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.
You may not have come across the Education Endowment Foundation. I’m pretty sure the Secretary of State hasn’t, because otherwise I rather doubt he’d continue to fund it – many of its findings are likely to be unpalatable to him and his colleagues.
In its Toolkit the EEF looks at all the research relating to a number of teaching initiatives and quantifies their effects. The results are given in the form of the amount of the additional months of progress pupils are likely to make in a year as a result of the approach being used in school.
Feedback, and Meta-Cognition and Self-Regulation (“Learning To Learn”), are both capable of adding as much as eight months of progress. One-To-One Tuition is one of a further half-dozen strategies which can produce at least five months’ extra progress in a year.
On the other hand, Extending the School Day, and giving Homework in Primary Schools are among those policies which generate only small benefits, while School Uniform results in no added progress.
Some initiatives actually have negative effects. Using Ability Grouping may result in progress on average being reduced by a month, while requiring students to Repeat A Year has the worst results of all the 30+ strategies surveyed; not only is it an expensive initiative, but after one year, students who are required to repeat are four months behind those who move on.