School children in Michigan and around the nation are being taught to play chess. It is seen as a fun and promising way to help students develop their math and critical thinking skills.
H.T. Burt Elementary School in Ortonville Michigan is teaching second and third grade students to play chess. The unique program that was begun this year is to integrate the game into the school's curriculum.
The game is being woven into math and reading lessons around the nation.
Burt in the Brandon School District in Oakland County Michigan, is the first Michigan school to introduce First Move. The program was created by America's Foundation for Chess. Because of its popularity it likely will expand to the other schools in the district. Other school districts are also considering the program.
Children are excited about playing a game at school.
Burt principal Kristy Spann says teaching chess to young students is a way to keep them excited about learning. By the end of third grade, she said, students have decided whether it's cool to like school.
"The idea is to catch them right at the cusp before they make that wrong decision, while learning is still fun."
According to Warren E. Goodell. executive director of the Southfield foundation a child's brain is still developing until they are between 14 to 16 years old. Playing chess helps to teach the brain to process information.
The First Move program started in the 2004-05 school year in 55 classrooms. Now there are about 1,000 classrooms in the United States as well as in Canada and Kenya.
A lot can be learned by integrating chess into a school's curriculum based on some research and some based on anecdotal evidence.
By requiring a player to think ahead so the opponents moves can be analyzed it will improve critical-thinking skills. It also helps to improve concentration and focus.
Chess also improves impulse control. In chess if you touch it you have to move it. This will teach students if you make a rash move there will be consequences to pay. They will learn they need to wait and think out what is the best move to make before they make their move.
Chess helps to improve math skills. Mathematical calculations are needed when deciding to make a move.
Chess helps with character development. It helps with learning time-management skills. It will help to learn self-control. It should also help to learn to be a good sport regardless if they win or lose.