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Educational impacts of chess instruction in Azerbaijan

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  • ADA University

Abstract and Figures

Does chess instruction improve mathematical and reading achievements of school students in Azerbaijan? The results in national and international examinations such as the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA), and the Students State Admission Commission (SSAC), tests have shown that school students in Azerbaijan are performing at a lower level. This paper intends to propose chess instruction in schools as a new approach and possible solution to this problem. The study presented in this thesis explores the educational effects of chess instruction on academic achievement, especially mathematical and reading abilities among primary school students in Azerbaijan.
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ADA UNIVERSITY
SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS
MASTER OF PUBLIC POLICY
THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF PUBLIC POLICY
Educational impacts of chess instruction in Azerbaijan
Aytan Zeynalli
Contact e-mail: azeynalli2015@ada.edu.az!
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Baku, July 6, 2015
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ADA UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF PUBLIC POLICY THESIS
OF
AYTAN ZEYNALLI
APPROVED:
Research Supervisor: Dr. Anar Valiyev
Committee member: Dr. Farhad Mukhtarov
Committee Member: Dr. Vafa Kazdal
Dean of Academic Affairs: Dr. Elnur Soltanov
Date: 06.07.2015
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STATEMENT OF AUTHENTICITY
I have read ADA’s policy on plagiarism and certify that, to the best of my
knowledge, the content of this thesis, “Educational impacts of chess
instruction in Azerbaijan”, is all my own work and does not contain any
unacknowledged
work.
Signed:
Date:
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Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS …………………………………………………………………….iv
LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………………………v
ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………………vi
DEDICATION…………………………………………………………………………………vii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………….………….viii
PREFACE …………………………………………………………………………………….ix
1.
INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH DESIGN…………………………………………..1
Research problem………………………………………………………………….1
Methodology, Research aim and Research question ................................. 6
Limitations ...................................................................................................... 8
Summary and contribution of the research……………………………………8
2.LITEARTURE REVIEW…………………………………………………………………..10
The impacts of chess instruction on students ‘mathematical and
reading/cognitive abilities
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11
Background on “Chess in Schools” project ............................................ 20
3.METHODOLOGY………………………………………………………………………….25
Sample presentation ................................................................................... 29
Study Design ................................................................................................ 30
Results ......................................................................................................... 32
Discussion ................................................................................................... 35
4.CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………………..38
REFERENCES ..................................................................................................... 41
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List of Tables
TABLE 1.1 Comparison of average point scores of students from Azerbaijan in
PISA, 2006 and 2009, with the OECD average ........................................................... 2
TABLE 1.2 the average score of 15-year-old students’ performance in reading
through each subscale ................................................................................................ 3
TABLE 1.3 the percentage of school graduates who scored less than 200 points in
SSAC in 2010-2014 ....................................................................................................... 5
TABLE 1.4 Conceptualization and Operationalization ............................................. 6
TABLE 2.1 OECD-PISA items ..................................................................................... 17
TABLE 2.2 the SAM (Chess and Math Learning) program Logic Model ................. 19
TABLE 3.1 Methodological design of some studies ................................................. 26
TABLE 3.2 The results obtained from t test based on students’ academic
achievement in math and reading .............................................................................. 32
TABLE 3.3 T test output of students of chess pilot school ..................................... 33
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Abstract
Does chess instruction improve mathematical and reading achievements of
school students in Azerbaijan? The results in national and international examinations
such as the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA), and the
Students State Admission Commission (SSAC), tests have shown that school
students in Azerbaijan are performing at a lower level. This paper intends to propose
chess instruction in schools as a new approach and possible solution to this problem.
The study presented in this thesis explores the educational effects of chess instruction
on academic achievement, especially mathematical and reading abilities among
primary school students in Azerbaijan. T-tests have been conducted among first,
second and third grade (chess and non chess groups) students from two schools in
Baku. The results obtained from t- tests indicate that there is an improvement in
reading outcomes among second and third grade chess group students.
Nevertheless, there is inconsistency in the results of mathematical attainments of
students in that only second graders show an improvement in their achievements. In
addition, other t- test results indicate that changes in pretest performances in math
and reading were not different from changes in the posttest performances in first
and third grade students. However, these findings suggest that further research is
needed to conduct and examine the educational impacts of chess instruction in more
detail in the case of Azerbaijan.
Keywords: Chess instruction,
PISA,
SSAC
tests,
academic outcomes,
mathematic and reading attainments.
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Dedication
For my father who was the first person taught me
to play chess and to think outside of the box.
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Acknowledgements
“If you write your thesis with gusto, you will be inspired to continue” says
Umberto Eco. Since
writing was not an easy journey, I had real challenges of
this thesis writing. But the
understanding and support of my mother and brother,
my professors and my friends as well as
the participants of this study
encouraged me to focus on and finish my thesis. Many thanks to all
those who
contributed to this study.
I would like to thank Dr.Anke Piepenbrink for helping me in the statistics part of
this study. This
was a great experience in my research that I learned from her.
Also, I would like to thank Dr.
Elnur Soltanov for his useful advice, especially for
the methodology part of this research.
Special thanks to Dr. Rameshwar
Kanwar for his graduate research class. He was instructing
students how to
write graduate thesis and this class was very helpful for me.
I also extend my thanks to ADA library staff, my close groupmates and
friends for their kind
support. Especially, many thanks to my friend and
groupmate, Nigar Asgarova for spending
time read my thesis and her
inspiring support. I want to thank the members of my Master
Committee, Dr.
Vafa Kazdal and Dr. Farhad Mukhtarov for reading my thesis and feedbacks
also encouraging me to work on this research.
Lastly, special thanks to my thesis advisor, Dr. Anar Valiyev for his advice
and discussions
which helped me in conducting this study. I have learned
many things about policy since I
became his student.
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Preface
"Think of a virus so advanced, it infects not the blood but the thoughts
of its human host. Liver and spleen are spared; instead, this bug
infiltrates the frontal lobes of the brain, dominating such prime cognitive
functions as problem-solving, abstract reasoning, fine motor skills, and
most notably, agenda setting. It directs thoughts, actions, and even
dreams. This virus comes to dominate not the body, but the mind"
(“The Immortal game”, David Schenk, 2011, p8)
The prologue of the book The Immortal Game penned by David Schenk
reminded me of childhood memories and made me think again about that obsession. I
still feel the positive educational effects of this virus that I called - "chess in my life"!
Having the chess-playing experience and being a policy student, mainly
concentrated on the educational field, I can offer you an opinion upon one single
idea - a chessboard in a classroom. This minor idea itself leaves great wonder to the
power of 64 squared boards and the true nature of its educational effect on children’s
minds.
Since no research has been conducted, in the local context, on the effects of
having chess in classes on students' academic achievements, specifically in math and
reading this study is a first vivid glimpse of chess in schools in the case of Azerbaijan.
My attempt to conduct a research on this issue grew and I became more curious after
having challenges concerning the solutions to the problem of Azerbaijani school
students' low performance in both national and international examinations. Therefore, in
this thesis, the choice of the topic of chess as a non-traditional academic tool is not
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random.
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1.
Introduction
1.1 Research problem
In the last few years, Azerbaijani school students have scored low at both national and
international examinations such as the Programme for International Students
Assessment
(PISA), or the Students State Admission Commission (SSAC) tests.
