Chess, Logical Reasoning a Good Start for the Younger Generation

Chess, Logical Reasoning a Good Start for the Younger Generation

The world is growing ever more confusing to those who don’t understand the principles on which it runs, and these days there’s usually a computer involved somehow. If you doubt this, just take a look at The Smart Future and their selection of door locks. Or any of their products actually, it looks as if your whole life can be automated!

Now, this is one area of my life where I really, literally just want a turn-key solution, but it seems like things are no longer that simple. If we also start to consider things like internet research skills, the complexities of the digital economy and the ever-increasing challenges surrounding digital security and privacy, it becomes clear that a child who grows up today without some computer smarts will be at a serious disadvantage later in life.

The skilled computer user of a decade from now will not just be someone who can use a word processor and knows a few keyboard shortcuts. Nearly everyone will have to know at least a little about programming and networks, and it’s not even clear yet what skills the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence will make essential.

Building the Foundation for a STEM Career

The other day, while I was explaining the structure of the Java programming language to my neighbor and regular opponent, he commented on how similar it was to the game we were playing. As it turns out, the metaphor – while not a complete fit – does work fairly well.

There are “classes” of pieces with strictly defined properties, yet several “instances” of each class can exist (except for the king, which would be main{}). There are, in a sense, method calls: rook protects bishop, bishop protects pawn, pawn is looking a little nervous about being de-instantiated within the next few moves. Although pieces can only be moved one at a time, in any game there are usually several things going on simultaneously in potential if not in fact, which is something quite close to multithreading.

As I’ve said, the analogy is far from perfect. Still, the game develops logically, sequentially and according to inflexible rules which, although easy to understand, can lead to extremely complex interactions and situations.

This is very much how a computer operates. Everything starts with ones and zeros; black and white. At a slightly higher level of abstraction, you encounter concepts such as operators and variables. As in chess, the challenge of programming is often to deconstruct a complex goal – checkmating your opponent – into a series of steps which, although individually simple, can become very powerful when combined in the right sequence.

Chess in Education

A fair amount of research has been done on the educational effects of teaching children the game of chess. Some of these were studies focused exclusively on the relationship between playing regularly and students’ grades in mathematics. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it was also found that children who played chess regularly showed enhanced verbal skills, spatial reasoning capability and even improved cognitive development in a wider sense.

While not every teacher can teach chess at a high level, most high schools will already have someone on the faculty who can explain its basics. Chess sets cost practically nothing; so the question isn’t Why should schools include chess in their curricula? but Why aren’t they?.

At the very least, many parents and teachers have found that chess can keep kids quiet and occupied. Once they understand the game well enough for thinking about position and strategy not to be too much of a chore, their competitive spirit takes over and it actually becomes difficult to pry them away from the board.