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Does playing chess benefit children?

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Quick Answer

Playing chess can help children improve concentration, memory, reading and math skills, critical thinking, and creativity. Numerous academic studies have reported the intellectual benefits of children playing chess.

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Studies conducted by the University of Memphis found that playing chess improves children’s concentration, spatial reasoning and visual memory skills. Chess players must look at the board and concentrate on projecting their own moves and their opponents’ possible countermoves, leading to enhanced spatial reasoning skills. Players also memorize movement strategies, which improves visual memory.

Connections between chess and improved math skills are well-documented, but studies show that chess can also improve reading skills as well. Studies of elementary school students found that those who played chess showed more pronounced improvement on math and reading assessments than students that didn’t play chess. Educational psychologist Stuart Marguilies suggests that improvements in reading ability stem from the similar mental processes that both practices require, including comprehension and analysis.

Playing chess can also improve children’s critical thinking and creativity. Chess requires reactive thinking as players must predict their opponents’ possible moves and consider strategies for response. Considering numerous possibilities may open up children’s minds to more creative thinking in general. A study of middle school students found that playing chess increased creativity more than two other activities designed to teach kids to be more creative.

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