D&D Dad: What kids can learn from playing D&D

I recently read an article that reinforced everything I’ve learned about playing D&D for the past year, and I had to share it with you here.

Here’s the quote that’s at the heart of this article:

For Kade Wells, the teacher who runs the club at Davis Ninth Grade School outside Houston, the answer is simple: “Playing Dungeons & Dragons makes you smarter.”

The article is titled How ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Primes Students for Interdisciplinary Learning, Including STEM, and it was published by KQED. Let’s dive into all the amazing information in this article and its research!

Not directly related to the article, but the cover fits!

I enjoyed watching my two sons as they first learned the basics of the game bit by bit, and then I really enjoyed seeing them get immersed in the game: studying the different features of the various races and classes, learning how to “level up” the skills of their characters after getting more experience points, and coming up with their own maps and adventures. When they started picking up the books on their own, and reading the Players Handbook or the Monster Manual at night instead of their usual novels and comics, I knew they were hooked.

I knew that playing the game would really help my kids hone their problem-solving skills and also encourage them to work collaboratively. But I didn’t realize all of the other great things the game was teaching them.

Let me share some great quotes from the article with you (the bolding is mine):

Studies have shown that the highly social and collaborative nature of the popular fantasy role-playing game cultivates a range of social-emotional skills, which can lay the foundation for improved learning. In addition to these crucial soft skills, teachers and professors who have used the game also claim it directly benefits core academic competencies.

I’ve found that my two sons talk to us more after a year of playing D&D, and not just about the game. They’ve gotten comfortable talking to adults after playing with a group of kids and adults together. I also think they’ve become more comfortable being leaders with their friends and in the classroom, because they’ve working collaboratively in a small group, coming up with creative solutions to problems, and testing out their on-the-fly hypotheses.


“Participation in narrative role play can open up interests in topics such as mathematics, science, history, culture, ethics, critical reading, and media production. When D&D and its cousins are played in an inviting, encouraging, compassionate, and intellectually engaged environment, play opens the door to truly amazing possibilities for learning.”

Wow. I just… wow.

But it all makes sense, if you think about it. There are a bunch of mechanics involved in simply creating a character, and while kids aren’t doing Calculus while fighting dragons, they are balancing a ton of different statistics and rules in their head more or less without even thinking about it.

They’re also exploring another culture through the game, and learning the right and wrong ways to act in different situations. They have to listen closely for clues, just to keep their characters alive in the game. And when they say “media production,” I’m guessing that means making maps, illustrating characters, studying images and other “clues” that make up the game.

So now, check out this amazing quote, which discusses all the areas kids learn more about just by playing this game:

Geography from maps, recursive math from die rolling and adding/subtracting modifiers, philosophy, logic from the ever-present need for decision making, science in regards to the ecology of an environment, the weather, the climate of different terrains, as well as many scientific details learned from monsters, which were almost all taken from mythology or reality in one way or another,” said Wells, cataloging what his kids learn from the game.

Math is constant, and completely necessary to play the game,” said Wells.

D&D is fundamentally a numbers game, and players must consult charts and tables to modify their rolls of dice, and calculate everything from currency exchanges to their projected experience points.

Who would’ve thought that by traveling to distant lands, meeting curious and almost-alien non-player characters, and battling greedy goblins and orcs would be so good for you? I guess there really is magic in those dice, am I right?

Finally, I found a couple other great articles at the same website, and the author of this article has another. I’ll leave you with a quote from that article (Leveraging the Lore of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ to Motivate Students to Read and Write) as food for thought:

Dungeons & Dragons is a gateway drug to reading,” said York University professor Ian Slater, who runs Dungeons & Dragons campaigns for schools and events. “Children who do not read regularly or read for pleasure will start reading the gaming books almost as soon as they sit down, and they carry that outside of the game.”

I can’t tell you how great that quote makes me feel… Happy gaming!

DnDDadThanks for reading! If you’re enjoying this blog, feel free to take a look at my books at UnWrecked Press and Amazon. If something I wrote here improved your gaming experience or you just want to say thanks, buy a book or two!

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