Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Science, Math, Checkmate: 32 Chess Activities for Inquiry and Problem Solving

Max and Hiroko Warshauer

Department of Mathematics Texas State University-San Marcos

Science, Math, Checkmate is the second book by educator and chess expert Dr. Alexey Root that deftly weaves chess into the educational fabric of school mathematics and science. As in her first book, Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators, this book is a rich resource of activities educators can use to engage, enrich, and enhance student learning.
Teaching problem solving is one of the most challenging tasks for mathematics and science teachers. Chess provides an intriguing context for students to explore a variety of intellectually demanding problems while encouraging students to explain and justify their solutions. The 32 activities found in this book are designed to encourage students to experiment with strategies, visualize relationships of pieces, and reason through their moves and consequences.
Written as a resource book for teachers that links to national standards, each activity includes Objectives, Materials, and Procedures, and is designed to take students 30 to 45 minutes to complete. In addition, the activities are notated with grade appropriateness that ranges from grades 3 to 8 and sequenced according to the extent of students’ chess knowledge that is required. A chess test is included to assess the chess knowledge of students. The author shares with us numerous activities that were inspired by her children, which suggests a very student-focused approach to activities.
It is through our children that we first met Dr. Root. Over 15 years ago, Dr. Root offered chess lessons to children in Austin, Texas. Three of our four children were able to take lessons with Alexey, as they fondly called her, who instilled in them a great love for the game. As a mathematician and a mathematics educator we were fortunate to have Alexey write an article on chess and mathematics in Math Reader magazine, which was published by Texas Mathworks at Texas State University- San Marcos. We have been impressed by how she has used chess as a platform for teaching students to think creatively about problems while making learning fun and engaging. Teachers will find these activities to be a wonderful resource that they can use in their classrooms to stimulate excitement and curiosity about problem solving. At the same time, students will develop a foundation in chess that can be a lifelong source of fun and enjoyment that can be shared between people of all ages.

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