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Ho Math Chess Research and Articles > Chess is boring

Chess education
11 May 2011


Why chess is boring


Frank Ho


HoMath and ChessLearning Centre


Canada, BC certified math teacher


Vancouver, BC, Canada





I hired a chess coach to teach chess. A few times, I sit beside the chess classroom and kids just came out to tell me “The class is boring.” “I do not want to play chess anymore.” “I want to go home.” It is heartbreaking for me to hear these kinds of messages since the chess class is offered free to kids who take our math lessons. Why “playing” chess make these kids feel bored? It is surprising to hear that! Some of my math students even told me that they rather do math instead of chess. I am so shocked to hear it since many reports indicate that kids rather play chess instead of doing math.


I asked one grade 6 girl who constantly shows up in my Saturday “free” math club for the duration of 2 hours and asked her why I never heard kids in the math club complaining about “math club is boring? She said that “You made us to think all the time and those problems are very hard.” Here is the answer why some kids feel that chess is boring it is because the way the chess class is being taught has not stimulated kids’ interests at all.


I mentioned the kids’ complaints to the chess instructor and I was very surprised to hear that he told me that he was not interested in teaching beginners chess and I asked him how chess was taught in his class when he was young and he mentioned that kids got hit a lot in his own country. I do not believe this is right because by hitting kids do not increase kids’ interests in playing chess.


How I conducted my math club so there was never a dull moment in my club and kids do not complain about boring?


1. Every week I do a presentation using tablet and projector on one math topic which I prepared for the whole week and also write it up and often kids get 5 or more pages of my presentation and right after presentation kids get my “practice” problems to work on. I encourage them to discuss and help each other. I never sit in my classroom, I constantly walk around to help kids and give out hints.


2. Right after their finish exercise, they immediately get ”encouragement” to go onto the second set to work on “contest” type problems and again, they are encouraged to help each other and I also walk around to help. Kids are divided into two groups according to their abilities and each group gets different types of problems to do.


In contrast, this chess coach did give out worksheets but basically leave kids alone and do not encourage them to finish and did not go through the chess worksheet, and many kids left the worksheets on the tables when they left the classrooms. His presentation was poorly prepared and did not encourage dialogue between presenter and students.


Other than play chess, no means were taken to encourage kid to think, so why they will feel playing chess is interesting? Kids in his class are pushing “wooden toys”, not playing chess by thinking at all.


Math can be boring if math is taught in a way that kids do not require thinking at all and chess is a very cerebral game so if thinking is not instilled then kids will think chess is boring.


What I have done to my math club kids so that they do not feel bored is that I constantly provide them with thinking problems and every minute I encourage them to think. It is the chess coach who is not doing a good job makes the kids feel that chess is boring and in contrast, I am doing a god job so no one feels math is boring but challenging!


So if kids only do computational problems in math (In other words, very little thinking is involved.), then they will think math is boring too.

Frank Ho


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