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Does chess instruction enhance mathematical ability in children? A three-group design to control for placebo effects


Abstract and Figures

Pupils’ poor achievement in mathematics has recently been a concern in many Western countries. In order to address this is- sue, it has been proposed to teach chess in schools. However, in spite of optimistic claims, no convincing evidence of the ac- ademic benefits of chess instruction has ever been provided, because no study has ever controlled for possible placebo ef- fects. In this experimental study, a three-group design (i.e., ex- perimental, placebo, and control groups) was implemented to control for possible placebo effects. Measures of mathematical ability and metacognitive skills were taken before and after the treatment. We were interested in metacognitive skills because they have been claimed to be boosted by chess instruction, in turn positively influencing the enhancement of mathematical ability. The results show that the experimental group (partici- pants attending a chess course) achieved better scores in math- ematics than the placebo group (participants attending a Go course) but not than the control group (participants attending regular school lessons). With regard to metacognition, no dif- ferences were found between the three groups. These results suggest that some chess-related skills generalize to the mathe- matical domain, because the chess lessons compensated for the hours of school lessons lost, whereas the Go lessons did not. However, this transfer does not seem to be mediated by meta- cognitive skills, and thus appears to be too limited to offer ed- ucational advantages.
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Does Chess Instruction Enhance Mathematical Ability in Children?
A Three-Group Design to Control for Placebo Effects
Giovanni Sala (
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Bedford Street South, Liverpool, UK
Fernand Gobet (
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Bedford Street South, Liverpool, UK
Roberto Trinchero (
Department of Philosophy and Education, University of Turin, Via Gaudenzio Ferrari 9, Turin, ITA
Salvatore Ventura (
University of Milan, ITA
Pupils’ poor achievement in mathematics has recently been a
concern in many Western countries. In order to address this is-
sue, it has been proposed to teach chess in schools. However,
in spite of optimistic claims, no convincing evidence of the ac-
ademic benefits of chess instruction has ever been provided,
because no study has ever controlled for possible placebo ef-
fects. In this experimental study, a three-group design (i.e., ex-
perimental, placebo, and control groups) was implemented to
control for possible placebo effects. Measures of mathematical
ability and metacognitive skills were taken before and after the
treatment. We were interested in metacognitive skills because
they have been claimed to be boosted by chess instruction, in
turn positively influencing the enhancement of mathematical
ability. The results show that the experimental group (partici-
pants attending a chess course) achieved better scores in math-
ematics than the placebo group (participants attending a Go
course) but not than the control group (participants attending
regular school lessons). With regard to metacognition, no dif-
ferences were found between the three groups. These results
suggest that some chess-related skills generalize to the mathe-
matical domain, because the chess lessons compensated for the
hours of school lessons lost, whereas the Go lessons did not.
However, this transfer does not seem to be mediated by meta-
cognitive skills, and thus appears to be too limited to offer ed-
ucational advantages.
Keywords: chess; mathematics; transfer; education.
Recently, pupils’ poor achievement in mathematics has been
the subject of debate both in the United States (Hanushek,
Peterson & Woessmann, 2012; Richland, Stigler, & Holyoak,
2012) and in Europe (Grek, 2009). Policy makers and re-
searchers have investigated several alternative methods and
activities with the aim of improving the effectiveness of
mathematical teaching. Teaching chess in schools is one of
these activities. Chess has recently become part of the school
curriculum in several countries, and several large studies and
educational projects involving chess are currently ongoing in
Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the
United States. Moreover, the European Parliament has ex-
pressed its positive opinion on using chess courses in schools
as an educational tool (Binev, Attard-Montalto, Deva,
Mauro, & Takkula, 2011).
Chess as Educational Tool: The available Evidence
Several studies have tried to demonstrate the potential bene-
fits of chess training on various cognitive abilities such as at-
tention (Scholz et al., 2008), development of spatial concepts
(Sigirtmac, 2012), general intelligence (Hong & Bart, 2007),
and metacognition (Kazemi, Yektayar, & Abad, 2012). Other
studies focused on academic variables, such as reading and
mathematics (Christiaen & Verhofstadt-Denève, 1981).
Recently, several studies have investigated the positive in-
fluence that chess could exert on children’s mathematical
abilities (Barrett & Fish, 2011; Kazemi et al., 2012; Sala,
Gorini, & Pravettoni, 2015; Scholz et al., 2008; Trinchero,
2012; Trinchero & Sala, in press). Barrett and Fish (2011)
examined the effect of chess instruction on adolescents re-
ceiving special education services, using TAKS (Texas As-
sessment of Knowledge and Skills) scores in mathematics.
