Chess Is Making a Comeback in Education

Chess Makes a Comeback in Education

The Common Core Standards were developed to help students achieve several common goals — including building their problem-solving and analytical skills. As students are encouraged to think more deeply and critically in order to prepare them for future careers, a new trend has occurred. While widely popular in the 1970s and ’80s, the game of chess seemed to lose its appeal in the ’90s and early 2000s as computer games grew in popularity. That is now changing. According to Education News, chess is back in, as educators begin to recognize the educational benefits of the game.

Jay Stallings, a United Chess Federation Scholastic Committee member, praises chess for being a “natural fit with Common Core, which preaches going deep with knowledge and applying it. With chess, you’re thinking five and seven moves deep.” In addition to the game’s focus on these higher level thinking skills, chess can also bring students together and help the less athletic students feel connected and involved. Similar to sports, when students are part of a chess team, they represent their schools in positive ways. Their achievements are publicly recognized, which builds self-esteem and school spirit.

Lewis B. Cullman, who is known for his generous philanthropy and who also happens to be a chess supporter, recently donated $1 million to the nonprofit organization Chess in the Schools so that chess can have an impact on inner city students. Established in 1986, this organization has been working with New York City Title I schools to encourage the problem-solving skills that students need to be truly successful. With a focus on academic skills and self-esteem, the organization has a very specific vision for its alumni:

Be analytic thinkers
Be motivated learners
Be critical problem solvers
Think before they move
Take pride in their accomplishments
Be graceful winners AND losers

In addition to aligning with the purpose of the Common Core, these goals are also ones that every educator would want for their students.

The nonprofit also presents some highly compelling arguments for why chess should be brought into schools. In the Why Chess section of the website, the organization discusses two 1991 and 1996 studies conducted by Stuart M. Margulies, PhD that show how underperforming fourth and fifth grade students made significant gains on standardized tests after becoming involved in chess — their problem-solving skills greatly improved.

Their non-chess playing peers showed no gains over time. A New Brunswick, Canada, study conducted by Louise Gaudreau found that fifth grade students greatly improved in the problem-solving section of standardized tests — from an average of 62 percent to 81.2 percent over a three-year period of being involved in a chess and problem-solving education program.

The beauty of chess is that it is an inexpensive game and any teacher can successfully incorporate it in the classroom. The World Chess Federation is an excellent resource for educators anywhere who are interested in bringing chess into the classroom. In addition to current research and news, the organization’s website has a “Teaching Materials” section that offers teachers’ guides, class books and even tutorials for educators who do not know how to play chess. Educators who wish to introduce the game of chess to their students certainly do not need to play like Bobby Fischer. Even the most novice chess player can enrich students’ lives with this game.

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