Azerbaijan participated in PISA in 2006 and 2009 tests. PISA, undertaken by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is the most comprehensive
and large scale international triennial programme to assess fifteen year-old students’
knowledge and skills across different countries. The assessment
measures the capacity
of 15-year-olds in the context to what extent they are capable of using the knowledge
and skills to analyze and solve problems they have learned both in and outside of
school. Starting in 2000, PISA surveys every three-year have been conducted with a
focus on three domain specific cognitive fields - reading, mathematics and science,
respectively (OECD, 2006). For each assessment, PISA focuses on one subject area
in depth and gives a higher priority to that subject. For instance, in 2006,
science was
the major domain, while in 2009 greater emphasis was given to reading literacy.
(Turner and Adams, 2007) According to PISA reports, in 2006, Azerbaijan ranked
54 among 57 countries and in 2009, 64 among 65 countries in science and
reading,
respectively. Moreover, PISA 2006 results demonstrate that Azerbaijan
ranked 9th in math and 26th in science compared to 27 participating non-OECD
countries (OECD,
2006, 2009).
As indicated in Table 1.1, in 2006, Azerbaijan ranked second to last both in reading
(with a mean score of 353) and science (with a mean score of 382) among all the
participating countries. It is disappointed to mention that the comparison of results
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for two years’ tests show a decline in performance of students and the mean score of
Azerbaijani 15-year-olds is statistically significantly below the OECD average in all
domains in both years. Regarding Table 1.1, on a reading scale Azerbaijan’s score of
362 was the second lowest of the 65 participating countries. The average reading
score was nine points lower in 2006 than in 2009, but the average science and math
scores were higher compared to results of 2009.
Table 1.1 Comparison of average point scores of students from Azerbaijan in
PISA, 2006 and 2009, with the OECD average
In PISA 2009, high priority was given to reading literacy. According to Table 1.2,
on reading sub-scales, the country’s students scored higher (373) for their ability to
integrate and interpret what they were reading; lower for reflecting on and evaluating
what they had read (335) and for reading non-continuous texts (351); and about the
same for accessing and retrieving information and for reading continuous texts (OECD
Publishing, 2011)
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Reading scale
Mathematics scale
Science scale
Azerbaijan (2006)
353
476
382
OECD average
(2006)
492
498
500
Azerbaijan (2009)
362
431
373
OECD
Average(2009)
494
496
501
Gain since 2006
(+)9
(-)45
(-) 9
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Table 1.2. The average score of 15-year-old students’ performance in reading
through each subscale
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On the
Access and
Integrate
and
Reflect
Continuous
Non
overall
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retrieve
interpret
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and
texts
continuous
reading
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evaluate
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texts
scale
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362
361
373
335
362
351
Moreover, PISA describes the performance of students either in six or seven
levels from the lowest “Level 1 a” to the highest level. This system of evaluation allows
countries to understand which tasks their students are successful or unsuccessful in
completing.
The highest proficiency level for math and science is six, while for
reading it is five. According to the proficiency level claim, all modern knowledge society
students should perform at least at Level 2 or above, which demonstrates the
development level of students’ problem solving and reading skills. According to PISA
experts, only after Level 2 students start to demonstrate knowledge competencies that
will allow them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology.
However, the majority of students in Azerbaijan were able to cope with Level 1
tasks,
which shows limited scientific, math and reading knowledge that can be applied
to few, familiar situations in comparison with level 6 when students clearly demonstrate
advanced thinking and reasoning and can apply their knowledge even to unfamiliar
scientific and technological situations. In a nutshell, PISA results demonstrated a
downturn in the educational landscape of Azerbaijan, which is not only associated
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with the school curriculum, but also to the confrontation of knowledge and skills of
students with unfamiliar real-life challenges. Not much has been written on the reasons
for the results of PISA
and its effect on school system performance in Azerbaijan.
However, the publication of the OECD report on the PISA in 2006 and 2009 studies
provided the broad picture of results of Azerbaijani school students’ educational
attainments.
Despite the fact that Azerbaijan left the PISA survey in 2009, the students’
low results in national entrance examinations demonstrate that the problems are still
continuing and becoming more aggravated. According to the annual report of SSAC, for
the last years,
overall school graduates do not assimilate 49-76 percent of the
school program and have difficulties applying the lessons learned in practice.
Azerbaijan is the first country in the former Soviet Union to initiate a university
admission system, which reflects the outcomes of the acquired knowledge and skills
over an eleven year period. The examinations are based on current school curriculum
and all items consist of multiple choice and open-ended questions. Currently, the
SSAC holds four types of University Entrance tests based on university programs,
which include Science and Engineering (SE), Economy and Management (EM),
Humanities (HU) and Medicine and Biology (MB). Reading (Azerbaijan language) and
Math are contained in all group tests. Examination scores are calculated on the scale
of 0-700 points and the minimum admission score has been decreased to 150 points in
the recent years. As indicated in Table 1.3, the reasons for a significant decrease in
admission scores to higher education institutions are linked to the percentage of
students who scored very low in the exams.
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Table 1.3. The percentage of school graduates who scored less than 200 points
in
SSAC in 2010-2014
Years The percentage of students who scored less
than 200 points
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
61.60%
62.44%
64.65%
64.97%
64.65%
The results show that academically traditional methods fail to achieve the
desired outcome, and require long-term perspectives to improve the academic
performance of students. Numerous projects have been undertaken to fix the existing
problems of
Azerbaijani school students. For example, there were various joint projects
undertaken by World Bank for introducing a new curriculum model, focusing on
preparation of teachers and improving school qualifications. The curriculum reform
was launched on the base of the first Credit agreement between the Republic of
Azerbaijan and the World Bank, which was expected to cover the period of 1999-
2013 (World Bank,
2003). According to this reform, the implementation stage of new
curriculum started in 2008.There is no single trigger or reason thus, an effort
should be made to propose a solution to the issue of low academic performance of
students, specifically in math and reading.
I have come to believe that this failure can be remedied by incorporating chess
into classrooms, as do some 30 countries that implement chess in school curriculum as
an academic subject to improve mathematical and reading/cognitive skills of
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students. For example, the study conducted in Italy by Trinchero (2014) shows that
chess significantly improves children's scores on the OECD-PISA Mathematics Scale,
given certain conditions such as teachers’ approach and the duration of chess lessons.
1.2 Methodology, Research Aim and Research Question
The purpose of this study is to reveal the educational impact of chess instruction in
Azerbaijan.
Research Question - Does chess instruction in schools improve the math and
reading achievements of students in Azerbaijan?
This research is aimed to determine the effects of 45 minutes of chess instruction on
mathematics and reading achievements of Azerbaijani school students.
Table 1.4 Conceptualization and Operationalization
Variables Conceptualization and Operationalization
Chess instruction Study intervention consisted of 45 minutes of chess
instruction delivered for 2nd and 3rd grade students by
classroom teachers or chess instructors. The instruction
included chess theories, chess basic rules and practice,
which consists of games and chess puzzles. First and
foremost, chess is a game, it is a clear fact. However, as
multiple studies have been conducted and have shown,
chess can be a part of school curriculum as an
educational tool. Chess instruction has been practiced in
public schools for many years in different countries such
as Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Iceland and others, as
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an academic instrument. This could enhance
mathematical and reading skills of students through
improving attention, memory, concentration and critical
thinking. In this study chess is perceived as an
academic activity,
rather than a sport.
