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Ho Math Chess Research and Articles > Case Studies on How Math and Chess Affects Children’s IQ

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1 Jan 2008

Case Studies on How Math and Chess Affects Children’s IQ
Frank Ho
Teacher and founder of Ho Math and Chess
In my over 10 years of teaching math and chess, I have had the precious opportunities to teach grades from kindergarten to grade 12 and as a consequence I also have had many occasions to observe some interesting cases on how some of my own students learned. After I analyzed their patterns of learning, I have used their learning experiences to modify Ho Math and Chess worksheets.
Case 1 – 4 years old boy
My feeling is that we seem to use different parts of brain to do math and chess respectively. This observation is based on the following case. If this is proved to be true then it definitely is beneficial for children to learn both math and chess since different parts of their brain power will get “strengthened”.
This 4-year boy really surprised me when he came to me since he already knew how to add or subtract 1 digit quite comfortably without any noticeable delay in coming up with answers and could also do 2-digit addition or subtraction although my experience with him was not sufficient to draw any conclusions. He also knew the number skip pattern and could do multiplication as well. His mom wanted me to teach him chess so I started with chess lesson but it caught me by surprise was his progress was slow when compared to the progress of his math ability. Why is there such a disparity? Every time, when I played chess with him, he needed to be reminded on how each chess piece should move even after he had shown that he already knew the moves of each piece. He did not seem to understand that to play chess well, he needs to look the entire chess board, not just one move of one chess piece. He did not seem to care or understand “what if” effect.
This smart boy intrigues me to think why he could do calculations so well and yet is slow in absorbing chess knowledge, so I started an experiment by giving him word problem for he could read already at 4 years old. I would explain to him if he did not understand the meaning or could not read some words. I found out that if he was capable of doing something then he would do it quickly but if something he could not do and I tried to explain to him and he still could not do then he would simply “shut off” his brain and would not do it, so in this case I was not able to observe how he could make progress under my guidance.
Perhaps, the function of playing chess is being handled by one part of brain and the functions of mathematical function is mainly being handled by the other part of brain so in this boy’s case, he could do math computation very well, but not chess.
Case 2 – Grade 2 Girl and a grade 3 boy
From these two students, I learned that children could “shut off” their brain and refuse to learn. I taught this very friendly girl when he was at grade 3 and now she is grade 8 and I am still tutoring her. I tutored the boy when he was also at grade 3 level and then I later met him again at grade 8 and I asked both of them the same question why they did not seem to be able to master the times table when they were young and their answers astonished me since both of them said to me they just did not want to “memorize” it.   I have more interesting story to tell on how they overcame the problems themselves and how this little girl influenced me in creating my workbook.
In the girl case, I seem to have hit the roadblock since it does not matter how I taught her by using flash cards, explaining the multiplication concept, using pencils as manipulative she just could not do times table and finally I realized that she understood the concept but she could not come up with the results with no delay or she would just come up with wrong answers. At no time I would “force” her to memorize the times table other than to remind her that she might as well spend some time to recite and memorize them. It never happened to her. I reminded myself that this is a great chance for me to produce custom-made multiplication table for her to see if she could actually use my multiplication table to “naturally” “memorize” all multiplication facts. I asked her what kinds of multiplication questions she liked and what kids of multiplication questions she did not like. My multiplication workbook went from initially with 100 pages to finally over 300 pages because of working with her. Clearly I learned that she did not like simple drill type worksheets because they are boring. I was “forced” to come up different variety of formats to suit her taste. Finally, she could do multiplication but with some delay in coming up with answers. When getting to higher grades, her computation ability seemed to have a leap of progress, I asked her what had happened she told me that she just decided to “memorize” them and that is it. The same happened to the boy, I asked him why he could not seem to get the times table, he told me that he just did not want to memorize it when he was young and later he decided to memorize them.
So have we ever paid attention to the fact that some children could not learn times table well was simply because they did not want to “remember’ them? Educators did not seem to do this kind of “follow-up” study in education to find out what was the problem when some children could not learn when they were young.
Case 3 – Ho Math and Chess worksheets vs. traditional worksheets
From my own teaching experience, I have found that for some children drill is boring and causes stress to children. On the other hand, drill gives the fluency children need to do math by hand and the skill children need to do word problems with second nature and be able to “see” the direction of getting answers.
What’s wrong with drill rests with the tool of drilling that is the worksheet. It is not interesting, boring, monotonic and makes children feel like working on a assembly line to get all those answers. I personally gave Ho Math and Chess worksheets to children and also traditional worksheets to children, and clearly children liked Ho Math and Chess worksheets more than the traditional sheets. I also asked children why they liked Ho Math and Chess worksheets, they gave me the reason that they liked to work through a few turns and jumps to come up with answer and they felt it is more interesting that way. When I heard this kind of comments It boosted my confidence that I have come up with an innovative product which revolutionaries the traditional worksheets. My invention of Geometry Chess Language is a disruptive technology and an innovative idea which basically changed forever how children should be drilled and how to make math worksheets more interesting. I was almost holding back my tears when my students were telling me why they liked Ho Math and Chess worksheets.
Case 4 – Some children do not mind but some do not like to be drilled.
This is true story that some moms told me that they could not send their children to other learning centers anymore since their children are in tears when asked to go again – they hated the drill. On the other hand, I see, although rarely, some children do the drill worksheets until grade 12, why is there such a big difference?   I started to feel that our brain seem to function differently depending on individual and for some reason. Those children hated drill is because some part of their brain is telling them to “reject”. We can do an experiment by giving Ho Math and Chess worksheets and also the traditional worksheets and to see how their brains have reacted by scanning images of their brains. This will remain as a mystery until someone has done some research in this area.
More info on Ho Math and Chess, please view www.mathandchess.com

Frank Ho


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