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The Chicken and Egg Dilemma of Chess

Some say that chess can help improve one's focus, concentration, memory, and strategic thinking. It has always been thought of as an intellectual game. But it's difficult to measure the benefits that chess has on someone who regularly engages and plays the game or whether just casually playing the game would have any benefits at all.

So Dr. David Poston, who is working on NASA's Kilopower project and is a chess enthusiast, wanted to conduct a study to measure the effect that chess could have on people who play the game. Can chess really enhance the academic performance or even the mental ability of a person?

Teaming up with Kathryn K. Vandenkieboom, the learning systems, assessment and curriculum director for the Los Alamos Public Schools, he tracked the academic performance (as measured by standardized test scores) of kids who participated in the chess club at Aspen Elementary School versus kids who did not.
Critically, the study examined seven years worth of data, covered 854 students (from kindergarten to 6th grade), and compared kids from diverse academic backgrounds with varying levels of chess experience. It also explored whether there is a "dose effect" of chess. In other words, does playing more chess lead to better academic outcomes?

To see the analysis of the data, check out the article on Real Clear Science.

(Image credit: Ed Lyons/Flickr)

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