Reading and Math In PISA 2009, the major domain was reading and the
definition of reading literacy was as follows:
"Understanding, using, reflecting on and engaging with
written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop
one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in
society.”(PISA, 2009)
The words that are mentioned in this definition, such as
“understanding, using, reflection” are linked to cognitive
abilities, which require having good attention and
concentration skills.
The definition of math is given as follows according to
the PISA 2009:
“An individual’s capacity to identify and understand the
role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-
founded judgments and to use and engage with
mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that
individual’s life as a constructive, concerned and
reflective citizen”( PISA, 2009)
This definition of mathematics is concerned with
mathematical knowledge and skills such as coordination,
and
spatial reasoning, which would assist students to
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Limitations
Due to time constraints, I have not been able to carry out an experiment on
chess myself and I have had to rely on quasi-experimental designs. Therefore, the
external validity in this study could be weak. In addition, I did not have a big enough
sample size and many variables to conduct statistical analysis for determining the
causality between chess and students’ math and reading abilities.
Summary and contribution of the research
This study is the first initiative that has been conducted to reveal the relationship
between chess and education. It is an innovative research, which establishes a novel
solution to the issue of school students’ low performance on math and reading abilities
in Azerbaijan. Since the traditional methods do not appear to achieve the desired
outcome, the findings of this study could have a number of important implications for
general education in Azerbaijan. In addition, the research may contribute to the
understanding and perception of chess in schools as an educational tool, which can
lead to incorporation of chess into the national curriculum with the proper
figure out and solve mathematical problems in
unfamiliar situations.
In this study, first, second and third class students’ final
academic grades are used as an outcome measure.
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implementation.
This chapter provides an overview of the research problem, research question,
methodology and limitations in this study. The second chapter of the thesis presents
the literature review that consists of two parts studies conducted to reveal the
effects of chess instruction on math, cognitive and reading abilities of children and the
background of “chess in schools” project. The third chapter deals with the methodology
and the outcome of this study.
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2. Literature Review
Introduction
The research about chess and its educational benefits has received much
attention since the 1970s. However, it is necessary to mention that Benjamin Franklin’s
“The Morals of Chess”, which was published in The Columbian Magazine in 1786, is
considered one of the earliest texts on chess. This article demonstrates the link
between chess and education and specifically, by writing ‘several very valuable qualities
of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by
chess, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions’ author emphasizes the
importance of learning through chess. In addition, he points out that playing chess
teaches us foresight, circumspection and caution.
Questions such as whether chess can improve the academic attainments of
students or whether it can really enhance math and reading skills are very difficult and
inconclusive to answer and the main obstacle occurs because of the interpretation of
the results of statistical analysis from chess studies. Approximately in thirty countries
around the world, including Venezuela, Iceland, Russia, Canada and the USA,
chess has been part of the curriculum, and it has been used as an educational tool to
increase students’ academic performance in schools since 1980’s (Ferguson, 1995).
In Azerbaijan, in 2012, chess was integrated into school curriculum as a part of
a chess pilot project in some schools, according to the joint memorandum signed by
the Ministry of Education, The World Chess Federation and The Azerbaijan Chess
Federation (edu.gov.az, 2012). Chess classes were designed to train second, third and
fourth grade school children and recently more than 500 secondary schools use chess
as a subject in Azerbaijan. There is a paucity of studies that have been conducted to
identify the educational impacts of chess instruction in schools in the local context
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of Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is not clear whether in Azerbaijan, chess instruction is a
matter of tradition to promote the game or it could lead an improvement in math and
reading outcomes of children. However, considerable amount of international studies
have been written about the educational impacts of chess. Regarding the availability of
international sources, this chapter will review, analyze and compare the existing
published literature considering their relevance to the research question of this study.
The main goal of this literature review is to identify the extent to which existing studies
support the idea that chess instruction in schools enhances mathematical, cognitive
and/or reading abilities of school students.
In a nutshell, this literature review has been designed in the following manner: the
first part of literature review will establish the discussion on the relationship between
chess and academic attainments of children. In this part of literature review, the studies
that examine the impact of chess intervention on mathematical, reading/cognitive
outcomes have been chosen and the results and the methodologies from these chess
studies are presented. The second part of literature review will provide a
background of the “Chess in Schools” initiative as a concept to provide its
comprehensive understanding.
The impact of chess instruction on student’s mathematical and reading/cognitive
abilities.
Numerous studies have been conducted to demonstrate the impact of chess instruction
on students’ academic outcomes, specifically mathematical and reading/cognitive
abilities (for example, Christiaen 1976; Frank, 1978; Liptrap, 1998; Ferguson, 1986 and
1995; Margulies, undated; Smith and Cage, 2000; Barret &Fish, 2011; Robert Boruch,
2011; Kazemi et al, 2012; Trinchero, 2013).
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The results of these studies support the idea that chess instruction in schools leads
to significant improvement in mathematical and reading/cognitive attainments of
children. According to the studies, positive relations between chess and education is
grounded by evidence, as regularly playing chess is associated with improvement in
several abilities, including problem solving,
analytical/critical reasoning, high level of
attention and concentration on chessboard which is important to enhance
mathematical and reading skills. One of the earliest
studies, conducted by Christiaen,
in 1976 in Belgium, revealed that chess teaching in schools, was effective as an
educational tool for developing the cognitive abilities of students. The researcher of this
study used only post-test by randomly selecting twenty-five students from Belgian boys'
schools. Chess instruction was taken as an independent variable and Piagetian tasks
and school results were considered as dependent variables of this study. In addition,
the author used a seven round chess tournament with the Swiss system to determine
the chess level of participants.
According to the results of the research, after two
years of chess instruction, chess group students showed significantly better results in
Piagetian tasks and regular school testing than non-chess group students. The main
strength of this study is the randomized selection of participants and variety of
measures. However, this method of analysis also has a number of limitations regarding
the lack of reliability of the results,
taking into account that no pretest was conducted,
as well as the fact that participants of the study were only males. Another similar
study was conducted in Zaire by Frank (1979- 1981) who investigated the effectiveness
of chess instruction to develop cognitive aptitudes, spatial ability and verbal ability in
children. During the study, chess instruction included chess games theory, tests and
practice and were taught to 92 students aged 16 years old. Compared to a Belgian
study conducted by Johan Christiaen (1974-76), in this research both pre-tests and post-
tests were given.
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The results of this study revealed that the performance of the experimental group was
better than the control group and chess led to an improvement in the children's numerical
and verbal aptitude. The strength of this research is not only a random allocation of
the participants, but also utilization of a variety of measures such as primary mental
abilities test, differential aptitude tests, general aptitude tests battery and D2 test of
Brieckenkamp (test for attention). It has been conclusively shown from these studies
that the chess group showed better cognitive skills after chess instruction. However,
findings in the study by Hong & Bart (2007) are not consistent with the findings of these
studies. In Hong & Bart (2007), authors do not support the cognitive benefits of chess
instruction, because the achievements of the experimental group in cognitive tests,
who were students at risk for academic failure, were not different from the control group.
