Recently I was invited by Chess In Schools and Communities to talk to them about National Curriculum mathematics and I spent a delightful day with an inspiring group of people. CSC have a project in which a chess tutor works alongside the Y5 teacher for a lesson a week; their task is to teach the children chess and the project will be evaluated to see if there is an effect on the children’s mathematics learning. A separate project at Manchester Metropolitan University has already found some very positive suggestions that Y3 chess-players did substantially better when given a test involving non-verbal reasoning, maths, and problem-solving questions.
There are some areas of the Y5 programme of study where mathematics can clearly draw benefits from chess – co-ordinates, symmetry, translation. Even more obvious are the links with the problem-solving thinking we’re accustomed to call Using And Applying Mathematics, where the current Y5 curriculum requires children to “Solve problems …, Explore puzzles, find / confirm solutions …, Plan and pursue an enquiry …, Explore patterns and relationships, …, Explain reasoning, …”.
I’ve spent a lifetime using games in the classroom, and I suggested that using games offers four main benefits. A game like chess contributes to all four, and the maths classroom will draw particular benefits from the third and the fourth:
…… Games have a socialising value – children need to take turns, win and lose with grace, abide by the rules and the etiquette,
……Games are part of our cultural heritage (chess, cards, dominoes, backgammon, …); and from outside the UK chess itself, and Go, mancala, …. ,
……Games give enjoyment, and an environment in which children can accept high levels of challenge,
……Playing a game requires skills of observation, analysing, forming a plan, asking “What happens if?” These have a very high correlation with the skills used in Using and Applying Mathematics.
You can find out about CSC at http://www.chessinschools.co.uk/
http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects will give you information about the research project.