Consider this your gateway to understanding Chess in Education (CIE).

Here you will find what CIE is, what its benefits are, and why both teachers and students embrace it. You will learn the pedagogical theory driving today’s CIE best practices. You can review the research supporting the use of chess in schools.

Finally, you can learn about the different varieties of CIE being used,  and understand the practical issues educational administrators face in thinking about how to implement a Chess in Education program.

Explore the topics in the menu above to get started.

Chess in Education focuses on chess as an educational tool. Whether as a curriculum subject with its own school time or as a transversal and interdisciplinary tool with chess integrated into other curricular subjects, chess is used to engage and equip students with academic and 21st Century skills.

Since it connects to any area of the curriculum, chess serves as a means to create student interest, differentiate for complexity, and encourage critical thinking in and beyond the classroom.

Implementations and pedagogical approaches vary, but they typically involve at least one of the following: 

  1. Connecting chess to an area of the education curriculum, allowing teachers to engage student interest, differentiate for complexity, and encourage critical thinking in and beyond the classroom. 
  2. A focus on developing skills that are transferable from chess to other domains like math, literature, science, and engineering. Customized chess training that emphasizes the development of executive functions in children is one example. 

Chess introduces and reinforces Academic and 21st Century skills…

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaborative Learning and Problem-Solving
  • Time Management
  • Forecasting and Planning
  • Decision-Making in a Real-World Environment

The level of analytical thinking developed by playing is a sure way to promote concentration, thinking ahead, better brain function, improved memory and cognitive abilities, strategic thinking and attention improvement… Currently chess is catching on like “wildfire” in the Talladega City School District…

Terry RollerFormer Superintendent, Talladega City Schools

My students’ favorite part of the day is chess! Chess reaches every learning level from special education to the gifted student.

Mindee AllenItinerant Gifted Specialist, Chambers County

The educational value of chess is that it makes asking questions a reflex, and the experience of getting better at chess is finding that your questions get richer and more pertinent.

Jonathan RowsonCo-founder and Director of the research institute Perspectiva, from The Moves That Matter, Scotland

Simply put, chess has given my students an opportunity to recognize their own ability to tap into their metacognitive skills… I’ve seen remarkable growth in thinking skills of all of my students.

Brad Osborne2nd Grade, Daphne Elementary School

My favorite aspect of the ACIS initiative is seeing chess expand outside the classrooms and into the community. Our community chess nights where students of all school ages, their families, and school faculty come together to play chess in our area is such a heart-warming experience.

Telura HamiltonGifted Specialist, English/Language Arts Teacher, Montevallo Middle School

Chess is regarded as the ultimate thinking game: it requires concentration, logical analysis and problem solving

Rita AtkinsFormer Math Teacher, UK

Chess in Education Pedagogy

Chess in Education (CIE) goes beyond teaching children to play chess. CIE pedagogy is an approach to teaching that utilizes chess and chess-like mini-games. CIE classroom methods are based on the theory and practice of learning.

This page lists a few of the important topics in educational theory that inform CIE.  Check our Forum pages for additional contributions from CIE Community Members.

  • 21 st Century Skills
  • Executive Functions
  • Domain transfer
  • Differentiation
  • Metacognition
  • Life Skills
  • SMART Method

Introduction to CIE Approaches

Some chess products and services use the “Chess in Education” phrase simply as a marketing phrase to gain access to the education market for traditional  chess training products or services.

Educators considering a Chess in Education program should critically assess the different CIE approaches offered. These approaches will vary based on  differences in:

  • Focus
  • Educational Premise
  • Delivery
  • Metrics

See the Keys to Choosing a CIE Approach chart for details.

What CIE is Not!

In the past decade educators have begun to move away from traditional chess training services and products focused exclusively on developing competitive chess proficiency, toward more targeted training methods that focus on development of 21st century skills and behaviors.

Traditional (or Sport) Chess Training

The goal of training is to develop student proficiency in chess.

