Chess Improves Academic Performance

The game of Chess has long been recognized throughout the world as a builder of strong intellects. But only recently have educators begun to recognize its ability to improve the cognitive abilities, rational thinking and reasoning of even the least promising children.

Many studies have confirmed that game of chess promotes logical thinking, instills a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and improves communication and pattern recognition skills. It also teaches the values of hard work, concentration, objectivity, and commitment.

In Marina, California, an experiment with the game of chess indicated that after only 20 days of instruction, students’ academic performance improved dramatically. George L Stephenson, chairman of the Marina JHS math department, reported that 55% of students showed significant improvement in academic performance after this brief smattering of learning how to play the game of chess.

Similarly, a 5-year study of 7th and 8th graders by Robert Ferguson of the Bradford, PA showed that test scores improved 173% for students regularly engaged in Chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of “enrichment activities” including Future Problem Solving, games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Problem Solving with Computers, independent study, and creative writing. And a Watson-Glaser Thinking Appraisal evaluation showed overwhelmingly that the game of chess improved critical thinking skills more than the other methods of enrichment.

The Roberto Clemente School in New York report that the game of chess has improved not only academic scores, but social performance as well. In 1988, Joyce Brown, an assistant principal and supervisor of the school’s Special Education department, and teacher Florence Mirin began studying the effect of the game of chess on their Special Education students. When the study began, they had 15 children enrolled in chess classes; two years later they had 398. “The effects have been remarkable,” Brown says. “Not only have the reading and math skills of these children soared, their ability to socialize has increased substantially, too. Our studies have shown that incidents of suspension. and outside altercations have decreased by at least 60% since these children became interested in the game of chess.”

64 Squares to Academic Success

Jody Braswell writes (April, 2008): “During the past few years I have had the opportunity to introduce the game of chess on our elementary campus. I am a firm believer that all students need to be provided the opportunity to learn the game. Initially, however, I was not convinced whether or not I believed the “boast” that a thorough understanding of the game of chess would boost academic grades and test scores.  I decided to do a little study of my own. What I found was that three correlations could be attributed to those students who received consistent chess instruction.

  • The first, demonstrates how students gain self-confidence as they learn the game fo chess. This self-confidence is not just in playing the game of chess, but also is evident in their everyday life.
  • The second, is related but goes much deeper. Students who participate in chess tend to build a sense of intrinsic motivation. This motivation gives them the strength and courage to reach out, to participate in more programs whether school related or extracurricular. Shy students tend to become leaders.
  • The third correlation proved that student test scores and academic progress was enhanced due to the critical thinking skills they learned from the game of chess.”

The Case for the Game of Chess as a Tool to Develop Our Children’s Minds

In July, 2000, Dr Peter Dauvergne from the University of Sydney, wrote a research paper based upon educational and psychological studies examining the benefits for children of studying and playing the game of chess. His paper concluded that chess can:

  • Raise intelligence quotient (IQ) scores
  • Strengthen problem solving skills, teaching how to make difficult and abstract decisions independently
  • Enhance reading, memory, language, and mathematical abilities
  • Foster critical, creative, and original thinking
  • Provide practice at making accurate and fast decisions under time pressure, a skill that can help improve exam scores
  • Teach how to think logically and efficiently, learning to select the ‘best’ choice from a large number of options
  • Challenge gifted children while potentially helping underachieving gifted students learn how to study and strive for excellence
  • Demonstrate the importance of flexible planning, concentration, and the consequences of decisions
  • Reach boys and girls regardless of their natural abilities or socio-economic backgrounds

Given these educational benefits, Dr. Dauvergne concludes that the game of chess is one of the most effective teaching tools to prepare children for a world increasingly swamped by information and ever tougher decisions.

How to get students started in the game of chess?

There are a variety of ways to get started – chess books for students learning the game of chess, chess magazines, chess organizations and chess clubs (many are free).  Getting a teacher to start a chess club at school is another way to get students involved in learning and playing the game of chess.  You can play against computers or dedicated chess games and you can even play online against real competition – though this needs to be monitored for obvious reasons.

So get started – buy a book that teaches you how to play the game of chess, buy a chess computer program, subscribe to a chess magazine, join a chess organization. And watch your academic performance improve!!!

Sources for most of the above:  New York City Schools Chess Program by Christine Palm, copyright 1990, the Chess in Education web site and Dr. Dayvergbe’s artcile

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