The result of a lack of cognitive effects of chess instruction was explained by two
interpretations in this study: a) the students at risk for academic failure could require
more time for chess instruction; b) novice chess players at risk for academic failure
need to develop their chess skills at a certain level to improve their cognitive abilities.
Similarly, according to the articles of de Groot, academic benefits of chess are
significantly different between those who are “highly skilled” and those who are new
to the game of chess. Thus, “low level gains” from teaching chess such as
improvements in concentration and attention are more expected than “high level gains”
such as enhancements in intelligence and creativity (de Groot, 1977, 1978).
Furthermore, findings from several studies have considered a positive relationship
between chess instruction and students’ math and reading attainments. Liptrap in his
study “Chess and Standard Test Scores" (1998) found out that in a large suburban
school district near Houston, Texas teaching chess in schools increased the
mathematical and reading abilities of elementary school children. The researcher
explored the claim whether elementary school children increased their standardized test
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scores by taking one hour chess classes per week and he compared the students’ third
and fifth-grade scores on Texas Assessment of academic skills. In the same way, in the
methodology part of my study, T test was done comparing the first and third year grades
of students who did not take chess class in their first year. According to the results of
Liptrap’s study, there was an improvement in the academic performance of students in
math and reading. However, no data is provided on the statistical reliability of the
results. In contradiction with previous studies, (e.g.Christiaen, 1976 or Frank 1979), this
research does not take into account random allocation of participants which
demonstrates that the participants of the study could be self- selected, as well as the
number of male participants in the chess group (74.6%) exceeded the ones (50.8%) in
the non- chess group. However, the study has a number of strengths such as large
sampling,
pretest and posttest and the duration of chess classes. Similar experimental
design has been used by Margulies in his research. Both studies (Liptrap and Margulies)
are quasi experimental, which makes results not valid and tentative.
Margulies’s research “The effect of chess on reading scores” was carried out in
1991 in New York City’s District
Nine. He has concluded that there is a positive
relationship between reading scores of students and chess instruction. In the first year,
students were trained by chess masters and teachers, however, in the second year,
chess instruction was enhanced through adding computers and software chess
lessons to the experiment. After evaluation of two years chess program and using
both pretest and posttest, it has been shown that the students in the chess group
demonstrated reliably significant improvement in reading scores compared to the
average student in the country and the average student in the school district. Despite
the fact that chess group students showed an increase in their reading ability, the
author does not provide a single explanation of this correlation. He points out that
“Chess players combine high level processes - knowledge and information about the
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position - and an interactive.
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approach in which each “candidate move” is considered much like a word or phrase
in reading. The cognition processes are very similar. Both chess and reading are
decision-making activities and some transfer of training from one to the other may
be expected” (Margulies, 1992, p 9).
According to another article of “Chess in Modern
Education” by Marcel Milat, it has been suggested that “Chess develops cognitive and
attention skills. Furthermore, chess forces adolescents to visualize concepts and piece
movement. This may allow for better visualization (interpretive) skills when reading”
(Marcel Milat, p 94,).
In a quantitative research of 2011, Barret and Fish conducted a causal-
comparative study to identify the effects of teaching chess to students’ math
achievements in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades in a suburban middle school in
southwestern United States. The study fails to claim causation and generalizability,
but
the results support the idea of using chess as an effective academic tool for students
who receive special education services. In addition, this study detected that there
was a significant relationship between chess instruction and end-of- year grades as well
as the significant relationship between chess instruction and mathematics Texas
Assessment of knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test scores. In another study, Smith and
Cage (2000) point out that chess instruction affects positively mathematical
achievements of rural, African-American secondary school students in Northern
Louisiana. Specifically, the findings show that the scores of participants in mathematics
achievement and non-verbal cognitive ability were significantly higher in the
experimental group than in the control group. The study design encompassed 120
hours of chess instruction and involved treatment groups including 11 females and 10
males. The results were reported after controlling for differences among pretest scores
(Smith and Cage, 2000).In a more recent study “Investigation of the impact of chess
play on developing meta-cognitive ability and math problem-solving power of students
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at different levels of education” Kazemi et.al(2012) investigate the effects of playing
chess to the cognitive abilities. According to the study, after adjusting for post-test
scoring the chess group participants that were composed of 86 randomly selected
students from fifth, eighth and ninth grades from schools in Shanandaj in Western Iran
performed higher in mathematics test scores. The study demonstrates that chess
teaching improves significantly the mathematical abilities and the meta cognitive
capacities of school aged children.
Nevertheless, there is inconsistency with these studies, in that it is difficult that to
identify the reasons for the improvement is only chess instruction or some other
variables have also an effect. Therefore, the findings are not enough to establish
conclusions about the direction of causality between teaching chess and students’
academic outcomes (Gobet
& Campitelli, 2002). For instance, in the critical review on
“Education and Chess” ,Gobet and Campitelli (2006) point out three possible views
on that matter: a) the evidence presented about the educational impact of chess
instruction is uncertain; b) several intervening factors such as motivational problems
(lack of abilities to deal with practice of game in a short period of time) could appear
among children in the learning process of chess; c) chess instruction may lead to an
improvement specifically for novices, but not significantly for advanced players.
Recently, two Italian chess studies have been conducted during 2010-2014 to
find out the relationship between chess and math learning. “Chess in school can
improve math ability? Differences between instructor training and teacher training"
(2014) and “Can Chess training improve PISA scores in mathematics?”(2013) by
Roberto Trinchero emphasize that chess learning increases the mathematical
abilities of primary school students, however, several precise conditions should be
taken into account in chess instruction such as the duration of chess trainings and
the teaching approach to chess classes. In the study of “Can chess training improve
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PISA scores in mathematics” that involved 568 primary school children in Italy, the
participants were subdivided in four groups: 1) experimental,2 ) control, 3) experimental
without a pretest ,and 4) control without a pretest (Trinchero, 2013). In the study, the
experimental group with chess instruction showed statistically significant increase in
problem-solving skills on complex tasks and this improvement is greater in subgroups
that have received more hours of chess in- presence lessons as well as have achieved
higher level in online training. Trinchero offers an explanation for improved results that
“the increased capacity of the pupils of reading and interpreting correctly the mathematic
problems, apply their mathematic knowledge and reflect on their own actions and
strategies, as effect of chess training” (Trinchero, 2013, p14). As shown in Table 3 the
author has used the OECD-PISA items in the study to indicate math abilities of third grade
students regarding the different levels of difficulty, through estimation by Oecd-Pisa.
