting on the couch watching TV.
As most say it is a distraction, or students are irresponsible, recent studies show differently. NBC News tells us how chewing gum for only five minutes will improve memory. It also informs us that chewing it while studying and before a test can improve test scores. Although the effect only lasts up to 20 minutes, 20 minutes is all you need! Chewing gum can speed up test taking skills and time.
Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine found that it was likely that chewing gum would cause students to become less stressed and focused on their academics more. A study was conducted by Baylor with 108 eighth grade students in four math classes where half would chew gum in school and at home doing homework, and the others did not chew gum at all. The students who chewed gum saw an increase in their test scores compared to those who didn’t chew.
Another study tested 224 undergraduates from St. Lawrence University, dividing them into three groups where one chewed gum before and during the test, another chewed gum for five minutes before being tested and a third didn’t chew anything. Then, the researchers gave them a battery of tests to determine their brainpower. Researchers found that the students who chewed five minutes before actually had improved performance on the test, but only for a short period right after chewing. The students who chewed gum while studying also showed an improvement rather than the ones who didn’t not get to chew gum.
Looking at these two studies we can see the students who chewed the gum had higher academic grades and stayed focused while the ones who didn’t have a piece lacked these qualities. Even though it only lasts for about 20 minutes, test scores raised 35% and that’s better than nothing!
Although this doesn’t solve the problems about distractions or gum wrappers everywhere, students started to exceed over and above the kids who didn’t chew the gum. As for the bubble gum blowers, we can teach them how to chew responsibly.