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Does active engagement in chess have an impact on numerical reasoning skills?


Chess is a classic game of strategy, invented more than 1500 years ago in India. Legend has it that the ruler of India asked his wise men to devise a way to teach the children of the royal family to become better thinkers. Chess was the result. In the centuries since its invention, chess has spread to every country in the world. In the United States, it has received endorsements by many educators, ranging from Benjamin Franklin to former U.S. Secretary of Education, Terrell Bell. In Western Pennsylvania, more than 70 schools and a dozen libraries offer chess programs, reaching several thousand students each year. Classic and contemporary research suggests that chess involves multidimensional skills involving: focusing (observing carefully and concentrating); visualizing and thinking ahead (visualizing shifting the pieces mentally several moves ahead); weighing Options (identifying alternatives and considering the pros and cons of various actions); analysing concretely (evaluating the results of specific actions and sequences); thinking abstractly (considering alternative situations); planning (developing longer range goals and re-evaluating plans as new developments change the situation); juggling multiple considerations simultaneously (weighing up various factors all at once).

This longitudinal study examines the effect of regular and active engagement in chess and its effect on numerical reasoning skills in upper Key Stage Two (KS2) pupils. Participants’       (n = 20) outcomes on National Reasoning Tests after exposure to weekly participation in chess games are compared against a control group   (n = 23) where no engagement in chess is monitored. Implications and methodological recommendations in the domain of numerical reasoning in upper KS2 are discussed.



“Mathematics as an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality. Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness, and supreme value of mathematical science.” (Courant& Robbins, 1941).


Simply possessing skills in performing quick mental calculations, involving of the methods of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, does not equate to becoming a master of mathematics.  It is the skill of understanding and applying the meaning of mathematics that constitutes a Mathematician.



Reasoning – analogy, induction and deduction.

"Chess is a process of thought conditionated and limited by the Institutes and Rules of the Game. The judgments of thought are certified or visibly expressed upon the chessboard in movements of various forces".4 (Mason, 1946)