Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
1877-0428 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the 4th International Conference of Cognitive Science
4th International Conference of Cognitive Science (ICCS 2011)
Investigation the impact of chess play on developing meta-cognitive
ability and math problem-solving power of students at different
levels of education
Farhad Kazemia, Mozafar Yektayarb, Ali Mohammadi Bolban Abada,*
aDepartment of Mathematics, Islamic Azad University, Ghorveh Branch, Kurdistan, Iran
bDepartment of Sports Science, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj Branch, Kurdistan, Iran
The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of learning of chess play on developing meta-cognitive ability and mathematical
problem-solving capability of students at various levels of schooling. To this end, 86 school-boy students were randomly selected
and they taught chess for six months, and another group of 94 students randomly selected for control group. The subjects were
assessed via meta-cognitive questionnaire of Panaoura, Philippou, and Christou (2003) and mathematics exams. The results
indicated that chess player students showed more achievement in both meta-cognitive abilities and mathematical problem solving
capabilities than other non-chess player students. In addition, a positive and significant relationship was found between students’
meta-cognitive ability and their mathematical problem-solving power. These results suggest that we can use chess as an effective
tool for developing higher order thinking skills.
© 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Chess play; metacognitive ability; mathematics; problem solving
It is claimed that chess is an activity of boundless potential for the mind. Chess develops mental activities which
are used throughout life. We may mention some of these activities such as problem-solving, focusing, critical
thinking, abstract reasoning, strategic planning, analysis, creativity, evaluation and synthesis. As an instrument to
teach problem-solving and abstract reasoning, we can use chess effectively. Learning how to solve a problem is
probably more important than finding a solution for a specific problem. By means of chess, we learn how to
evaluate a context and to this end, we should concentrate on the main factors and omit diversions. We may find
original and imaginative solutions to accomplish the plan. Chess is very influential, since it is self-motivating. The
game has attracted people for about 2000 years and the aims of attack and defense resulting in checkmate encourage
us to penetrate into our mental store (Celone, 2001).
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +989188734486; fax:+0-000-000-0000
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the 4th International Conference
of Cognitive Science Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
Several studies have been done about the advantage of chess in education. The findings of the studies showed
that chess can advance academic accomplishment, particularly problem solving strategies, enhance memory,
focusing, score of IQ tests, critical thinking and creativity, it also augment spatial and visual power, and the ability
to recognize patterns (Frank, 1974; Ferguson, 1995; Liptrap, 1977; Dauvergne, 2000; Thompson, 2003; Stefurak,
2003; Brenda, 2003; Ferreria & Palharse, 2008). Some researchers have endorsed the influence of chess play on
advancing problem solving ability. Having found similarities between mathematical problem solving and chess,
Horgan (1998) pointed out that chess is clearly a problem-solving instrument and the best possible way to analyze
problem-solving and decision-making because it is a closed system with clear and determined rules. The first step in
encountering a problem is to analyze it in an introductory and subjective way. Assessing the problem and perhaps
trying to find patterns or similarities to prior experiences. Just as mathematics is the study of patterns, so in chess
pattern recognition is very important in problem solving. By recognizing similarity and patters, we can formulate a
general strategy to solve the problem which may include developing other choices and a creative process. A skillful
chess player, like a good problem solver, has obtained a great number of relevant schemata; thus making it possible
for good alternatives to come up. We can use a process of calculations- known as decision tree analysis- to assess
these alternatives. Here the chess player or problem solver is calculating future happenings just based on solutions
that are evaluated.
Problem solving capability is a complicated interaction between cognition and meta-cognition. Perhaps the basic
source of trouble in problem solving is that the students can not actively watch, check and regulate the cognitive
process they encounter upon solving the problems (Artzt & Armour-Thomos, 1992). Flavell (1971) developed the
concept of storage of input, intelligent structuring and retrieval activity, notion of intelligent checking, and called
such knowledge as generally a kind of “meta-memory” (p. 227). Meta-cognition is a persons' knowledge about his
or her own cognitive processes and products. It is also active checking, following regulations and assessment of
cognitive activities (Flavell, 1979). Brown (1987) divided meta-cognitive into two main categories: knowledge of
cognition and regulation of cognition.
Knowledge of cognition is the information that is fixed, uncertain, late developing that human thinkers have as
objects of consideration. Regulation of cognition is the activities used to check and monitor learning. These
activities consist of planning activities (predicting outcomes, setting time strategies, and different forms of indirect
trial and error, etc.) before solving the problems; checking activities (monitoring, testing, revising and resetting
one’s strategies for learning) in the process of learning and controlling outcomes (assessing the outcomes of
strategic actions with the criteria of effectiveness and efficiency).