  • Focus: Teaching methods focus on developing competitive chess skills. Some of these skills are transversal (transferable to other educational domains); some are useful only in the chess domain. Curriculum is strictly within the chess domain.
  • Educational Premise: As a byproduct of learning and playing chess, the student gains important thinking skills. (executive functions).
  • Delivery: Typically Taught by: chess coaches or facilitators using chess training apps.
    • When: Outside normal classroom hours, or during periods devoted to optional club activities.
  • Metrics: Chess proficiency; competitive chess success
  • This is the most common scholastic training approach. It is, by definition, not CIE. [Reference: FIDE EDU’s Educational Chess vs Sport Chess]

“Cotton Candy” Chess Training

It is worth noting that there are some quite profitable businesses whose goals are neither educational nor competitive. The term “Cotton Candy” is used to signify a colorful product or service that looks good but is lacking in educational benefit. Trainers in such programs often have no teaching credentials and minimal chess experience. “Coaches” are hired to for their ability to entertain and provide a fun experience, but may lack the skills or awareness of how to impart the educational benefits possible with chess.

  • Focus: Teaching methods focus on entertainment and providing a “fun” experience. Since coaches often have neither teaching nor significant chess experience, “chess benefits” are often not realized.
  • Educational Premise: As a byproduct of learning and playing chess, the student gains important thinking skills. (executive functions).
  • Delivery: Typically Taught by: dynamic, enthusiastic individuals employing customized or commercial chess training applications.
    • When: Outside normal classroom hours, or during periods devoted to optional club activities.
  • Metrics: Are the kids having fun?
  • Warning signs:
    • Coaches have neither educational degrees nor significant chess experience
    • Advertisements focusing on a fun experience rather than educational or competitive goals
    • Minimal use of chess notation
Choose a Chess in Education Approach

Varieties of Chess in Education Approaches

1) Traditional Chess Training + Classroom Admin Add-ons

This is Traditional Chess Training augmented by administrative add-ons for the classroom such as student registration, homework assignment, and tracking individual student progress.

  • Focus: Developing student proficiency in chess.  Curriculum is strictly within the chess domain.
  • Educational Premise: As a byproduct of learning and playing chess, the student gains important thinking skills. (executive functions).
  • Delivery: Typically Taught by: Educators, chess coaches or facilitators primarily relying on chess training apps.
    • When: Outside normal classroom hours, or during periods devoted to optional club activities.
  • Metrics: Chess proficiency; competitive chess success
  • These are features added to traditional chess training software to appeal to schools. For teachers who wish to teach traditional (competitive) chess training independent of educational connections, this is an improvement. While not true CIE (by our definition), it can be used to supplement the CIE approaches that follow. Its greatest use is in optional club or after-school  programs, but the software may also be useful in the classroom as a differentiation tool. For example, teachers can give access to traditional internet-based chess training products to more advanced chess players while they give personal assistance to other students.

2) Chess with Education Enrichment

  • Focus: Teach Chess and Chess Variants using methodologies based on educational research and good teaching [pedagogical] practices. Priority is given to aspects of chess that develop executive functions and promote far transfer learning. The curriculum may omit or de-emphasize study of some traditional chess training topics that are not relevant to educational goals. Teachers focus on the aspects of chess that are academically nutritional.
  • Educational Premise: The selective use of chess training by teachers is focused on developing executive functions and critical thinking. As a result, the lessons selected engage more students and yield greater educational benefits than traditional chess training.
  • Delivery: Typically taught by: Educators
    • When: Normal classroom hours
  • Metric: Improvements in focus, executive functions.

3) Education with Chess Enrichment   

Teaching the educational curriculum employing elements of chess.