TABLE 2.1.OECD-PISA items used in the study
Item
Oecd-Pisa
item code
Math abilities involved
Estimated
difficulty
(fromOecd-
Pisa)
Score
Analogy with chess ability
10
M145Q01
Calculate
The number of points on
the opposite face of
showed dice
478 (Level2)
0/1
Calculate material
advantage
11
M806Q01
Extrapolate a rule from
given patterns and
complete the sequence
484 (Level4)
0/1
Extrapolate checkmate rule
from chess situation
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Source: “Can chess training improves PISA scores in mathematics?” Trinchero, 2013:
12
M510Q01T
Calculate the number
of possible combination
for pizza ingredients
559 (Level4)
0/1
Explore the possible
combination of moves to
checkmate
13
M520Q1A
Calculate the minimum
price of the self-
assembled skateboard
496 (Level3)
0/1
Calculate material
advantage
14
M159Q05
Recognize the shape of
the track on the basis
of the speed graph of a
racing car
655 (Level5)
0/1
Infer fact from a
rule(e.g. possible
moves to checkmate)
15
R040Q02
Establish the profundity
of alake integrating the
information derived
from the text and from
the graphics
478 (Level2)
0/1
Find relevant information
on a chessboard
16
M266Q01
Estimate the perimeter
of fence shapes, finding
analogies in geometric
figures
687 (Level6)
0/1
Find analogies in
chessboard situations
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Furthermore, Trinchero has continued his research in another study - “Chess in school
can improve math ability? Differences between instructor training and teacher training
(2014).This study investigated two different teaching approaches (chess lessons
performed by chess instructors and by a classroom teachers).The findings from the
study demonstrated that the improvement is greater in problem solving ability in
mathematics when chess instructors rather than classroom teachers teach the chess
classes. Therefore, increasing the number of chess instructors is more necessary,
which
can assist to transfer chess skills such as problem solving, analytical reasoning and
coordination to other domains such as mathematical ability. Similar results have
been suggested in the study that was written by another Italian researcher, Barbara
Romano in 2011. His study draws a conclusion that chess instruction in schools can
improve math outcomes of 3rd grade students by a third of a standard deviation. Based
on the approach used by author, the links between chess and mathematics is
justified through the following logic model:
Figure1. The SAM (Chess and Math Learning) program Logic Model
Source: “Does playing chess improve math learning?” Barbara Romano, 2011, p7
As follows from the figures shown above, by playing chess students enhance
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critical thinking, reasoning, concentration, spatial reasoning and solving strategies
which are associated with an improvement in math and geometry abilities. In
another study, “On the effect of chess training on scholastic achievement” the author
writes that:
In chess, one must engage in this sequence of (1) position comprehension,
(2) pattern induction, and (3) move formulation and evaluation relatively
quickly. This coordinated set of cognitive skills required in competent chess
play likely transfers to the learning of mathematics and related fields that
also often require comprehension, induction, analysis, and evaluation of
complex phenomena (Bart, August 2014,Volume 5, Article 762 : page 2)
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There are numerous mathematical problems associated with chessboards and by
analyzing and evaluating chess positions and predicting the outcome of
moves, children can transfer the knowledge and skills to other domains such as
math abilities, because chess is not about pieces, but rather coordination,
concentration, planning ahead and problem solving.
Background on "Chess in schools" projects
"Chess in schools" projects are supported by several international chess organizations
such as European Chess Union, World Chess Federation as well as national
educational organizations of countries. FIDE’s (World Chess Federation) Commission
for Chess in Schools was founded in 1984 for the purpose of promoting the game of
chess and increasing the potential of chess players in the countries around the world
(The booklet of FIDE, 2014)
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However, the implementation of Chess in Schools project indicates that there
was a shift to interest in chess, that chess is not only used to prepare chess players but
also to utilize this as an educational activity in schools. According to the written
declaration on chess which was announced on 13 March 2012, by Martin Schulz,
president of the EU Parliament, chess projects were launched in EU member states,
however they were also incorporated into schools outside the EU. The primary purpose
of this declaration is to encourage chess classes in schools for the purpose of not
only promoting the game of chess, but also seeing the educational benefits of learning
and teaching chess.
Regarding this programme, several EU member states such as
France, Italy, Spain,
United Kingdom and others have promoted chess in their
schools. For instance, in France the program for chess was launched in January
2011 but developed after the EU declaration on chess and the main purpose of adding
chess into schools’ curriculum was to improve pupils' competencies in sciences and
technologies and to decrease the rate of innumeracy among them. Another example
is Spain where an experimental programme for chess was launched in 2007 and the
government supported the idea of incorporating chess in the school program. In the
context of Spain, the chess programme was not only designed to focus on the
improvement of concentration and logical thinking of kids, but also to prevent
discrimination and eliminate racism among students.
According to the estimation, in
Spain teaching chess is spread in around 1000 schools and chess is considered as an
effective part of academic program (Ragonnaud, 2011). Scientific research was
conducted on the educational benefits of chess in Spain by the universities of Girona
and Leida. The findings highlighted the positive impact
of chess instruction on
mathematical and reading scores among children. As a result,
Spain has incorporated
chess into school curriculum as a compulsory subject in 2015. (Malcolm Pein, 2015).
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In Italy, the Italian Chess Federation supports chess lessons. In Piemonte 21,000
children have benefited from chess lessons as a part of a chess initiative in 2009-
2010. Furthermore, in the last few years, Italian chess studies (Trinchero, 2012, 2013;
Argentin, Romano, Martini, 2012) have received much attention in scholarly literature.
Specifically, Trinchero has conducted a study to determine the effects of learning chess
on children’s math abilities based on the OECD-PISA mathematical scale (Trinchero,
2014). Starting from 2005, chess has been incorporated into classrooms in Turkey;
12,000 chess classrooms were opened within the framework of the chess initiative
and it has been taught as an elective subject in schools. The objective of chess
programme is to increase the intelligence of Turkish kids as well as to make the game
of chess a main sport in the country. Moreover, chess serves as an instructional
activity in many other countries around the world, including Hungary, Romania,
Greece, Moldova, Slovenia and Algeria.
Chess is also very popular game in Azerbaijan and many programs have been
implemented for the promotion of this game. The "State Program on development of
chess in Azerbaijan in 2009-2014” was approved by the Decree of President Ilham
Aliyev, and Azerbaijan is the only country among the members of FIDE which has
established this development programme. The launch of this development programme
aims to propagate the game of chess in Azerbaijani society and to increase the number
of potential players. Although as a sport it has always been a popular activity in
Azerbaijan, chess has not been perceived as an academic tool in the local context.
However, in 2012, the Azerbaijani government introduced chess into primary schools
within the framework of pilot project for chess. This idea of incorporating chess into the
national curriculum became real after the meeting of Ilham Aliyev, President of the
Republic of Azerbaijan with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumchinov in August 2012. As a
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result of this meeting, the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan, the World Chess
Federation and the Azerbaijan Chess Federation signed an agreement on
incorporating chess into schools’ curriculum (edu.gov.az, 2012). In the beginning, the
pilot project for chess was initiated and implemented within the framework of the "State
programme for the Development of Chess". Chess is taught as an optional subject by
chess trainers and classroom teachers. Bringing chess into the national curriculum
aims to increase the number of chess players and to benefit from the educational
effects of the game. In
order to achieve this goal, in January 2012, for the first time
chess was taught in several schools in the cities and regions of Azerbaijan
(www.edu.gov.az, 2012). The first year of implementation of the project demonstrated
that chess could be used as a non- traditional educational tool to improve academic
outcomes and cognitive abilities of students. Therefore, the interest in this project
grew and chess pilot project became popular in all parts of the country, which
resulted in an increase of the number of chess classes in 2013 - 2014.
