makes kids smart
Chess is a classic
game of strategy, invented more than 1500 years ago in India. Inthe
centuries since its invention, chess has spread to every country
in the world. In the United States, it has received endorsement
by many educators, ranging from Benjamin Franklin to former U.S.
Secretary of Education, Terrell Bell. The word is out: Chess improves
logical thinking skills. Studies demonstrate that math and reading
scores improve when students learn chess. Thousands of children
are involved in chess clubs, many local, state and national tournaments
draw from 300 up to over 2000 children each year, and top scholastic
players can earn both partial and full scholarships to many colleges
Why Offer Chess
By Chessmaster Jerry Meyers
We have brought chess to the schools because we believe it directly
contributes to academic performance. Chess makes kids smarter. It
does so by teaching the following skills:
- Focusing - Children are taught
the benefits of observingcarefully and concentrating. If they
don't watch what is happening, they can't respond to it, no matter
how smart they are.
- Visualizing - Children are prompted
to imagine a sequence of actions before
it happens. We actually strengthen the ability to visualize by
them to shift the pieces in their mind, first one, then several
- Thinking Ahead - Children
are taught to think first, then act. We teach them to ask themselves "If
I do this, what might happen then, and how can I respond?" Over
time, chess helps develop patience and thoughtfulness.
- Weighing Options - Children
are taught that they don't have to do the first thing that pops
into their mind. They learn to identify alternatives and consider
the pros and cons of various actions.
- Analyzing Concretely - Children
learn to evaluate the results of specific actions and sequences.
Does this sequence help me or hurt me? Decisions are better when
guided by logic, rather than impulse.
- Thinking Abstractly - Children
are taught to step back periodically from details and consider
the bigger picture. They also learn to take patterns used in one
context and apply them to different, but related situations.
- Planning - Children are taught
to develop longer range goals and take steps toward bringing them
about. They are also taught of the need to reevaluate their plans
as new developments change the situation.
- Juggling Multiple Considerations Simultaneously -Children
are encouraged not to become overly absorbed in any one consideration,
but to try to weigh various factors all at once.
None of these skills are specific to
chess, but they are all part of the game. The beauty of chess as
a teaching tool is that it stimulates children's minds and helps
them to build these skills while enjoying themselves. As a result,
children become more critical thinkers, better problem solvers, and
more independent decision makers.
These conclusions have been backed up by educational research. Studies
have been done in various locations around the United States and
Canada, showing that chess results in increased scores on standardized
tests for both reading and math. A study on a large scale chess program
in New York City, which involved more than 100 schools and 3,000
children, showed higher classroom grades in both English and Math
for children involved in chess.
Studies in Houston, Texas and Bradford, Pennsylvania showed chess
leads to higher scores on the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal
and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.
In the schools, chess often serves as a bridge, bringing together
children of different ages, races and genders in an activity they
can all enjoy.
Chess helps build individual friendships and also school spirit when
children compete together as teams against other schools. Chess also
teaches children about sportsmanship - how to win graciously and
not give up when encountering defeat. For children with adjustment
issues, there are
many examples where chess has led to increased motivation, improved
behavior, better self-image, and even improved attendance. Chess
provides a positive social outlet, a wholesome recreational activity
that can be easily learned and enjoyed at any age.
Why does chess have this impact?
Why did chess players score higher on the Torrance Tests of Creative
Thinking as well as the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal?
Briefly, there appear to be at least seven significant factors:
1 ) Chess
accommodates all modality strengths.
2) Chess provides a far greater quantity of problems for practice.
3) Chess offers immediate punishments and rewards for problem solving.
4) Chess creates a pattern or thinking system that, when used faithfully,
breeds success. The chess-playing students had become accustomed
to looking for more and different alternatives, which resulted in
higher scores in fluency and originality.
5) Competition. Competition fosters interest, promotes mental alertness,
challenges all students, and elicits the highest levels of achievement
6) A learning environment organized around games has a positive affect
on students’ attitudes toward learning. This affective dimension
acts as a facilitator of cognitive achievement (Allen & Main,
1976). Instructional gaming is one of the most motivational tools
in the good teacher’s repertoire. Children love games. Chess
motivates them to become willing problem solvers and spend hours
quietly immersed in logical thinking. These same young people often
cannot sit still for fifteen minutes in the traditional classroom.
7) Chess supplies a variety and quality of problems. As Langen (1992)
states: “The problems that arise in the 70-90 positions of
the average chess game are, moreover, new. Contexts are familiar,
themes repeat, but game positions never do. This makes chess good
grist for the problem-solving mill.