The chess-treatment group showed an overall better perfor-
mance than the control group. In Kazemi et al. (2012), the
same pattern occurred with a sample of typically developing
male students from primary and secondary schools. Scholz et
al. (2008) examined the possible benefits of chess instruction
on a sample of primary school children with learning disabil-
ities (IQ between 70 and 85), with disappointing results. Fi-
nally, Sala’s and Trinchero’s studies (Sala, Gorini, & Pra-
vettoni, 2015; Trinchero, 2012; Trinchero & Sala, in press)
focused on the effect of chess instruction on primary school
children’s mathematical problem-solving ability. In these
studies the chess-treatment groups systematically outper-
formed the control groups.
The Lack of a Placebo Group
Following the above overall positive results, the view of the
chess community has been that chess practice increases aca-
demic performance because chess is an intellectually de-
manding and stimulating game (Bart, 2014; Garner, 2012;
Root, 2006). Such optimistic view has been challenged, ante
litteram, by Gobet and Campitelli’s (2006) review of the lit-
Sala, G., Gobet, F., Trinchero, R., & Ventura, S. (2016). Does chess instruction
enhance mathematical ability in children? A three-group design to control for placebo
effects. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.
erature regarding the effectiveness of chess instruction in en-
hancing children’s academic and cognitive abilities. Gobet
and Campitelli highlighted that – in spite of some the prom-
ising results reported in the reviewed experiments – the ben-
efits of chess practice were yet to be clearly established, be-
cause of the poor experimental design used in most studies.
In particular, most studies did not control for placebo effects
– that is, effects that are not due to the treatment per se but
that are due to other, uncontrolled aspects of the experimental
design. Potential mechanisms behind placebo effects include
instructors’ motivation, the state of excitement and attention
induced by a novel activity, and teachers’ expectations.
More recently, a meta-analysis (Sala & Gobet, 2016) has
lent further support to Gobet and Campitelli’s conclusions. In
that meta-analysis, 24 studies passed the selection criteria,
with 40 effect sizes. The overall effect size of chess instruc-
tion was moderate, with g = 0.34. It was also found that stud-
ies with at least 25 hours of chess instruction were more likely
to have a positive effect on mathematics, reading, and cogni-
tive abilities (g = 0.43) than studies with less than 25 hours
treatment (g = 0.30). Only one study (Fried & Ginsburg, n.d.),
which was interested in perceptual and visuo-spatial skills,
included a placebo control group. This study showed no dif-
ference between the chess group and the placebo group,
which consisted of attending counselling sessions. Unfortu-
nately, Fried and Ginsburg’s (n.d.) study did not investigate
the effect of chess instruction on children’s mathematical
ability. Therefore, this study cannot corroborate or disprove
any claims about the effectiveness of chess in enhancing
mathematical abilities.
The lack of a placebo control group – i.e., a group attending
other activities non-related to chess – has thus been identified
as the most serious flaw of the previous studies in the field.
These studies often compared the practice of the game of
chess to regular school activities. However, chess practice
may exert a moderate positive influence on children’s aca-
demic just because it is a novel activity in their curriculum
that is fun, and this may induce a state of increased attention
and motivation.
From an educational (and practical) perspective, this might
be irrelevant. Policy makers and educators might be inter-
ested in the effectiveness of chess instruction, regardless of
any chess-specific or non-chess-specific element causing the
improvement in pupils’ academic skills. Assuming this
“whatever works” perspective, the only element of interest
would be the size of the effect – i.e., how much children at-
tending chess courses improve their academic skills, such as
mathematical literacy.
Nonetheless, evaluating whether the benefits of chess prac-
tice on children’s academic skills are due to elements specific
or non-specific to the game of chess is an important theoreti-
cal question. In fact, assuming that skills acquired in chess
lead to benefits in domains such as mathematics clearly im-
plies the presence of far transfer. Far transfer occurs when a
set of skills acquired in one domain (e.g., chess) generalizes
to other domains (e.g., mathematics) that are only loosely re-
lated to the source domain.
The Problem of Transfer in Chess
Since transfer is a function of the extent to which two do-
mains share common features (Thorndike & Woodworth,
1901), far transfer rarely occurs, as shown by substantial re-
search in education and psychology (Donovan, Bransford, &
Pellegrino, 1999; Gobet, 2015a,b). Moreover, in line with
Thorndike and Woodworth’s (1901) hypothesis, several stud-
ies have shown that chess players’ skills tend to be context-
bound, suggesting that it is difficult to achieve far transfer
from chess to mathematics. In her classic study, Chi (1978)
demonstrated that chess players’ (both adults and children)
memory for chess positions did not extend to the recall of
digits. Chess players outperformed non-chess players in re-
membering chess positions, but no difference occurred with
lists of digits. The same result was obtained in a study carried
out by Schneider, Gruber, Gold, and Opwis (1993). Waters,
Gobet, and Leyden (2002) found that chess players’ percep-
tual skills did not generalize to visual memory of shapes.
