Explaining the Motivation Behind Our Chess & History Book
At the National Scholastic Chess Foundation, our belief is that the benefits of teaching chess to children go far beyond their time spent in front of a chessboard. Through chess, students hone their critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and strategic planning aptitudes. Chess improves focus and teaches children to stay on task. But we recognize that not all are instantly enamored with the game.
The idea behind our book “Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History” is cross-curricular, or multi-disciplinary, learning. A growing discussion in education is focused on promoting “deeper learning” for students. Most students are taught by sampling bits of information (a little math, a little history, some vocabulary). As education author Ben Johnson puts it: “Deep learning is like taking a long draught from a well of knowledge as opposed to only sipping from many different wells.” Read more...
The blending of concepts builds and reinforces stronger connections between them. We know that one of the keys to creating a willingness to learn is by establishing the value of the knowledge to the learner, whether that value is immediate or sometime in the future. We do this by making connections to what the learner already knows and then establishing relationships between the base knowledge and the new information we wish to impart. We find the value connection and a way to apply the new information in the real world, so the data is not just memorized and then forgotten, but put to actual use. This applies to every subject one might wish to teach.
For the student who is more interested in stories, we hope Great Moves will teach students how to improve and excel at chess by setting the playing of chess against the backdrop of the game’s illustrious history. Our storytelling provides context and adds “stickiness” to the lessons.
For the student who already enjoys chess, our goal is to motivate applying that passion to other disciplines, be it math and science or literature and the arts. Of course, we have to get these students to be open to this idea and we do that by sharing how studying the history of chess can help improve their playing ability. As we quote in the beginning of the book, Grandmaster and former world champion Dr. Max Euwe once shared that, “The history of chess (under its present rules) is the study of growth and gradual change of the strategic ideas of leading players of succeeding generations. Taking note of this evolution and thoroughly grasping it is the very thing which makes for better judgment and an increase in playing strength. The development of a chess player runs parallel with chess itself, a study of the history of playing methods therefore has great practical value.”
For all students, the most important subject to master is the ability to read and comprehend. They can then teach themselves whatever subjects they might become interested in throughout their lives. It might have been an easier task, and more in keeping with some educator advice we received at the beginning of this project, to make several shorter books and simplify the writing. But we wanted something that was both comprehensive and challenging. The book is Lexile-scored at 1050 so it should be accessible to anyone with a reading level of 6th grade and above.