Conclusion
To sum up, some results from studies are quite convincing such as the Italian studies
conducted by Trinchero. Reviewing the literature, it is clear that most
studies have
mainly focused on methodology design; however, in conducting a research about chess
and education, some other questions need to be asked in the studies. For instance, if
chess group students show an improvement/no improvement in their academic
attainments, is it due only to chess instruction or could other factors also be reasons
such as school qualification, effects of teachers’ approaches and the duration of chess
classes. In future studies, it is necessary to research these factors in order to provide
convincing and a conclusive explanation of the educational impacts of chess
instruction. Also, the findings from literature show that
studies have a number of
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possible limitations in their methodology that several factors should be better controlled,
such as the selection of participants and utilizing both post
t
est and pretest.
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3. Methodology
Introduction
The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the impact of chess instruction on
school students’ academic achievements, mainly on mathematics and reading
outcomes, in Azerbaijan. This chapter provides an overview of the methods and
research design used in this study. Specifically, in conducting this investigation, this part
of the study will focus on (1) the sample presentation; (2) procedure of experiment;
(3) the results of the experiment and (4) discussion. Quantitative approach is the main
methodology used in this study, however, an interview with a chess teacher who works
in a chess pilot school and the researcher’s participant observation in a chess class,
which will be used in the discussion part, serve as examples of qualitative methodology.
Conducting accurate experiments to examine the use of chess instruction, as an
intervention for increasing math and reading achievements of students, requires precise
work on methodology. According to researchers - Gobet and Campitelli, a
convincing experiment on the educational impact of chess instruction is difficult to
conduct;
however, the following requirements should be taken into consideration:
“Random assignment of the participants to the various groups; presence of
a pretest to insure that there is no initial difference between the groups;
presence of a posttest to measure potential differences due to the
treatment; presence of an experimental group and of two control groups,
one for eliminating the possibility of placebo effect; provision of different
people for carrying out the treatment, the pretest, and posttest;
experimenter’s and tester’s ignorance of the nature of the group
assignment; and participants’ ignorance of the purpose of the experiment
and even of the fact that they are participating in a study”
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(Gobet&Campitelli, 2005, 8)
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Table 3.1 Methodological design of some studies
Study
Chess
Intervention
Sampling
Dependent
variables
Outcome
Measures
Random
allocation
42
Math& Reading
!
Christiaen (1976)
lessons,
Chess group 20
(DGB)Piaget test,
!
Belgium
over Two
Non-chess
PMS(aptitude test
!
years
group:17
for orientation
!
Male 5th and 6th
purpose) and
!
grades
school results
!
Margulies
Two academic
years
Chess group:22
Non-chess
group:1118
Male&Female
7thgrade
Degree of
reading
Power
test
!
Liptrap
Weekly
Chess group: 23
TAAS
!
Non-chess group:
(1998)
269
Male&Female
5thgrade
Barret & Fish
30 weeks
Chess group:15
Academic, Math
!
Texas
Non-chess
(TAKS & End-of-
group:16
Course Grades)
Male & Female
6th- 8th grades
Smith and
Cage (2000)
120 hours of
chess
11 female,10 male
Academic,
mathematical
and
non-verbal
abilities
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Frank (1979-1981)
Twice a week
92 teenagers for
Cognitive abilities
!
Zaire
over a one
chess group and
PMA,DAT,GATB
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year
non-chess group
D2 Test of
!
Brieckenkamp (test
!
of attention)
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Projective test
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The table 3.1 contains summarized information including sampling, chess
intervention, measures of outcomes and random allocation of several studies that
explore the relationship between chess and students’ mathematical, reading and
cognitive abilities. In these studies, the study design mainly encompasses a
comparison of academic outcomes between participants in the chess intervention and
non-chess groups. Furthermore, researchers have used the experimental (e.g., random
assignment) and quasi-experimental methodologies to examine the impact of chess
instruction on students’ academic outcomes (math and reading) and cognitive abilities.
By utilizing different types of assessments such as standardized test scores and school
year grades, the findings from these studies have demonstrated that the
improvement of academic performance of students could be linked to chess instruction.
According to the quantitative methodology, a researcher must rely on numerical
data. Taking into consideration time constraints and practical reasons, an experimental
study could not be conducted by the researcher of this study. However, putting
more emphasis on the quantitative methodology, the numerical data (final grades of
students) collected from two schools in Baku was used to test the research
hypothesis. Selected schools were included in the list of the pilot project for chess.
For this study, I chose a chess school from the list that the Ministry of Education of
Azerbaijan Republic has provided on its webpage. The year of teaching chess is highly
important for this study. Therefore, special attention should be drawn to the year when
chess instruction started in the selected school. The treatment school had chess
instruction from 2012, which provided me with sufficient data, including grades of
second and third classes on math and reading. This school implements chess
instruction once a week throughout the academic year as a part of the curriculum, and
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chess classes consist of games, theories and practice. Chess lessons are not graded;
however, it is a compulsory class for all students. A control group school is located
near the pilot school and both are public schools. The second school has not been
included in the pilot project for chess; therefore, no chess instruction is provided there.
Students regularly attend classes and they are in the same year with the students of
chess pilot school. The data collection consists of final academic year grades of second
and third class students on math and reading from both schools, as well as first year
grades of students from the chess pilot school.
Based on the collected data, t-tests are carried out: a) firstly, a t-test of output
that is obtained from two different groups of students from the two (chess and non-
chess group) schools; b) secondly, a t-test is conducted only for the same students
from the chess pilot school to compare their first and third class (the two year
differences) grades. Overall,
the
chess class serves as an intervention in this
research. According to the statement of the Ministry of Education, chess classes
start to be taught to 2nd grade students and the classes continue in 3rd and 4th
grades. In the article by Wendi Fischer from the John Hopkins School of Education, it
has been suggested that chess is more beneficial as an educational activity for the age
group of 2nd and 3rd grade students. The author explains that “eight and nine year-old
minds and thinking skills are developing rapidly, and chess teaches higher level
thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze and think critically”
(Fischer,2006,p1). First grade students do not have any chess instruction in the
curriculum, therefore, both pretest and posttest has been conducted to compare the
math and reading achievements of the same students from the chess pilot school. By
analyzing the outputs of the t tests of each grade students in math and reading, a
comparative picture of the results was provided.
Furthermore, it is necessary to note that according to the pilot project, in
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Azerbaijani schools chess teachers and classroom teachers carry out chess
instruction. In the school selected for the study, a classroom teacher carries out the
chess trainings. This teacher is a history instructor, but has basic knowledge about the
game of chess. An interview, which was conducted with a chess teacher of selected
grades, as well as participant observation, was used to get an impression of the chess
instruction in this school.
To sum up, using the combination of both methods that complement each other has
provided a more complete analysis. In the first phase, conducting t-test, the goal of
the quantitative analysis is to identify the relationship between chess and the
academic performance of the first, second and third grade school students on math and
reading in schools of Azerbaijan. In the second phase, a qualitative approach is used
to arrive at conclusion through an individual interview, as well as the researcher’s
participant
observation. The rationale for using this mixed approach is to provide an in-
depth answer to the research question of this study.
