The Exploring Logic class utilizes the game of chess as a vehicle to enhance logical thinking skills. However, in spite of its name, the class accomplishes much more than that.
So here is my response to anyone who has ever asked, “All you do is play chess?”
Across the curriculum, chess utilizes and strengthens higher level thinking skills including decoding, pattern recognition, comprehending, and analyzing. It also develops the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time, demonstrates that actions have immediate consequences, and teaches children to take responsibility for their decisions.
During game play, students develop socializing skills, sportsmanship, and etiquette.
The benefits of learning and playing chess are available to every student regardless of gender, socio-economic background, or learning style. It engages both hemispheres of the brain as it combines left-directed thinking skills involving analysis and logical decision making with right-directed skills such as spatial reasoning and holistic problem solving. Good players must combine logical thinking with imagination and creativity.
In specific content areas, research supports that chess enhances reading performance, probably due to its reliance on decoding, pattern recognition, and increased ability to concentrate.
In science, chess develops scientific thinking. Just playing the game requires students to generate several possible moves, evaluate and predict their possible outcomes, and interpret the results. A player decides on a hypothesis, makes her move, and tests it.
In math, chess develops a multitude of skills such as spatial reasoning, coordinate geometry, comparing and ordering values and calculation.
Here are just a few 6th Grade GLCEs that are met by playing chess:
Sixth Grade Math:
N.FL.06.09 Add and multiply integers between -10 and 10; subtract and divide integers using the related facts.
How? Chess uses a point system to give a relative value to each piece. Players are constantly calculating “how many points” are on the board as measure of who has a material advantage at any given point in the game.
A.RP.06.02 Plot ordered pairs of integers and use ordered pairs of integers to identify points in all four quadrants of the coordinate plane.
How? A chess board is a coordinated plane. Horizontal “ranks” are numbered 1 to 8 (y-axis), and vertical “files” are lettered a to h (x-axis). All instruction and game study relies on knowing the “name” (ordered pair) of each square on the board.
A.F.O.06.03 Use letters, with units, to represent quantities in a variety of contexts, e.g. y lbs., k minutes, x cookies.
M.UN.06.01 Convert between basic units of measurement within a single measurement system
How? Chess uses a scoring system to give a relative value to each piece based on how many pawns they are worth. Bishops and Knights are equal to 3 pawns (B=3p), Rooks are worth five (R=5p), and the Queen is worth 9 (Q=9p). Players monitor their performance by keeping a running tally in their heads on whether they are ahead or behind “in material.”
G.TR.06.03 Understand the basic rigid motions in the plane (reflections, rotations, translations), relate these to congruence, and apply them to solve problems.
How? Each chess piece has set (rigid) rules for how it moves across the plane of the chess board. Visualizing all of the available moves for a given piece requires the ability to understand and apply rotations especially. Also, several basic checkmate patterns translate and rotate to other areas of the chess board depending on how the game develops.
Sixth Grade Science:
S.IP.06.16 Identify patterns in data.
How? The difference between an average chess player and a very strong chess player is pattern recognition. All chess planning, calculation, and tactics are based on recognizing patterns that tend to repeat themselves over the playing of many games.
S.RS.06.11 Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of claims, arguments, and data.
How? After every move in a chess game, players must evaluate both their own position and their opponent’s to evaluate the strength and weakness of the positions. Every piece on the board claims a definite space and threatens the space around it.
Again, that’s just a sample. We also take time to study the origins of the game and its spread across Asia and Europe which covers additional GLCEs in social studies; and we design and create diagrams of our own chess sets.
So don’t let the name fool you. In ten weeks, students will learn a game that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives while improving skills that will benefit their academic growth across the curriculum.
If you have any questions, please use the contact information in the right side bar to share them with me. Comments can be made below.
More Good Stuff:
Brooklyn Castle – Website for the documentary exploring the success of the chess program at a predominantly below poverty middle school in Brooklyn, NY.
Elizabeth Speigel Interview – Reflections on the relationship between chess and learning from the chess teacher at IS 318, the middle school that is the subject of Brooklyn Castle.