Playing Smart: The Benefits of Chess for Kids
With National Chess Day being celebrated this Saturday, October 12, it’s a great time to dust off the board or log on for an online chess game. Need some encouragement? Here are five reasons your student should be playing this 1,500-year-old game of strategy and logic.
Playing chess . . .
- Improves concentration and memory. According to studies done at the University of Memphis, playing chess significantly improves children’s visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability. Perhaps that’s because, in chess as in school, concentration and memory go hand in hand.In order to play well, you have to focus completely on your objective—capturing the opponent’s king. As you constantly visualize the board, its pieces, your moves, and your opponent’s every possible countermove, your power of concentration grows. As your concentration grows, it becomes easier to memorize past games and classic strategies. In the process, both concentration and memory grow stronger in a kind of mutually reinforcing “dance.”
- Enhances reading and math skills. With its focus on problem solving and move variables, it’s not surprising that chess can improve a student’s math skills. But numerous studies show that chess improves reading skills as well!In separate multi-year studies of elementary-school-age children in Texas, Los Angeles, New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada, researchers found that students who played chess showed more improvement in reading and/or math assessment scores than their non-chess-playing peers. A Venezuelan study even found that playing chess increased students’ IQs!Why does chess improve reading skills? One researcher, educational psychologist Dr. Stuart Marguilies, suggests that it’s because the cognitive processes for both are similar—requiring decoding, thinking, comprehension, and analysis.
- Fosters logic, critical thinking, and creativity. Chess favors the “if–then” thinker. “If I move here, then my opponent may move here, here, or even here.” That’s logic and critical thinking in action! But studies also show that chess boosts creativity, most dramatically in one specific area—originality.In a four-year study of students in grades 7 to 9, researchers found that playing chess increased original thinking more than two other creativity-training activities did. Why? Researchers theorize that by encouraging students to imagine all possible move alternatives, chess trains the mind to play with possibilities, which is a cornerstone of original thinking.
- Encourages and rewards hard work. Chess offers immediate feedback. Lose your focus, lose a piece. Practice and study the strategies, win more games. In chess, you control your destiny. Or, as Connections Academy’s 2010 Chess Tournament winner Jeremy Coste says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
So, now that you know the benefits of chess, how can you interest your student in the game? Here are a few tips.
Encourage your student to:
- Talk to student chess players to learn why they love the game, or listen in to hear why Connections Academy’s chess champions play!
- Explore the game’s rich history. Bishops, knights, pawns, queens, kings, and castles! The game’s evolution is as fascinating as the battles that unfold on the board.
- Join the club! One of our most popular extracurricular activities, the Connections Academy Chess Club, enables students to learn both basic rules and advanced strategies; play against peers across the country online 24/7; learn from chess experts and grand masters during monthly LiveLesson® sessions; and socialize with other students who share their interests.
Students can even compete in our annual online tournament for a chance to win a trip to Baltimore to play a chess grand master. Check out our club video to learn more!
Having trouble seeing? Try going directly to YouTube.
- And the fifth and best reason of all to play chess? It’s just plain fun!
Are you or is your student a chess player? Tell us what you love about the game in the comments below!