  • Focus:  As students become interested in chess, it can be used as an attention magnet for teaching other domains. For example, a math training course might employ 50 math problems that use chess pieces, or a chess board but require little or no knowledge of the rules of chess. History or Language Arts training may involve stories about characters represented by chess pieces. Lessons such as these require only a beginner’s knowledge of chess.
  • Educational Premise: References to concrete chess elements gain student attention and interest. As a result students pay closer attention to the teaching of abstract material when they can connect it to familiar concrete elements.
  • Delivery: Typically taught by Educators
    • When: Normal classroom hours
  • Metrics: N/A
Chess and Life Skills

4) Full Duplex CIE

This is a blend of the chess and educational approaches outlined in #2 an #3 above.

  • Focus: Teach chess with educational connections and selectively incorporate chess examples into traditional educational teaching.
  • Educational Premise: Combines the benefits of the two preceding approaches. The selective use of chess training by teachers focused on developing executive functions and critical thinking engages students. Student engagement increases when chess elements are introduced into teaching of core educational domains.
  • Delivery: Typically taught by Educators
    • When: Normal classroom hours
  • Metrics: Improvements in focus, executive functions.
  • Best practice!
Types of Chess in School Programs

How to Implement a Chess in Education Program

    1. Consider your educational goals; select a CIE approach (See CIE Approaches).
    2. Consider these key program design questions:
      • When will teaching take place?
      • Who will teach?
      • What type of planning approach will be used?
          • Informal – Bottom-up implementations; typically initiated by one or more teacher advocates at a single school.
            • Pros: Bottom-up implementation; lower administrator time commitment, relatively easy to implement if resources are available.
            • Cons: ad hoc, transient (due to turnover), and not scalable; minimal quality / performance tracking]
          • Formal – a top-down approach with administrator planning, oversight, and monitoring, designed for scalability and sustainability.
            • Pros: Increased scalability, and sustainability (less susceptible to personnel turnover issues).
            • Cons: Higher administrator time commitment.ad hoc, transient (due to turnover), and not scalable; minimal quality / performance tracking]
    3. Launch CIE Program Planning
      • assign a team and (as needed) contact CIE Service & Product providers for consultation, training (essential!), resources, and support. [Our CIE Coalition Members can help.]

Chess in Education Funding

An International Perspective

Funding info by regions or countries?

Should this be in bullet points with some introductory and concluding text? (w/ background photos)

Examples:

  • Government funded (top-down approach to decision-making in government and education)
  • Erasmus Plus – European Union – funds social benefits projects and views chess as an educational and social benefit
  • Business and Foundations – may fund projects perceived to contain social and/or economic benefits 

United States

  • Extra-Curricular Chess Clubs – Public, Charter, and Private Schools
    • Family Funded – students pay a monthly or annual fee to receive chess lessons and participate in a chess club
    • Community Funded – Schools or chess clubs ask for private donations or partner with area businesses and civic groups (Rotary, Civitan, etc.) to raise funds for the chess program. 
    • School Funded – Primarily Charter or Private Schools – A teacher or chess coach is hired to teach chess classes during the school day. [Should this be in a different category since some educational goals may be included in these chess classes during the school day? Also they are not extra-curricular clubs. How do we categorize all of these in this section?]
  • Chess in the classroom and after-school programs with chess plus enrichment activities (Chess in Education – using chess as an educational tool)
    • 21st Century Grants
    • Title 1 Funding
    • State Department of Education Funding (grants and/or budget line items)
    • Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) funding of teacher professional development

What does chess in education research reveal?

Because of the math, literacy, and critical thinking skills inherent in the game, chess as an educational tool can have a positive impact on students. Teachers report improved attitudes toward school and increased self-confidence in students who play chess. 

As a result, chess in education research is an emerging field of study both within the United States and internationally. Rather than maintain an exhaustive list of research papers, this site provides a few links to compendiums of research as well as important recent papers.

Editor Dr. William Bart offers opinion pieces on lessons drawn from past studies as well as suggesting directions for future research.

For more see the Research Forum.

Compendiums and Recent Research

John Foley - ChessPlusACIS ResearchFIDE EDUCCSCSL - Literature Review