More recently, Bühren and Frank (2010) found that chess
grandmasters did not outperform chess amateurs in the eco-
nomic game known as beauty contest. Finally, Unterrainer,
Kaller, Leonhart, and Rahm (2011) found that chess players’
planning abilities did not transfer to the Tower of London, a
test assessing executive function and planning skills.
The Present Study
The research on the transferability of chess players’ skills to
other domains offers a complementary perspective to the re-
search on the benefits of chess instruction on children’s aca-
demic (e.g., mathematics) achievement. Whilst the latter has
provided encouraging results, the former has offered results
that seem to preclude any generalizability of chess-specific
A possible explanation may be that chess instruction shares
with the domain of mathematics some general features, such
as quantitative relationships (e.g., the value of the chess
pieces) and problem-solving situations (e.g., tactics), which
can in turn generalize to mathematics. However, this transfer
can occur only when these skills are at the beginning of their
development, and hence still generalizable. Put simply, chil-
dren studying the four operations may take advantage of an
activity (i.e., chess) dealing with the calculation, for example,
of the pieces’ values. By contrast, it is hard to believe that
knowing advanced chess techniques, such as Lucena’s
method in Rook endgames, might be beneficial for college
students’ skills in calculus or combinatorics. In the former
case, there may be an overlap between the domain of chess
and mathematics, in the latter there is none. This may explain
why the studies dealing with the effect of chess instructions
on children’s mathematical ability have provided positive re-
sults, whilst studies regarding the generalizability of chess
masters’ skills have showed no effect.
An alternative explanation has been suggested by Kazemi
et al. (2012), according to which chess instruction improves
children’s metacognition i.e., the ability to monitor one’s
own cognitive processing (Brown, 1987; Flavell, 1979)
which, in turn, enhance their mathematical ability. Kazemi et
al. (2012) found that youngsters who attended a chess course
outperformed the control group not only in mathematical
ability, but also in metacognitive skills. Once again, unfortu-
nately, this study did not control for possible placebo effects.
In any case, since metacognitive skills have been claimed
to be one of the most important predictors of mathematical
ability (Desoete & Roeyers, 2003; Veenman, Van Hout-
Wolters, & Afflerbach, 2006), and since playing chess is an
activity for which the self-monitoring of one’s thinking pro-
cesses is essential (De Groot, 1965), Kazemi et al.’s (2012)
hypothesis is plausible. Obviously, the null hypothesis – i.e.,
chess instruction has no effect on children’s mathematical
and/or cognitive abilities, and the observed benefits are mar-
ginal and only due to placebo effects – may be valid too.
Since there is a need, in this field of research, to clarify
whether the observed positive influence of chess practice is
due to placebo effects or to chess training itself, we ran a
three-group design study. Beyond the usual experimental and
control groups – attending a chess course and regular school
activities, respectively – an active control group was added to
control for potential placebo effects. Moreover, the partici-
pants of this study were givenalong with a test of mathe-
matical ability – a questionnaire assessing metacognitive
skills, in order to evaluate whether metacognition is the link
connecting chess instruction to the improvements in mathe-
matical ability, as proposed by several authors in the field.
This work thus investigates (a) whether chess instruction
enhances children’s mathematical ability, (b) whether this ef-
fect is mediated by metacognition, and (c) whether the effect
of chess instruction on the above two variables is genuine or
due to placebo effects.
Fifty-two fourth graders in three classes of a primary school
in Italy took part in this experiment. The mean age of the par-
ticipants was 9.32 years (SD = 0.32). Parental consent was
asked and obtained for all the participants.
A six-item test was designed to test participants’ mathemati-
cal ability (range score 0 – 6). The items used were all from
the Italian version of the IEA-TIMSS international survey
among fourth graders (Mullis & Martin, 2013), a test with
good psychometric properties. These items were chosen be-
cause they measure not only procedural mathematical
knowledge (e.g., 3 + 7 = ?), but also problem-solving ability.
In fact, all the items required solving a mathematical problem
Randomizing participants instead of classes is unpractical in
schools, especially when interventions replace part of the curricular
hours. The participants were assigned to the three classes according
to accidental sampling – i.e., the teachers did not adopt any particu-
lar didactic criterion (e.g., the students struggling with math in a par-
ticular class).
starting from a given set of data. An example of such items is
provided in Figure 1.
Figure 1. An example of the items used in the test of mathe-
matical ability.
To assess participants’ metacognitive skills, we used the
Italian version of Panaoura and Philippou’s (2003) question-
naire (15-item version; range score 15 – 75). Participants
were given 45 minutes for completing the battery of tests.
The three classes were randomly
assigned to three groups:
One class attended 15 hours of chess lessons during
school hours, along with regular school activities
(experimental group).
One class attended regular school activities only
(control group).
One class attended 15 hours of Go
lessons during
school hours, along with regular school activities
(placebo group).
Importantly, the two interventions – i.e., chess and Go
courses replaced part of the hours originally dedicated to
Go (or Baduk) is an Asian strategic board game for two players.