It has been shown that these activities are not usually stable, though in the past adults have used them on simple
problems and are not fixed (knowing how to do something does not necessarily mean that one can bring the action
to the level of conscious awareness and reporting to others). They are also independent of age, that is, task and
situation dependent (Brown, 1987). One basic aspect of learning which has also been ignored is that students have
the necessary knowledge and skills to do complex tasks but they don’t use them. Perhaps the reason is that students
don’t have motivation or confidence to use them and they do not accept that the situation demands using those skills
(Hartmen, 2001). The different meta-cognitive skills are necessary for successful solution of any complicated
problem-solving task. It is clear that people, who have higher level of meta-cognitive ability, do much better in
problem-solving. They do their best to find out the relationship among the facts in a problem. They may check their
accuracy, take apart complex problems toward simpler steps, and may ask themselves questions, and look for
answers to make their thought clear (Panaoura et al., 2003).
Some evidence shows that chess play can enhance meta-cognitive skills and some other tasks that may be
important for success during challenging tasks, such as mathematical problem-solving. About the influence of chess,
Milat (1997) says:
xChess increases intelligence creativity, enhances strategic thinking skills and enriches problem-solving
ability. Furthermore, it increases self-esteem.
xChess improves and develops higher order thinking skills (that is meta-cognitive skills); in addition
youngsters evaluate the actions and results and predict future possibilities.
xWhen chess is highly practiced in specific countries, practicing students show ability to be among the top in
math’s and science and recognize complicated patterns as well.
374 Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
Given the academic benefits of chess, Meyers (2005) asserts that “we have brought chess to school because we
believe that it can directly contribute to academic performance. Chess makes children smarter. It does this function
by teaching following skills:
xFocusing: children are taught to learn about the advantages of observing and focusing. In addition, children
cannot respond to what is happening unless they watch it.
xVisualizing: children are encouraged to imagine a series of actions before it occurs by training and asking
them to visualize and to move pieces in their mind, first one move, then several moves ahead.
xThinking ahead: children are taught, first of all, to think and later to move on or act. We educate them to
ask themselves “if I do this, what may happen later and how can I respond? Chess helps to develop calmness or
xWeighing options: children may learn they don’t have to express whatever first occurs to their mind, they
learn to find out other choices and take into account the advantages of different actions.
xAnalyzing concretely: children learn to assess the results of particular actions and arrangements. Does this
sequence help me or hurt me? It is better to make a decision based on logic instead of impulse.
xThinking abstractly: children are taught to move back occasionally from details and pay attention to the
whole pictures. They learn to apply patterns to various or related situations especially when they discover them in
one specific context.
xPlanning: children are taught to define long-term goals and do their best to achieve them. They feel the
need to re-evaluate their plans particularly when new improvements change the situation. So our objectives in this
study are to investigate the impact of chess play on developing meta-cognitive ability and math’s problem-solving
powers of students at different levels of education.
The statistical population of this study was the male students of fifth, eighth, and ninth grade at primary and
junior high schools in Sanandaj, in west of Iran. The statistical sample includes 180 students who were selected
randomly among the schools. Having explained the research aims to the participants, 86 students were randomly
selected and they were taught chess for 6 months along with routine activities of the school (experimental group or
chess player students). The rest of the students who were 94 people, were put in control group or non-chess player
students. The frequency of participants is showed in table 1.
Table 1. Frequency of the participants
non-chess player students chess player students
29 28 Fifth grade
32 27 Eighth grade
33 31 Ninth grade
94 86 Total
The questionnaire of meta-cognitive ability measurement, that is, Panaoura, et al. (2003), was used for all
participants. The questionnaire consists of 30 metacognitive items designed on the basis of five-choice Likert-scale
ranging from always, often, sometimes, rarely, to never and they are given points 5, 4, 3, 2,1 respectively. Maximum
meta-cognitive score of the students was set at 150 and the minimum was 30. The reliability of the questionnaire,
based on Cronbach's alpha is 0.82. The researcher-made math test was also applied to measure problem-solving
ability of students at different educational grades. To design researcher-made tests, third international mathematics
and science study questions (TIMSS), textbooks and non-textbooks, and math teacher experiences were targeted. In
the end, three tests were selected and applied to participants based on their respective grades (educational levels).
Maximum possible score for each student in the math test was 6.
Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
The results obtained from analysis of meta-cognitive questionnaires applied to the participants along with two
independent samples suggest that there is a significant difference at the level p < 0.01 between meta-cognitive scores
means of the chess player students and the non-chess player students (t = 5.08, p < 0.01). These results are
shown in tables 2.
Table 2. Results of independent samples t-test for comparing meta-cognitive score means between two groups
groups n M SD tdf p (2-tailed)
Chess player 86 132.75 7.23
5.08 178 0.000
Non-Chess Player 94 125.56 9.93
According to table 2, we can see that the meta-cognitive scores mean of chess player students was
more than non-chess players (as much as 7.19) and this suggests that chess play, as an independent
variable, has significant role in developing meta-cognitive ability of the students. In addition, the results
suggest that the difference was significant for meta-cognitive scores mean of chess player students at p <
0.01 (for fifth grade), p < 0.05 (for eighth grade) and p < 0.01 (for ninth grade) students when
compared with non-chess player students. The results summarised in table 3.
Table 3.Results of independent samples t-test for comparing meta-cognitive score means of students at different
Education level Groups nM SD t df Significance
Chess players 28 134.80 7.73 2.71 55 Level 99%
p = 0.009
Non- chess players 29 124.57 10.49
Eighth grade Chess players 27 133.26 6.81 2.36 57 Level 95%
p = 0.02
Non- chess players 32 126.67 10.26
Ninth grade Chess players 31 133.10 7.31 3.76 62 Level 99%
p < 0.001
Non- chess players 33 125.09 9.30
Although the result of the current study is indicative of positive effects of chess play on developing
meta-cognitive ability of the students, there is little or no study in this respect to challenge our results or
to support it even more.
Another result of this study is that, as Pearson Correlation test shows, there is a positive and
significant relationship between meta-cognitive ability of students and their problem-solving power at p
< 0.01 level. The Pearson correlation was 0.719 which signifies a strong relationship. This result is
consistent with other research done in mathematics and meta-cognitive domain. Here, some of these
studies are addressed briefly.
376 Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
The results of various studies show that there is a positive and significant relationship between
mathematical problems solving and meta-cognitive elements, that is, the more the students gain the
power of meta-cognitive ability of problem-solving, the more the prospect of their success in solving
challenging problems (Lester, Garofalo, & Krool, 1989; Schoenfeld, 1985; Gooya, 1992; Lucangli &
Cornoldi, 1997; Pape & Smith, 2002; Kazemi, Fadae, & Bayat, 2010). According to Silver (1982) any
learner and math teacher agrees that problem-solving ability involves more than just the accumulation of
skills and techniques; in fact the capability to monitor the progress or process of problem-solving and
knowing the limitation and ability of the individuals are also important. Silver called these "meta-
cognitive abilities" (cited in Gooya, 1992).
Gooya (1992) pointed out that many researchers believe that the ability to make managerial or
executive decisions may signify whether the person can be a problem-solver or not. She asserted that
meta-cognition has an effect on problem-solving and the failure to assess individual strategies may result
in failing to reach a reasonable conclusion. In this way, the behaviour or response of the person who
knows the required and right strategies to solve a problem is justifiable or rational, though she/he may
not be able to solve it. Schoenfeld (1985), in the process of observing beginner problem-solver, reports
that such students have real knowledge and right strategies to solve the problems but their possible
inability to find the answer to the problems is mainly due to their weak executive decisions. Panauora et
al. (2003) believe that, those who have higher meta-cognitive power, are more meticulous and attentive
in discovering or understanding the reality of problems. These people would evaluate their possible
solution easily, analyze complicated problems in a detailed and specific ways and control their own
thinking processes by self-asking.
The result of the researcher-made math test and applying T-independent samples test suggest that
there is a significant difference at p < 0.01 between the mean of problem-solving score of chess player
students and the non-chess player students (t = 2.89, p < 0.01). Table 4, summarizes the results.
Table 4. Results of independent samples t-test for comparing math score means between two groups
Groups nMSD t df
Chess player 86 4.41 .93 2.89 178 0.008
Non-Chess player 94 3.74 1.01
From the table 4, it is clear that the mean of the math scores of the chess player students was more
than the non-chess player students; suggesting that chess play, as an independent variable, has a positive
role on developing problem-solving ability of the students. Furthermore, the results suggest that the
mean difference of math scores of chess player students was significant at p < 0.05 in fifth grade
students, p < 0.05 in eighth grade and p < 0.01 in the ninth grade students when compared with non-
chess player students. Table 5 summarizes the result.
Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
Table 5. Results of independent samples t-test for compare of math scores means in different educational level
Chess players 28 4.44 0.9 2.13 55 Level 95%
p = 0.03
Non- chess players 29 3.79 0.83
Chess players 27 4.39 0.99 2.25 57 Level 95%
p = 0.01
Non- chess players 32 3.71 1.08
Chess players 31 4.37 0.95 2.72 62 Level 99%
p = 0.004
Non- chess players 33 3.68 1.11
The result of this study is consistent with other research done in this respect. Here we review some of them
briefly. In a study carried out by Gaudreau (1992), in New Brunswick, Canada, it was shown that there is a
significant and extensive relationship between math skill and chess play. In this study which was done on 437 fifth
grades of elementary students, chess was injected in the curriculum of concerned groups. The result of this study
suggests that the students, who had participated in chess play, got higher scores in problem-solving activity. Thus
the role of chess play was accepted as an instrument to enhance problem-solving among students. Accordingly, the
researchers started to publish the texts called “challenging mathematics” and utilized chess for logical teaching of
math to students from second grade to eighth grade of junior high school. By applying this program the score mean
of student's problem-solving increased from 62% well up to 81%. In province of Quebec, Canada, when this
program was first started, applying this program improved the students’ math score when compared with the scores
of other Canadian students in other parts. Furthermore, math mean score of Canadian students was higher than those
of American peers in international mathematics exams (cited in Ferguson, 1995).
Celone (2001) tried to answer the question whether notional or conceptual teaching of chess can develop
student’s abstract thinking and their problem-solving ability or not. To answer this question he did a research on 19
students of elementary school who voluntarily participated in a one-week program that lasted 20 hours. Students
were tested just before and after this program and by using equivalent forms of the TONI-3 Test of Non-Verbal
Intelligence, a valid and reliable instrument associated with abstract reasoning and problem-solving and by using the
Knight’s Tour, a domain-specific instrument measuring overall chess problem-solving ability. The result of this
study suggests that significant increase between scores just before and after the test was observed and the
improvement was both in their problem-solving ability and intelligence quotient (IQ).
In another study done in New York on 3000 students in 100 public schools, the efficacy of chess programs on
developing problem-solving ability and reading comprehension was observed (Margulies, 1993). The result of
another study done by Ferguson (1995) shows that by including chess in the curriculum, math teachers could detect
significantly improvement of math scores of students and their problem-solving power when compared with those
students who had not taken part in these programs. Ferguson goes on to say that in 1989 only 120 students were
enrolled and trained in chess clubs but in three years, that is, in 1992, the number of students in chess schools
amounted to 19000. The increase was owing to appraising the results of relevant studies and convincing the families
and educational personnel of usefulness and effectiveness of chess play and its pedagogical and social effects.
378 Farhad Kazemi et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32 ( 2012 ) 372 – 379
The results of the present study and other relevant researches in this area suggest that chess teaching to students
at different educational levels, improves significantly their mathematical problem-solving ability. Furthermore, the
result of this study suggests that chess play has the potential to increase meta-cognitive ability of the learners. As we
already mentioned, no documented or compelling research has yet been done. in this regard. So, there is much room
for interested researchers and scholars to do new similar studies with the hope that they may contribute to this field
Pedagogical implications of the current study is directed to educational administers, educators, professors and
all those who are interested in developing mathematics teaching and instruction. The question or suggestion is, “why
should not we introduce chess teaching along with teaching of other subjects? Should we use chess as a useful
educational tool, in improving math teaching or enhancing problem-solving strategies?” If we apply the above-
mentioned suggestions, we hope to achieve the following objectives:
xThe students would be able to think on problems reasonably and plausibly and would find the ability to
analyze the problems correctly. In fact, they would learn the main framework and approaches of solving the
xEnhancing perception, creativity and reasoning of the students by analysis and practice of different chess
xWhen students experience the subtlety and sophistication of chess play, upon encountering complex and
subtle matters, they often associate or link these two elements and discover the logic and subtlety of mathematics. In
reality, this complexity may take tangible or real forms for students.
xChess play enhances thinking and abstract thought.
xChess play can create an impression or the sort of thinking in the students to the effect that they might not
get disappointed or frustrated on facing a difficult problem. The students do their best to sort out the problem in an
optimistic or persistent way.
In sum, we may claim that chess will create a strong belief system in the individuals as problem-solvers.
This paper has been selected from a research project, with the same title, in the Islamic Azad University,
Ghorveh branch, Kurdistan, Iran. We are grateful to the Mr. Saman Saedi in Sanandaj who kindly helped us to
collect data for this research.
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