McNair Scholar 2018 Cristaly Mercado

Cristaly Mercado is majoring in Special Education at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include using games as an intervention for adolescents who struggle with reading and the experiences of students with Emotional Behavioral Disorders. She hopes to get a Ph.D. in Urban Education or Educational Psychology.

Cristaly Mercado headshot
My dream is to help teachers make school fun for all of their students, especially Black, Latinx and Disabled students. I want to do this through teacher education and in school research.

Research project

Commercial Card Games Improve Middle School Students' Executive Functioning

Abstract: Academic standards are calling for more rigorous academic experiences while developmental, cognitive, and educational psychologists are calling for more time for play and creativity. Middle school science instruction is more likely to require higher order thinking skills that are linked to executive functioning. This paper presents a study that integrates academic and play experiences by exploring whether card games can support executive functions involved in middle school science learning. Students completed measures of the shifting, inhibiting, and updating executive functions and then played four games that targeted these abilities. Findings show that after the game play experiences, students had increased executive function capacity for measures of shifting, but not measures of inhibiting

Faculty mentor

Dr. Keisha Varma leads projects that examine the role of executive functions in scientific reasoning and the use interactive visualizations to support science learning. She is also interested in examining how to use digital and board games to support science learning by providing opportunities for middle school students to engage in scientific practices and practice critical thinking skills related to science learning. Current studies in her lab are exploring the relationship between executive function, hypothetico-deductive reasoning exhibited in board games and scientific reasoning.