Game changer

Area school district first in U.S. to blend neuroscience and gaming in classroom

John Wick from Q-Nureo shows a student at Mineral Springs elementary how to play the game on the iPad with paired headsets that monitors and measures cognitive brainwaves on Monday, September 10, 2018 in Mineral Springs, Arkansas.
John Wick from Q-Nureo shows a student at Mineral Springs elementary how to play the game on the iPad with paired headsets that monitors and measures cognitive brainwaves on Monday, September 10, 2018 in Mineral Springs, Arkansas.

MINERAL SPRINGS, Ark. A small Arkansas school district is not only shaping young minds through the use of technology, it is using it to read them, as well.

Third-graders at Mineral Springs Elementary School are the first students in the nation to use Q-Neuro's MathLab app, which adjusts the iPad game to respond to brain activity recorded through EEG headsets.

Chad Freeman, the district's instructional technology specialist, explained how the system blends medical technology, gaming and education.

"It is a math game that uses their brainwaves to adjust the intensity of the game," he said. "As they struggle, the game gets a little easier. As they get bored or distracted, it gets a little harder and it does it in real time to maintain a certain level of engagement."

Freeman, who's been at the district one year, brought the program to Mineral Springs after meeting Q-Neuro Founder Dr. Dhiraj Jeyanandarajan at the International Society for Technology Conference held in June in Chicago. He said the founder told him about the game and were looking to test in in a classroom.

"As the instructional technology specialist, it's my job to evaluate the effectiveness of technology in classroom," he said. "Seeing as how this is very different than most things you see, my first question to them was 'Where is the research?'"

Freeman invited Q-Neuro to bring the product to Mineral Springs. He is now also the project lead on testing the app.

"I will take the data from the study and remove all personal information and send them the raw data and they will determine how effective it was and what changes need to be made," he said.

Jeyanandarajan, who is a neurologist, said he uses a similar type of technology in real-time monitoring of the nervous system to have better outcomes during medical procedures like surgeries.

"This is just applying the same technology," he said. "The main emphasis of that is we can real-time monitor the brain and be able to tell certain things." He added that the idea for educational video games came from having two young children.

"We just started with elementary school education because I have a vested interest in that, and I have a passion for it," he said. "Everybody thinks they are going and doing something that could maybe be a game changer and that's what this is. It revolutionizes education in the sense that we give teachers a very, very powerful tool that they can use to give extremely and highly personalized learning to that student's brain state as they are learning that material."

Having cutting-edge technology in Arkansas classrooms aligns with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's goals of increasing training in science, technology, engineering and math. In 2015, he signed legislation requiring all high schools to offer coding classes. He also recently announced the Arkansas Department of Education's Computer Science Innovation Grant Program, which will reimburse computer science programs for the cost of curriculum, software licenses, professional development and student incentives. Schools will have the opportunity to compete for grants of $25,000, $20,000 or $7,500.

"This absolutely aligns with STEM education," Freeman said. "This is the exact kind of thing that I think Arkansas schools especially can be a leader." A new K-12 building is under construction on the campus. It will open next year and feature top-notch technology to support the iPads the district will purchase for each student to use, creating 1:1 device learning. All faculty will become Apple certified teachers and have their own iPads, as well.

Christen Bell and Ashton Porter, Mineral Springs third-graders who have both used the system, said they had fun using it.

"It's fun. It's good," Christen said. "We get to learn stuff like rounding, multiplication. I also like to get on it. It's my first time getting on the iPad, so it's really been fun playing it."

Ashton said it was also his first time using an iPad and that he enjoyed the games and switched between a multiplication game with balls to one featuring spaceships.

"It's kinda fun. Then when I saw the rounding, I was like aww this is going to be easy, but then when I saw the spaceships and everything I was like whoa," he said. "This is all a little sciencey at the same time. But then when I started doing it and I was getting all the questions right and stuff I think I was good at this. I would impress myself or something. Me and my friend had a challenge and I won."

Stacey Gauldin, principal of Mineral Springs Elementary, said the system aligns with some of the programs they already have in place to evaluate and fill gaps in knowledge and skill levels.

"We had a lot of success with that last year as far as our ACT Aspire data," she said. "We can see some growth. I feel like this is only going to help with that."

She added that she thought the students would love it because it's so high tech.

"The kids are going to love it because it's so far out as far as the headsets and stuff," she said. "I just think it's on the forefront of things to come."

Jeyanandarajan agreed that this is just the beginning on how the technology can be used.

"The future applications are pretty broad," he said. "You can think of anything that involves learning and so anything you want to learn faster, you want to get better memory transfer, you want to make it stick better, you want to make it more fun by gamifying the learning process, this technology can be used for it."

The app will be available to the general public in the last half of 2020. For more information, go to

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