Sample presentation (participants)
The target group of this study was composed of 140 students from a school of
the chess pilot project and 87 students who participated as non-chess group students
aged 9-10 from two schools in Baku. Despite the fact that these students are currently
studying in the last year (4th) of elementary school, I used the academic grades of these
students from previous years (2nd and 3rd year) to conduct T- test. For conducting the
other t -test between the first year and third year grades of the students of the chess
pilot school the data was collected in the same way and the target group was composed
of 114 students from the chess pilot school. In addition, neither newcomer students
nor students who drop out were included in this study. In the chess pilot school the
number of classes are seven, while in the non-chess school the number is four. I do not
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differentiate male and female students, because this is not a significant enough
indicator to change the study design. All schools keep copies of school journals of
classes from the previous years that provided easy access to the data of first, second
and third class grades on math and reading. However, the grades of students are not in
electronic version, and for both schools, permission must be sought from the principal.
As a researcher I preserve the anonymity of the schools and participants involved in this
study.
Study Design
For the purposes of this study, chess instruction has been chosen as an
independent variable, which is taught once a week in school hours. The dependent
variables are first, second and third year mathematics and reading grades of Azerbaijani
school students for the end of academic year. In the schools of Azerbaijan, academic
evaluation is done twice a year and consists of two semiannual gradings. I have
collected final academic grading of the second and third academic years’ grades.
Schools use a numeric system of grades from 2 to 5. Highest grade is 5 and
failing grade is 2. Following this design, my aim in conducting this study was to
examine the alternative hypothesis that chess instruction in schools in Azerbaijan
improves academic performances of students in mathematics and reading, which
was tested at the alpha that is 0.05 levels of significance. Null hypothesis is
defined as “there is no difference” in output from t-test, which means the chess
group’s students do not show any improvement in their academic attainments. Chess
has been included in the curriculum as a part of the pilot project in schools of
Azerbaijan since 2012. The data collected for the study covers the academic years of
2012/2013 and 2013/2014. The students involved in this study have been part of
chess classes starting from 2012, which means these students, who are studying in
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the fourth year of primary school are trained over two years.
The students have
received one hour a week of chess instruction as a part of the curriculum. The
classes last for 45 minutes and students have a chance of learning the theory of the
game of chess and the practice by playing it and solving puzzles. The syllabus of
chess instruction encompasses both practical and theoretical learning such as chess
pieces, the movement of pieces, checkmates with different pieces, elementary
openings and endings. These are included in the syllabus of chess classes that has
been approved by the Ministry of Education of the Azerbaijan Republic.
According to the order of the Ministry of Education of the Azerbaijan Republic,
the instructors of chess classes are classroom teachers and chess trainers who have
been involved in this project. In the treatment school, chess lessons were delivered by
school teachers who did not have sufficient knowledge of chess to be helpful for the
improvement of problem solving and mathematical abilities of students and this lack of
qualified instructors could become a limitation for the research.
For data processing, I have used R studio software to obtain the outputs of t- test
in order to compare the results and draw conclusions about the relationship between
chess and students’ academic performance in math and reading.
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Results
Table 3.2: The results obtained from t test based on students’ academic
achievement in math and reading
In order to test the hypotheses, the output obtained from t test provides a comparison of
two groups (chess and non-chess) students from different schools. A numerical
example is given in the Table 3.2 with p value and the level of significance that is used
to compare the differences between chess and non-chess group of students. According to
these results, an alternative hypothesis shows that the independent variable, which is
chess intervention, can lead to improved academic outcomes,
specifically in reading
attainments of students. It is apparent from Table 3.2 that in the second grade, the chess
group students performed better in math compared to the non-chess group. So, the
output of T test of second graders on math demonstrates that p value is 0.01482, which is
lower than 0.05 the level of significance.
Measures
T test
P value
Mean%!
(control%group)!
Mean!
(experimental%
group)!
Gain!
Math 2nd
grade
-2.1935
0.01482
4.18
4.39
0.21!
Math 3rd
grade
-0.4063
0.3425
4.39
4.42
0.03!
Reading 2nd
grade
-1.9042
0.02933
4.39
4.56
0.17!
Reading
3rdgrade
-2.059
0.02057
4.40
4.59
0.19!
35!
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The results from t- test indicates that null hypothesis is rejected in favor of alternative
hypothesis and it shows that there is an improvement in the math grades of second year
chess group students. However, surprisingly, a comparison of third grade math results
reveals that there is no improvement in the grades of third year students. The p-value
output from grades of second year students in reading are 0.02933 that is lower than 0.05
the level of significance, which indicates that the alternative hypothesis is true. Also,
these results appear in the third grade students’ academic performance on reading (p-
value =0.02057). According to the output of the t- test on reading, the improvements were
revealed in the second and third year grades of students.
Both grade students enhanced
their performance over a year. Nevertheless, only second grade chess group students
improved their mathematical achievements.
Table 3.3. T test output of students according to the first and third classes’
grades
Welch Two sample t test
Welch Two sample t test
Data: control$math1and treat$math3
Data:
control$reading1
and
treat$reading3
t = -0.6858, df = 223.889, p-value =
0.2468
alternative
hypothesis:
true
difference in means is less than 0
95 percent confidence interval:
-Inf 0.07413127
Sample estimates:
Mean of x mean of y
4.587719 4.640351
T=1.2587, df=224.704, p value=0.1047
Alternative
hypothesis:
true
difference in means is greater than 0
95 percent confidence interval:
Inf -0.03285876
Sample estimates:
Mean of x mean of y
4.587719 4.482456
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The results of T tests that is obtained from the first year and third year grades of
students in mathematics and reading from the pilot school indicate that there is
not an improvement in academic achievement of students. As p-value is greater than
0.05, we fail to reject null hypothesis, which means that third grade students have not
improved their academic achievement compared to the first year in reading and
mathematics.
37!
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Discussion
The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of chess instruction
on students’ academic outcomes in mathematics and reading in the case of
Azerbaijan.
Although there has been no local literature published on this matter, the
findings of this study are consistent with the results of previous researches done by
international researchers. According to the results of the study, there is an
improvement in the academic achievements of chess group and non-chess group
students in 2nd and 3rd grades. Specifically, contrary to the results of t- test in
mathematics, the pupils in a chess pilot school showed much improvement in
reading in both years (2nd and 3rd) compared to the non-chess group. While
interviewing a chess instructor, he pointed out that chess lessons are beneficial for
students, because, students in his class may spend much time engaged with
chessboard, which led to an improvement in their behavioral abilities and concentration.
According to the view of de Groot (1977) educational benefits of chess instruction
may have two types of gain: low-level gains and high- level gains. Low-level gains
are an improvement in concentration, attention and high level gains are an
enhancement in intelligence, creativity and school performance. The findings of my
study indicate that low level gains are greater than high level gains.
T-test results indicate that chess may lead to an improved math achievement of
2nd grade students; however, third grade students of the treatment school still did not
outperform control third grade students on math grades. Secondly, in the analysis of
other t-tests involving the grades of the same students, changes in pretest
performances in math and reading were not different from changes in the posttest
performances. Math abilities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and calculation
skills could be enhanced by learning chess and solving chess puzzles.
