Chess benefits for kids

Playing chess can be a good strategy to promote learning.

By Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy, Special to Tribune Newspapers
December 21, 2010

A prodigious body of research says that chess for youngsters translates into increased ability in logic, creativity, problem-solving, memory, reading and self-confidence. Studies show that even average children who play chess regularly achieve above-average academic results.

This holds true for children in inner-city and small rural schools as well as in private academies. Robert Ferguson Jr., director of the nonprofit corporation American Chess School, studied non-chess-playing, rural fifth- and sixth-graders. They took chess lessons and began playing daily. Within five months, they tested significantly higher in memory and verbal reasoning.

Ferguson cites research from across the country and around the world. A four-year study of American seventh- through ninth-graders showed the chess group tested significantly higher in creative and critical thinking than control groups who chose other enriching activities.”

Chess, methodically taught, accelerates the increase of IQ in elementary-age children of both sexes at all socioeconomic levels,” Ferguson says.

“A lot of the growth is based on the premise that chess is worthwhile for kids, teaching discipline and showing positive correlation to test scores,” Lovingood says.

When should children start? As early as possible if they enjoy it, Lovingood says. “I know we have 4-year-olds who play tournaments.”

Among chess’s benefits is that it offers immediate punishments and rewards for problem-solving. Research found that students who play chess become accustomed to looking for alternatives.

“It’s also an artistic game,” says Lovingood. “The great chess players have a great intuitive feel for the game. They can feel what’s right.”

“It’s the process of solving problems in chess that creates the link to better academic test scores,” says Lovingood. “Chess creates a system of trial and error to solve problems. You analyze several possibilities. Chess players understand how to break down a problem.

“To excel at chess takes the same strategies you need to excel in everyday life.”