Compilation Of Chess And Education Research Studies

Compilation Of Chess And Education Research Studies

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One of the most common questions educators have is, "Where can I find research studies devoted to the educational value of chess?"

More studies are being conducted every year, but this article is a compilation of some of the past research done with chess, and a synopsis of the findings. Many thanks to Dr. Robert Ferguson for his help in compiling this information. Dr. Ferguson has conducted some chess research studies himself.

Updates 2019:

  • This longitudinal study in Alabama concluded that chess improved test scores and excitement about coming to school, more so in the lower grades. Even teachers who taught chess reported being more excited about their jobs.
  • This study in New Mexico shows those getting chess education had both math and reading score improve. Interestingly, the 7 percent improvement in math scores was nothing compared to the 28 percent boost if the child also competed in tournaments.

Here's a table of many educational studies conducted from the 1970s to the 1990s. Here's a summary of those studies in English and also in Spanish. Here's an article in Time Magazine about chess education.

There's so many research studies about chess, the game now has its own scholarly printing, the "Journal of Chess Research."

For a collection of more recent chess studies, here's a compilation from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Here's another one from the U.S. Chess Federation.

  • This study showed that for gifted students (above 130 IQ) the "chess group" outperformed those that learned other activities during the same time, like computers. (There was no "control" group per se; the non-chess kids simply did other activities.)

In addition, chess players greatly outperformed the non-chess kids in increases in creativity. Here's the full PDF of the results.

  • This study differed in that chess was taught or played daily for one entire school year, starting from no knowledge at the beginning. In addition, chess was taught to a broader spectrum of children, with IQs averaging a little more than 100. The results also separated the differences in gains between girls and boys.

The two tests used as benchmarks were the "Test of Cognitive Skills" (measuring memory), and the "California Achievement Test" (measuring verbal reasoning). At the conclusion, it was determined that the chess group experienced very high gains in the memory percentile ranking at the end of the school year, while still obtaining modest gains in the verbal reasoning testing.

  • This study had a larger control group (four schools) but focused only on the effect of afterschool chess clubs. In addition, it was multi-year. This study also separated the gains among different educational groups (gifted and talented, special-ed, etc.).

Using scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, students in nearly every chess group experience better gains over their non-chess counterparts. Regular and special-ed students showed especially prominent gains.

  • This study focused on the effects of chess on reading scores (full disclosure: I taught for three years from 2001-2004 at Chess-in-the-Schools in New York City, the organization that the American Chess Foundation turned in to).

The study took place in the Bronx over two years, and many of the chess instructors were professional chess teachers, with some being masters (future GM Maurice Ashley was also credited as helping). Participation in chess was voluntary.

In summary, of the 22 students measured, 15 went up in percentile reading scores at the end of two years, while seven went down. Of the much larger control group, 491 went up and 627 went down. In the chess group, percentile scores began at the 58th percentile in 3rd grade and rose to 63rd percentile in 5th grade.

The study makes guesses as to how chess can help reading, including raises in general intelligence, ability to concentrate, ego strength, and other possible factors.

Other useful links:

  • Here's a summary of current and past chess research studies in the United Kingdom.
  • The Journal of Chess Research compiles studies about all aspects of chess and chess players, some of which include chess as an educational tool.

If you have other useful studies or links about the benefits of chess in education, please include them in the comments and we may add to this article as needed.

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