Teaching chess in schools offers a ton of benefits for students, and can potentially provide a fantastic addition to most curriculums. Whether taught in the classroom, as part of a club, or as an optional after-school activity, the more schools that offer chess instruction, the more students who will be able to master the many skills that chess helps develop.
Chess is an international sport enjoyed by students all over the world in both competitive and non-competitive environments. From kindergarten all the way through senior year, bringing chess into the classroom means offering more opportunity for those who are interested in learning—and excelling—at numerous cognitive abilities.
There are lots of reasons to play chess, and many of them are closely tied to the objectives of K-12 education. In-person or remote, here are some of the ways that teaching chess in school can help benefit students.
The Benefits of Playing Chess in School
Every school has its own unique approach to instruction. What all schools have in common, however, is a shared desire to provide students with as many avenues as possible for developing mental acuity and cognitive reasoning skills. The better we think, the better we learn—and the better suited we are for life outside of the classroom. And in all instances, chess can play a big role in furthering these important objectives.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of offering chess instruction at school:
1. It helps with concentration and focus. Keeping kids on track can be difficult. But chess is invariably a game of focus, and playing the game, even if just for 30 minutes at a time, can help sharpen those skills and enable students to concentrate better in other subjects as well.
2. It’s linked with better reading comprehension. There isn’t any reading involved in playing chess, and yet a study of a New York City school chess program found that students who played chess outperformed the average student in both their district and in the country when it came to their reading scores.
3. It teaches teamwork. It’s each student for him- or herself at game-time, but school chess programs (particularly competitive ones) are inherently based in teamwork, sportsmanship, and working together toward common goals.
4. It can boost math scores. “Chess may be an important and effective tool for improving mathematical capacity in young students,” says this study, which examined the effects of introducing chess instruction to math lectures in Denmark. Students saw increases in math scores, with improved mathematical ability and reasoning that seemed directly related to their chess lessons. 5. It helps with self-discipline. There is a lot of discipline involved in playing chess, from strategically planning and following through on moves to controlling your body language against your opponent. These skills often translate into other areas, helping students better navigate their day-to-day school experience.
When to Teach Children Chess
There are no hard and fast rules around when children can start to learn chess. Children as young as kindergarten can start to pick up on the basics of the game and gain some of the benefits that playing chess offers, and by second grade, most students have the basic cognitive skills needed to get into competitive play.
Come Together with Chess
Playing chess at school offers so many advantages for students, and because it’s easy to play virtually, even remote students can enjoy chess programs and events.
From students to family members, chess brings people together and helps them bond. And whether playing against other students or even their grandparents, school-aged kids have so much to gain from chess in and out of the classroom.
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