The objective of the game is to surround a larger portion of the board
(called Goban) than the opponent. To pursue this aim, the two play-
ers place stones (the game pieces) on the board.
mathematics and sciences. This way, we could confront the
effectiveness of chess (and Go) instruction with the tradi-
tional way of teaching mathematics or mathematics-related
subjects – such as sciences.
The chess and Go lessons followed a pre-arranged teaching
protocol, which consisted of the basic rules of the games, tac-
tical exercises, and playing complete games. All these activ-
ities focused mainly on problem-solving situations, such as
finding the correct move and evaluating the ad-
vantages/weaknesses in a particular position. It must be no-
ticed that the two courses (chess or Go) did not deal with or
introduce any mathematics-related topics, unless these were
part of the respective games (e.g., in chess, a Bishop is worth
three Pawns). That is, the two courses had only chess- and
Go-related contents. In order to rule out possible extraneous
effects related to instructor personality (e.g., Pygmalion ef-
fect), the chess and Go interventions were carried out by the
same instructor, who is an experienced teacher and both a
chess and Go trainer. The tests of mathematical ability and
metacognition were administered twice, once before the be-
ginning of the course and once after the end. The experi-
mental design is summarized in Figure 2.
Figure 2. The experimental design.
Finally, the chess/Go trainer, the teachers, the parents, and
the children involved reported no unpleasant issues. On the
contrary, the people who took part in this project expressed a
positive feedback.
Mathematical Ability
No significant differences between the three groups were
found in the pretest scores (F(2, 51) = 1.030, p = .365). A
univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to
evaluate the role of group (independent variable) and mathe-
matics pretest scores (covariate) in affecting mathematics
post-intervention scores (dependent variable).
The results showed a significant effect of the covariate
(F(1, 48) = 21.834, p < .001), and a significant effect of group
(F(2, 48) = 3.371, p = .043). The pairwise comparisons
showed that the control group outperformed the Go group (p
= .017), the chess group marginally outperformed the Go
group (p = .088), whereas no significant difference was found
between the control and the chess group (p = .487). The re-
sults are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Mathematical ability scores in the three groups.
Note. Standard deviations are shown in brackets.
Metacognitive Skills
No significant differences between the three groups were
found in the pretest scores (F(2, 51) = 0.487, p = .617). A
univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to
evaluate the role of group (independent variable) and meta-
cognition pre test scores (covariate) in affecting metacogni-
tion post-intervention scores (dependent variable).
The results showed a significant effect of the covariate
(F(1, 48) = 47.809, p < .001), and no significant effect of
group (F(2, 48) = 0.367, p = .694). The pairwise comparisons
showed no differences between the three groups. The scores
are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Metacognitive-skill scores in the three groups.
Note. Standard deviations are shown in brackets.
According to the results presented in this paper, chess seems
to be more effective in enhancing children’s mathematical
skills than Go, but not than regular school activities. This out-
come – which is consistent with the aforementioned reviews
(Gobet & Campitelli, 2006; Sala & Gobet, 2016) – might be
discouraging for researchers and teachers who have upheld
the implementation of chess instruction in school curricula.
However, the fact that the placebo group (Go instruction) un-
derperformed in this experiment – whilst the chess group
equalled the performance of the control groups suggests
that some chess-related skills generalized to the domain of
mathematics (Scholz et al., 2008), and therefore that the ben-
efits of chess instruction, albeit limited, are not only the mere
by-product of placebo effects.
With regard to metacognitive skills, children do not seem
to benefit from any advantage from chess instruction. In fact,
the participants of the three groups performed equally, both
Group Pretest Posttest Adjusted mean
Chess 2.13 (1.26) 2.50 (1.41) 2.30
Go 1.81 (1.08) 1.62 (1.20) 1.63
Control 1.53 (1.13) 2.40 (1.55) 2.60
Group Pretest Posttest Adjusted mean
Chess 55.2 (11.0) 57.0 (10.5) 56.3
Go 52.7 (9.2) 54.8 (8.6) 55.8
Control 55.3 (6.5) 58.3 (6.0) 57.6
in the pretest and in the posttest, suggesting that metacogni-
tion does not represent the cognitive link between chess in-
struction and mathematical ability.
Strengths and Limitations of the Study
In spite of the long history of research on the benefits of chess
instruction on mathematical ability, which started more than
thirty years ago with Christiaen and Verhofstadt-Denève
(1981), the current study is the first to use a placebo group.
In addition to its design, it has several strengths. First, the
same instructor taught the experimental and placebo groups.
Second, the interventions were implemented during school
hours, and replaced part of the lessons dedicated to the teach-
ing of mathematics or mathematics-related subjects (i.e., sci-
ences), in order to compare directly chess and Go instruction
to ordinary school teaching. Finally, the design included both
a cognitive (i.e., metacognition) and an academic (i.e., math-
ematics) variable, in order to search for a possible causal link
between chess instruction and enhancement of children’s
mathematical ability.
