Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WIM Dr. Alexey Root: 10 Questions

Alexey W. Root has a Ph.D. in education from UCLA. She was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion. A Senior Lecturer for the University of Texas at Dallas, she teaches online, college-credit, chess curriculum courses. Earlier in her career, she taught social studies and English in public secondary schools. Over the past 20 years (in elementary and secondary schools, after-school programs, recreation centers, camps, and private lessons), she has taught chess to over 1000 people. She is also the author of Science, Math, Checkmate: 32 Chess Activities for Inquiry and Problem Solving and Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators. Her books can be found on

1. How old were you when you learned how to play chess? Five years old.
2. At what age can children be taught chess? Children as young as four can learn, but an ideal age would be around eight or nine. By that age, many children can win or lose with some graciousness.
3. What do you like most about playing chess? During a game, I like to apply a pattern that I know (such as tactic) to improve my position.
4. Who is your favorite chess player? Any player on the UT-Dallas chess team!
5. What do you do when you are not playing chess? I work at the computer, either writing my books or grading students' work from my online courses, while I pet my rabbit, Abba (see attached photo). Abba is from a shelter; see for how to have a rabbit as a house pet.
6. Why is chess good for children to learn? Chess may encourage pattern recognition, problem solving, and sportsmanship. Playing chess allows children to interact with people of different ages and cultures.
7. How can chess facilitators become better chess teachers? Take my online chess courses, see
38 students are enrolled this semester, from beginners who are classroom teachers to grandmaster chess players. See this editorial .

8. What makes a good chess teacher? As with any subject, knowledge of content combined with knowledge of teaching methods and child development.
9. Why should chess be taught in schools? Chess in schools must address educational goals. My two books give lesson plans and activities that use chess as a tool to meet academic and humanistic objectives. One analogy is basketball teaching in P.E. During P.E. class, one might teach some basketball skills, such as shooting or dribbling, that have wide applicability. But if students want to compete at entire basketball games, they play in leagues after school. Similarly, chess in the classroom might feature some aspects of chess. Tournament chess play, in my opinion, should be an extracurricular option.
10. What stands out about your 1989 US Women’s Championship? What stands out is that I had a good attitude going into the tournament. I had just attended a Fourth of July celebration with my fiancĂ© and his family, and was happy about living in the U.S. and about my future as a wife. I married about two weeks after I won the U.S. Women's.

1 comment:

Mama4chess said...

I met Dr. Root at a chess tournament our sixth grade sons were attending. She is both personable and likeable. I was impressed by her knowledge and her insight to the chess world. I enjoyed our visit very much.

--T. D. from SCCC