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Why Kids Who Play Chess Outperform Their Classmates - Part III
This is the third part of a three part article investigating scientific research into the value of chess as a tool to aid cognitive development. This article will summarize the results of a study about the positive value of chess in kids' education, by Ferguson (Ferguson, Robert, 1995. "Chess in Education: Research Summary. A Review of Key Chess Research Studies." For the Borough of Manhattan Community College Chess in Education 'A Wise Move' Conference.)
The most compelling evidence that instruction in chess aids learning comes from a four-year project (1979-1983) directed by Robert Ferguson. Ferguson implemented an enrichment program for gifted students in grades 7-9 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Enrichment activities including chess, Dungeons and Dragons, "Olympics of the mind", problem solving with computers, creative writing, independent study, etc., were used to stimulate thinking. The impact of these activities was measured by administering the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking at the beginning of the program, and at the end of each subsequent year.
The results were astonishing. Non-chess enriched students showed an average annual increase of 4.6% on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, while the average in increase for chess-enriched students was 17.3%. On the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, non-chess to chess group comparisons averaged; fluency 6.0/19.9; flexibility 9.5/22.8; originality 34.8/70.0. Even though this program was administered to gifted students, the logical conclusion that chess is a positive factor in the cognitive development of children in general is indisputable.
The preceding studies represent most of the scientific evidence currently available. Their emphasis is on measuring cognitive attributes without much weight given to social and emotional considerations. However, a substantial amount of material describing the positive social and emotional effects of chess programs is available from a wide array of publication. A growing body of evidence shows that chess promotes greater levels of self-esteem and confidence, comradeship, and a healthy competitive rivalry among its participants.
To conclude, chess is a beneficial activity for children. Both scientific and practical evidence suggest that chess improves a wide array of thinking and reasoning skills, as well as social and motivational factors. Chess develops memory, improves concentration, develops logical thinking, and helps develop imagination and creativity. Best of all, it is fun to play, and can be enjoyed by students of all ages.
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