The study also suffers from a few weaknesses. The sample
size was relatively small, which affected statistical power.
Randomization was done at the class level rather than the in-
dividual level. (However, as remarked in footnote 1, random-
ization at the individual level is nearly impossible in the con-
text of real schools.) Finally, only one measure of mathemat-
ical ability and metacognitive skills, respectively, was used.
Recommendations for Future Research
The present study supports the hypothesis according to which
chess skill transfers to mathematical ability. Importantly, be-
cause the effect was not observed in the Go condition, this
generalization of chess skill does not depend on placebo ef-
fects. However, this far transfer seems – when it occurs – to
be limited in size, which is in line with substantial previous
research in the field (e.g., Donovan et al., 1999). Further-
more, the results of this study do not corroborate Kazemi’s et
al. (2012) idea that chess instruction fosters children’s math-
ematical ability by enhancing their metacognitive skills.
Given the near-absence of studies controlling for placebo
effects in this line of research, it is essential to replicate and
extend this work. First, since the duration of treatment seems
to be positively related to the effect of chess instruction on
cognitive and academic outcomes (Sala & Gobet, 2016), fu-
ture studies should directly manipulate this variable, in order
to understand the optimal duration of chess courses. Second,
given that the positive effect of chess instruction does not ap-
pear superior to the regular curricular activities, it would be
interesting to compare the effect of chess interventions held
during school hours with the effect of chess interventions
held during extra-curricular hours. Third, there has been little
research that has explicitly tried to teach mathematics using
chess. Possible examples include illustrating the Cartesian
graph with the chess board and introducing the concept of
block distance – as opposed to Euclidean distance – with the
movement of the King. As it is known that awareness makes
transfer more likely (Gick & Holyoak, 1980; Salomon & Per-
kins, 1989), it is plausible that making explicit the links be-
tween chess and mathematics could facilitate transfer. Fi-
nally, other activities could be used with the placebo groups,
such as other board games (e.g., checkers) and music.
The chess-in-school field of research has been nearly ex-
clusively interested in establishing the presence of benefits of
chess instruction for curricular topics (mostly mathematics
and reading) and general cognitive abilities (e.g. intelligence
and creativity). However, very little research has been carried
out on the mechanisms (presumably) leading to such benefits.
A crucial aim for this field of research, then, is to develop a
detailed causal model explaining the cognitive processes that
mediate learning and transfer. With such a model, more pre-
cise hypotheses could be tested than it is currently the case.
The authors gratefully thank the principal, the teachers, the
parents, and the children involved in this study.
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... Studies have shown that the frontal and posterior parietal areas, which are known to be involved in the orientation of attention, perception and working memory, are engaged in the game of chess [13]. Systematical chess practice develops several important skills in solving mathematical problems [14][15][16], such as maintaining a high level of attention [17] and focusing on tasks [18], perseverance in pursuing goals, creativity [19], recognizing strategic information in situations and using it in planning strategies, critical reflection on one's actions and predicting the course of events [20]. There is a statistically significant correlation between intelligence and chess performance [21][22][23][24][25][26][27], thus the child who excels at a certain school subject has the chance to achieve better performance in chess. ...
... According to Sala [16], experimental design with a control group is not effective. To prevent the placebo effect, a third group is needed that has the status of the one who practices chess. ...
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The role of intelligence in chess is crucial because the game involves a situation of adversity between two players whose goal is to checkmate the opponent’s king. Due to the complex nature of the game and the huge amount of information needed to become a professional chess player, the ability to receive, analyze, sort and use abstract notions is essential. A total of 67 children from the third grade were selected and tested twice, initially and finally, to establish the level of body schema and intelligence. The Raven test was used to numerically quantify their intelligence and the Goodenough test was conducted for the body schema. We used the paired samples T-test to highlight the statistical difference between the results and performed a simple linear regression to see if the level of intelligence is a predictor of the body schema. There is a linear relationship between intelligence and body schema, and we can use the first one to predict the evolution of the second. In conclusion, body schema can be educated through chess lessons, and this will lead to better psychomotor development.
... Based on the results of these and similar researches, the use of chess in the curriculum of some countries, including Canada, Sweden, Cuba, Turkey, and America, became formal and sometimes unofficial. Moreover, many research projects were underway to investigate the effects of this game or have been taken place (Sala, Gobet, Trinchero, & Ventura, 2016). For example, in the state of New Brunswick, Canada, there is a textbook called "Challenging Mathematics" in which chess is used to teach mathematics (Isabella, 2006;quoted by Razvani, Fadaie, & Goya, 2014). ...
