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The Benefits of Chess in Education By John Saade

The Benefits of Chess in
Education By John Saade

The beauty of Chess is that when it is utilized with these children they are actually developing the parts of the brain that are directly linked to problem solving, deductive reasoning, focusing and concentration, the same exact skills that we are trying to promote through the teaching of more reading, more math, and more writing.  What is significant here is that children do not view Chess as a teaching tool.

I often like to compare the effects of Chess on a child’s ability to succeed in other areas of life to the movie The Karate Kid. When Mr. Miyagi, played by Noriyuki Morita, engages Daniel LaRusso, played by Ralph Macchio, in around the house chores (painting the fence, waxing cars…), he is preparing Daniel physically in the martial arts without Daniel even knowing it. What eventually happens is that Daniel’s engagement in these chores is actually a backdoor plan by Mr. Miyagi to enhance Daniel’s karate prowess. The engagement of Chess plays a similar role when it comes to helping children develop and strengthen their minds for academic, social, and intra-personal purposes

Academically, Chess has the ability to foster and promote such skills as:* Pattern recognition: * Sequencing:     * Memory skills:     * Planning:     * Enhanced decision-making skills: Children learn from their mistakes and correct them, just as we all do in real life situations; * Problem solving: The Chess player is constantly engaged in solving problems on the Chessboard, thus generalizing those problem-solving skills across their academic environment, as well as real life situations.
* Analyzing and evaluating: The Chess player takes his/her time analyzing and evaluating what moves will benefit him/her, thus allowing for more positive decisions to be made. Moreover, this aspect of Chess playing helps to reduce instances of impulsivity due to the child taking his/her time to make the best move possible.

Socially, Chess has the ability to foster and promote such skills as: * Turn taking:* Good sportsmanship:  * Positive peer interactions: * Competition: Chess allows children to experience success and a healthy concept of winning, thus helping to elicit high levels of achievement in all areas of life.
Intra-personally, Chess has the ability to develop an array of skills such as: * Patience: * Elevation of self-esteem: * Perseverance: Chess play offers the opportunity to promote the importance of never giving up and sticking to the task at hand.

One-teacher comments:
I remember Maurice in the beginning of the year. He wasn’t very talkative and didn’t have a smile on his face. Once he started learning chess, it seemed to give him a new found peace of self-esteem. He smiled a lot and challenged classmates and it seemed to have a profound impact on his sociability. I also think chess was great for him because finally there was something that could motivate him to do his work and comply with rules. Maurice was a hard kid to reach but chess grabbed hold and wouldn’t let him go.

On a personal note, I was an At-Risk child. Because of my education, as well as my experience, I am quite certain that I had, and may still have, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I hated school. It was quite a burden for me. My highest math course was Math 3-4- your basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division course.

I think I received a D in the course, as well as my other classes. The math teacher basically read the newspaper while the kids in the classroom shot spitballs at each other and got into fights. Fortunately, my life didn’t end in that classroom. I eventually went to college in hopes of pursuing bigger and better things. Being an At-Risk student, I didn’t quite realize the challenges that awaited me in college. In order for me to have moved on to my major, I needed to complete two years of math.

Therefore, my first math course was the basic math, which I did fairly well in. However, when I got into Algebra I fell apart. I simply couldn’t understand it. Because of my inability to understand, I withdrew from the class three times. After these failed attempts, I began to play Chess for several hours a day. I began to realize that playing that intensely was strengthening my mind to a degree that was quite noticeable, at least to me.

That fall, I went back to that Algebra class and realized that something just clicked. I began doing those math problems backwards! It was amazing. It was obvious to me that playing Chess for several hours a day really increased my ability to think in ways I never have. I was able to put things on the back burner, so to speak. Because of that experience, I was truly convinced that Chess had helped me become a stronger thinker.

My success in Algebra, as well as college, may also be due to the fact that I also became more patient. Playing Chess forced me to think things out before I made my move. This is similar to children with impulsivity problems. It forces them to contemplate; therefore, forcing them to take their time and, without realizing it, develop a very valuable skill.

John Saade, age 40 is a Teacher/Counselor for the Positive Education Programin Cleveland, Ohio. He has a degree in English Literature and an Education degree for grades 7-12. He lives in Lakewood, Ohio with his wife and three children. John teaches Chess to all the children he comes in contact with throughout his teaching career. He also enjoys playing the flute (Jethro Tull style), playing volleyball, writing, reading and inventing new ideas.

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