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Not having much improvement in math in chess groups could be explained by the fact
that a classroom teacher who lacked sophisticated knowledge of chess theories
performed the chess lessons. “Most times chess puzzles and some chess theories from
textbooks are difficult to understand and this is a challenge in my chess teaching”
expressed a chess teacher in his interview. Participant observation in a chess class
provided me an opportunity to look at chess textbooks, which were designed for this
instruction. These textbooks
had multiple chess exercises for each topic that require
systematically practicing chess.
Therefore, the lower level of chess experience of the
teachers could be a challenge for these students to get more advantage in their
learning.
As it has been conclusively shown in the research on “Chess in school can
improve math ability: differences between instructor training and teacher training from
an experiment in Italian primary schools”, chess lessons trained by a chess
instructor can lead to increased math outcomes compared to ones conducted by
classroom instructors. Conversely, the improvement is much smaller if a classroom
teacher performs chess training. (Trinchero, 2014)
Moreover, based on the results of the interview with a chess teacher, it also
became clear that the chess instruction is perceived differently in this school. For
instance, the answer by a teacher to the question about the introduction of chess into
the curriculum as a compulsory academic subject was that “it is not necessary to
have chess as a required subject in classes, because this does not guarantee to
prepare chess players and once a week chess class cannot increase the number
of chess players”. It is apparent that chess is not perceived as an academic subject
in school,
and this could create a discouragement in the teaching approach for
non- chess player instructors.
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To sum up, the study encourages and suggests further researches to examine the
educational effects of chess instruction to student’s mathematical and reading
achievement. More research should be conducted in order to examine this impact in
depth, to understand why chess instruction has had a positive impact on reading
achievements, and what other factors could lead to an increase in students’
academic attainments in mathematics.
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4. Conclusion
As it has been highlighted throughout the first chapter of this thesis, the research
problem in this study is the low performance of Azerbaijani school students in
national and international evaluations such as PISA and SSAC tests. Chess instruction
could be proposed as a novel solution to the existing issue.
Therefore, this study was
conducted to find out whether chess instruction in the schools of Azerbaijan could have
a positive impact on students’ academic achievements in mathematics and reading
abilities.
A quantitative approach was chosen as the main methodology, and the study
involved two groups of first, second and third year school children in Baku as a
treatment and control group. In order to conduct t-tests to compare the academic
attainment of chess and non-chess groups in reading and math, final academic grades
of first, second and third year students from two schools were collected. Firstly, t-
test was conducted to compare the academic attainment in math and reading grades
of second and third year students from two schools. Secondly, t- test was conducted by
utilizing the first and third year grades of the same students in math and reading from
the school which has chess instruction. Furthermore, an interview with a chess teacher
and participant observation was used in the research.
The results obtained from first t-test indicated that students in the school with
chess instruction showed much improvement in reading and math attainments
compared to non-chess group students, however, math grading of third year students is
taken as an exception. The output obtained from other t- test showed that third year
chess group students did not indicate a difference in reading and math achievements.
The study finds it necessary to conduct further research in order to explore the
educational benefits of chess instruction in more detail. Because of time constraints and
41!
!
practical reasons, this research had some limitations, as the researcher could not
conduct experimental study; therefore the study is weak on validity. For future research,
it is recommended to take into consideration several features such as experimental
design, random selection of participants, the presence of pretest and posttest, as well
as additional variables to examine the causality relationship between chess and
students’ academic attainments. In addition, it is necessary to investigate the
differences between chess training run by a chess instructor and a classroom teacher.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to come to a precise conclusion based on the findings
of this study. The first recommendation is that chess needs to perceive and deserve as
an academic subject in schools in Azerbaijan. It seems that the benefits of chess have
not been realized as an educational tool in the schools in Azerbaijan. This could make a
challenge both for students and teachers to understand the place of chess in the
classroom. Moreover, since the Ministry of Education implements a pilot project for
chess, there is a lack of systematic data about the results of implementation of this
project. More studies on these issues are required. For this purpose, the Ministry of
Education and educational leaders should enhance and stimulate the research on
chess and education.
!
!
!
!
42!
!
References
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Hong, S., and Bart, W.(2007).Cognitive effects of chess instruction on students at risk
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45!
!
Appendix 1 The final academic grading of the second and third year
students (both chess and non chess students )
Math 2
Readin
g 2
Math 3
Readin
g 3
Gender
Chess
Class
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
A
3
3
3
3
MALE
YES
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
YES
A
3
3
4
4
MALE
YES
A
5
5
4
5
FEMALE
YES
A
4
4
5
5
FEMALE
YES
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
YES
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
A
4
5
5
5
MALE
YES
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
A
3
3
3
4
MALE
YES
A
4
5
5
5
MALE
YES
A
3
4
4
4
MALE
YES
A
3
4
3
4
FEMALE
YES
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
YES
A
4
4
5
4
MALE
YES
A
4
5
4
5
MALE
YES
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
A
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
A
4
5
4
5
MALE
NO
A
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
A
3
3
3
3
MALE
NO
A
4
4
4
5
FEMALE
NO
A
3
4
4
4
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
4
5
4
4
MALE
NO
A
4
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
A
4
5
4
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
4
5
4
5
FEMALE
NO
A
46!
!
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
A
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
B
4
5
4
5
FEMALE
YES
B
4
5
4
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
B
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
3
5
4
4
MALE
YES
B
4
5
4
5
MALE
YES
B
4
5
4
4
FEMALE
YES
B
5
5
4
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
4
5
4
4
MALE
YES
B
4
5
5
5
MALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
B
4
4
3
4
FEMALE
NO
B
3
3
3
3
MALE
NO
B
3
4
4
3
MALE
NO
B
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
B
4
5
5
5
MALE
NO
B
3
4
4
3
MALE
NO
B
3
3
3
3
FEMALE
NO
B
4
5
4
4
MALE
NO
B
4
5
5
4
MALE
NO
B
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
B
3
3
3
3
MALE
NO
B
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C
4
3
4
3
FEMALE
YES
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
C
5
4
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C
5
4
5
5
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C
47!
!
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
4
MALE
YES
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
C
5
4
5
4
MALE
YES
C
5
4
5
4
MALE
YES
C
5
4
5
4
FEMALE
YES
C
5
4
5
5
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C
5
4
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C
5
5
4
4
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
4
MALE
YES
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
4
5
MALE
NO
C
3
3
4
4
FEMALE
NO
C
4
4
3
3
MALE
NO
C
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
3
4
3
3
MALE
NO
C
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
C
3
3
3
3
MALE
NO
C
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
C
4
4
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO
C
5
5
4
4
MALE
NO
C
3
3
3
4
MALE
NO
C
3
3
5
4
MALE
NO
C
4
4
4
5
FEMALE
NO
C
3
4
4
4
MALE
NO
C
5
4
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C2
4
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
4
4
4
4
MALE
YES
C2
4
4
3
3
FEMALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
4
4
3
3
MALE
YES
C2
48!
!
4
4
3
3
FEMALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C2
3
4
3
3
FEMALE
YES
C2
4
5
5
5
FEMALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
4
4
3
3
FEMALE
YES
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
YES
C2
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
C2
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
C2
4
4
4
4
FEMALE
NO
C2
4
4
4
4
MALE
NO
C2
5
5
5
5
MALE
NO
C2
5
5
5
5
FEMALE
NO