... In recent studies, it has been reported that teaching chess yields benefits in school 7,9,11,13,14 . These benefits have been detected, particularly in children's math 12,[15][16][17][18][19][20][21] (Table 1) and reading comprehension scores [22][23][24][25] (Table 2), though the effect is not the same between the two subjects. According to a recent meta-analysis evaluating which of the two subject areas (math or reading) is most benefitted, the area most positively impacted was math 26 . ...
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In this work, we report the cognitive benefits of playing chess for school-aged children. The most benefitted areas appear to be math and reading. To validate these results, a diversity of scientific studies are described, in which brain activation is demonstrated through magnetic resonance imaging when novice, intermediate, and advance chess players play the game. Given this evidence, it is suggested that chess be used as a tool to improve academic performance in boys and girls. In addition, it is concluded that studying the use of chess could lead to new lines of research that could validate the neural mechanisms that occur when boys and girls play chess.
... These methods not only include traditional school interventions (for a review, see Hattie, 2009), but also cognitive-training based treatments. Examples of such treatments to foster students' attainment in mathematics and other academic and cognitive skills include working memory training (Sala & Gobet, 2017a), chess instruction (Gobet & Campitelli, 2006;Sala, Foley, & Gobet, 2017;Sala & Gobet, in press-a;Sala, Gobet, Trinchero, & Ventura, 2016;Sala, Gorini, & Pravettoni, 2015;, and music training (Sala & Gobet, 2017b). The results show either minimal overall effects on academic achievement and overall cognitive ability (music and working memory training) or medium effects possibly due to placebo effects (chess). ...
Conference Paper
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The positive relationship between spatial ability and mathematical skills is a classical result in developmental and cognitive psychology. Given this correlational relationship, researchers have tried to establish whether spatial training can increase mathematical ability. Such research has provided mixed results. In this study, we analysed the effects of two types of spatial training and handedness on primary school children's arithmetical ability. The participants were pre-tested on a test of arithmetic and assigned to one of three groups: (a) one hour of mental rotation and translation training, (b) one hour of mental translation training only, or (c) a no-contact group. The results showed no significant difference between training groups and a significant interaction between training group and category of handedness. Interestingly, only extremely right-handed children in the mental rotation and translation group seemed to benefit from the training. These outcomes suggest that any spatial training needs to include mental rotation activities to be effective, and that the relationship between spatial training and achievement mathematics appears to be moderated by handedness.
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In accordance with the outcomes from a number of reports, there are cognitive and academic improvements derived from chess learning and chess playing. This evidence, however, endures three key limitations: (a) ignoring theoretical premises about the concept of transfer, (b) several shortcomings regarding ideal experiment guidelines, and (c) an uncritical faith in null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) statistical analyses. The present review scrutinized the NHST outcomes from 45 studies describing chess instruction interventions (n = 12,705) in nineteen countries that targeted cognitive ability (100 tests) and academic performance (108 tests), with a mean Hedge’s effect size g = 572 (95% CI = [0.127, 1.062]). There was a lower average statistical power, a higher proportion of false positive outcomes, larger publication biases, and lower replication rates for the studies in the academic performance domain than in the cognitive ability domain. These findings raised reasonable concerns over the evidence about the benefits of chess instruction, which was particularly problematic regarding academic achievement outcomes. Chess should perhaps be regularly taught, however, regardless of whether it has a direct impact or not in cognitive abilities and academic performance, because these are far transfer targets. The more likely impact of chess on near transfer outcomes from higher quality studies remains at present unexplored.
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Introduction: One of the most common childhood disorders considered by psychologists and psychiatrists is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which leads to attention deficit, hyperactivity and impulsivity in affected people. Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of Chess training in students with ADHD. Method: The statistical community of the present quasi-experimental study was 76 students with ADHD in Khorramabad city in the academic year of 2019-2020. 32 students were selected by convenience sampling and randomly divided into two groups of 16 controls and experiments based on age, sex and pre-test results. And the experimental group received chess training for 11 consecutive weeks and a weekly session of 60 to 90 minutes. Subjects were evaluated three times (pre-test, post-test, two-week follow-up) with Connors and Swanson questionnaires and data were analyzed by ANOVA and Bonferroni test and Spss 21 software. Results: The results of the study showed a direct and high correlation between the results obtained from both Swanson and Connors measuring instruments and the positive effect of chess training on students with ADHD. (P=0.001, F=20.17). Conclusions: Due to the positive effect of Chess training on the symptoms of ADHD, it is suggested that Chess training be used to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
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The study aimed to analyze the influence of learning chess on mathematical, attention, and concentration abilities in school-aged children of two Schools in Peruvian Amazon. First-grade secondary school students were selected from two schools in Puerto Maldonado city, public and private. The design of the study was quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest evaluations and acontrol group. Each group had between 18-30 students, and the experimental group was given chess classes twice a week for three months. To analyze the effect of the intervention a Generalized Linear Model was used. In the two abilities evaluated, the posttest results of the experimental group were higher than the control group. A significant effect of the application of sports chess was found in the development of abilities in mathematical reasoning, attention, and concentration (P< 0.001). In the public school, the effect of the program on mathematical reasoning was higher in boys than in girls (P< 0.05). Our results provide relevant information for schools to develop strategies to promote chess as a teaching strategy. We concluded that the implementation of a chess program influences the development of the intellectual abilitiesin school-aged children of Peruvian Amazon.
