Check It Out! | STEM Learning & Social Emotional Development Through Chess

Diane Hichborn

Lets play chess! Sound like a boring game played by elderly folks? No way! Chess is a sport for all ages, especially kids. Yes, I said “sport”, because it exercises your mind. For the past few months our middle schoolers have been exercising their minds by challenging each other and themselves to the game of chess. This board game has a positive effect on kids in many aspects of their daily lives.      

First of all, it is great way for kids to get together socially. Learning the ‘ins and outs’ of social interaction is so important at this age level and engaging with your peers in a board game does just this. Players have no social angst competing with each other regardless of their playing skill or level. These students are excited to come in after class and either start right in, or just watch others play. The learning aspect of the game is important from both of these vantage points. 

Next, the game of chess builds self-confidence. These sixth and seventh graders have improved considerably since beginning chess club, offering increased challenges to their opponents each week. This boost of self-confidence can trickle into other areas of their lives. Many students have learned a bit more about respect as well. Whether a win or loss, students learn to remain calm and air “high- five” their opponent after each game.

Another positive component for learning this strategical game is that it develops critical thinking and decision-making skills, as well as enhancing memory and concentration. Students are increasingly learning to think of how their challenger’s move will affect their pieces prior to themself making their next move. Making the decision of that next move is rather important and a choice we come across often in life. Do I move offensively rather than defensively? Do I play calmly or make an attack move that could be final? This is the beginning of kids gaining the skill and patience to think of multiple future moves. Cause and effect – what will happen if I move to a specific square? For students that have difficulty focusing in a 45-minute class, learning to play chess also aids in strengthening their concentration level.

Not only have these students been playing chess, but also in our Friday STEM class, they learned some mathematical basics of chess. Did you know that the area of a chessboard is 64 square units? Or that there are 22 possible moves that the first player can make? The size of the King is based proportionally to the size of the square on which it stands. All pieces move in a geometrical pattern around the board. These are just a few of the mathematical components of chess. Using the 3D platform TinkerCad, our young chess players were put to task by designing chess pieces that are characteristic to the pieces they were portraying. Students collaborated with each other on the design, size, and proportion of each piece. Once the pieces were reviewed and edited within their groups, we were able to print them on the school’s 3D MakerBot printers.

Regardless of age, interests or gender, chess is a game that is beneficial for people in many areas of life. Check out our newly designed chess set, and make your next move to join us in chess club!