Schaken is een van oudsher klassiek bordspel waarbij veel cognitieve vaardigheden nodig zijn, zoals concentratie, planning en inhibitie. Daarom zijn het vaak de slimme kinderen die kiezen voor schaakles of zelfs eerder toegang krijgen tot het volgen van schaakles, binnen en buiten school. Maar zijn het de slimme kinderen die schaaklessen gaan volgen of worden kinderen ook slimmer van schaken? Om slimmer te worden van schaakles zou ‘far transfer’ van leren moeten optreden. Dit is overdracht van vaardigheden tussen minder sterk gerelateerde domeinen, zoals lijkt te gebeuren bij schaken en rekenvaardigheid, omdat beide domeinen kenmerken delen (numerieke en ruimtelijke vaardigheden). Daarnaast zijn er prille aanwijzingen dat schaken een positieve invloed heeft op het executief functioneren van kinderen, zoals cognitieve flexibiliteit, planning en inhibitie. Omdat betere executieve functies zijn gerelateerd aan betere schoolvaardigheden hypothetiseren wij een mediërende rol voor executieve functies in de relatie tussen schaakles en schoolvaardigheden. Schaken kan in dit geval gezien worden als een vorm van executieve functietraining, waarbij de principes van dergelijke trainingen gevolgd kunnen worden om cognitieve functies bij kinderen te verbeteren (zoals het uitdagend maken van de training). Deze training kan onder andere ingezet worden bij achterblijvende schoolprestaties en cognitieve ontwikkeling. Schaken is dus niet alleen voor slimme kinderen. Voor ieder niveau zijn er varianten op het klassieke schaakspel, waardoor iedereen, ook jonge kinderen, op een speelse en ontdekkende manier met schaken in aanraking kunnen komen.
Conference Paper
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Implementing interventions that are supposed to enhance students' general learning skill and overall cognitive ability is still a common practice in education. The basic idea on which this approach relies is that improving domain-general skills provides benefits for a broad range of domain-specific areas, such as academic disciplines. Thus, it is assumed that there is far transfer – i.e., the generalization of a set of skills between domains loosely related to each other. In recent years, chess instruction, music instruction, and working memory training have been claimed to be able to train domain-general abilities (e.g., fluid reasoning/intelligence) which, in turn, generalize to other cognitive and academic skills (e.g., mathematics). We tested these claims in the population of healthy children via meta-analysis. The results showed small to moderate overall far-transfer effects in all the outcome measures of the three meta-analyses. However, the effect sizes were inversely related to the design quality (e.g., presence of active control groups), which casts doubts on the effectiveness of the three practices. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings for education and expertise and extend the debate to another type of training, video games training.
A number of studies suggest that teaching children how to play chess may have an impact on their educational attainment. Yet the strength of this evidence is undermined by limitations with research design. This paper attempts to overcome these limitations by presenting evidence from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving more than 4,000 children in England. In contrast to much of the existing literature, we find no evidence of an effect of chess instruction on children's mathematics, reading, or science test scores. Our results provide a timely reminder of the need for social scientists to employ robust research designs. © 2018 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
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What are the cognitive mechanisms involved in learning in environments beyond the formal context of the classroom? A possible answer to this question lies in the body of literature relating to the nature of expertise. This is arguably a good starting point, as most of this research has studied individuals who have acquired their expertise outside of a classroom environment. This paper addresses the role of practice, feedback, strategies and memory in acquiring expert performance. It considers the extent to which we can apply an understanding of expert behaviour to support beginners and intermediates in formal and non-formal contexts. While there are differences between the processes and behaviours required to attain expertise compared to less intensive forms of learning, there are also important commonalities. Finally, a discussion on the principles based on radical constructivism and situated learning in the light of expertise research shows that, while these approaches correctly emphasise the role of learning by doing and of the social environment, they may be limited by ignoring the role of practice and of teachers’ guidance.
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In recent years, pupils' poor achievement in mathematics has been a concern in many Western countries. Chess instruction has been proposed as one way to remedy this state of affairs, as well as improving other academic topics such as reading and general cognitive abilities such as intelligence. The aim of this paper is to quantitatively evaluate the available empirical evidence that skills acquired during chess instruction in schools positively transfer to mathematics, reading and general cognitive skills. The selection criteria were satisfied by 24 studies (40 effect sizes), with 2,788 young people in the chess condition and 2,433 in the control groups. The results show (a) a moderate overall effect size (g = 0.338); (b) a tendency for a stronger effect on mathematical (g = 0.382) than reading skill (g = 0.248), and (c) a significant and positive effect of duration of treatment (Q(1) = 3.89, b = 0.0038, p < .05). However, no study used an "ideal design" including pre- and post-test, full random allocation of participants to conditions and, most importantly, both a do-nothing control group and an active control group - a problem common in education research. Directions for further research are discussed.
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What makes an expert? What strategies do they use? If you are an expert in one domain, are you more likely to become an expert in a second? This book provides a comprehensive overview of the field of expertise. With a discussion of research from psychology, neuroscience, sociology, philosophy, education, law and artificial intelligence, this is the definitive guide to the subject. It considers expertise on a number of levels, ranging from the neural to the psychological and the social. It critically evaluates current theories and approaches, and addresses issues of key importance for society.
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Chess is thought to be a game demanding high cognitive abilities to be played well. Although many studies proved the link between mastery in chess and high degree of intelligence, just few studies proved that chess practice can enhance cognitive abilities. Starting from these considerations, the main purpose of the present research was to investigate the potential benefits of in-presence chess lessons and on-line training on mathematical problem-solving ability in young pupils (8 to 11 years old). Five hundred sixty students were divided into two groups, experimental (which had chess course and on-line training) and control (which had normal school activities), and tested on their mathematical and chess abilities. Results show a strong correlation between chess and math scores, and a higher improvement in math in the experimental group compared with the control group. These results foster the hypothesis that even a short-time practice of chess in children can be a useful tool to enhance their mathematical abilities.
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What are the effects of chess training-especially on scholastic achievement among school-aged students? Can chess instruction facilitate the acquisition of scholastic competency? The current state of the research literature is that chess training tends not to provide educational benefits. This article provides a critical review of research on the effects of chess training on the scholastic achievement levels of school-aged students.
What does a chess master think when he prepares his next move? How are his thoughts organized? Which methods and strategies does he use by solving his problem of choice? To answer these questions, the author did a study, to which famous chess masters participated (Alekhine, Max Euwe, Reuben Fine, Tartakower and Flohr). This book is still useful for everybody who studies cognition and artificial intelligence. The studies involve participants of all chess backgrounds, from amateurs to masters. They investigate the cognitive requirements and the thought processes involved in moving a chess piece. The participants were usually required to solve a given chess problem correctly under the supervision of an experimenter and represent their thought-processes vocally so that they could be recorded. De Groot found that much of what is important in choosing a move occurs during the first few seconds of exposure to a new position. Four stages in the task of choosing the next move were noted. The first stage was the 'orientation phase', in which the subject assessed the situation and determined a general idea of what to do next. The second stage, the 'exploration phase' was manifested by looking at some branches of the game tree. The third stage, or 'investigation phase' resulted in the subject choosing a probable best move. Finally, in the fourth stage, the 'proof phase', saw the subject confirming with him/herself that the results of the investigation were valid. De Groot concurred with Alfred Binet that visual memory and visual perception are important and that problem-solving ability is of paramount importance. Memory is particularly important, according to de Groot (1965), in that there are no 'new' moves in chess and so those from personal experience or from the experience of others can be committed to memory. © 1965, Mouton Publishers, The Hague, The Netherlands. All right reserved.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the benefit of chess in mathematics lessons for children with learning disabilities based on lower intelligence (IQ 70-85). School classes of four German schools for children with learning disabilities were randomly assigned to receive one hour of chess lesson instead of one hour of regular mathematics lessons per week for the duration of one school-year. Concentration and calculation abilities of children were measured before and after the year of study using standardised tests. The chess group was compared with the control group without chess lessons. Concentration abilities and calculation abilities for written tasks and gap tasks developed equally well in both groups. Calculation abilities for simple addition tasks and counting improved significantly more in the chess classes. We conclude that chess could be a valuable learning aid for children with learning disabilities. Transfer of chess lessons to improvement of basic mathematics skills has been observed.
This causal-comparative study evaluated a 30-week chess instructional program implemented within special education math classes for students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in a suburban middle school located in the southwestern United States. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was utilized to compare the adjusted means for the comparison and treatment groups on the students' math achievement as measured by end-of-year course grades and state assessment scores, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Pretest scores and grade levels served as covariates. Results indicated a significant difference on four of the measures in favor of the treatment group: end-of-year course grades, overall TAKS math scale scores, and percentage scores on two specific TAKS math objectives: Numbers, Operations, and Quantitative Reasoning and Probability and Statistics. No significant differences were found between the groups on the other four TAKS math objectives: Patterns, Relationships, and Algebraic Reasoning, Geometry and Spatial Reasoning, Concepts and Uses of Measurement, and Underlying Processes and Mathematical Tools. Causation and generalizability are difficult due to the narrow scope of this study. However, these results are encouraging and suggest chess is a potentially effective instructional tool for students who receive special education services in math.