Social Board Games, Part 0: Introduction

5 03 2014

Here is a great article I found for social games

By 

As some of you already know, I am a mathematics professor at a small school in Indiana (Trine University). Despite our size, we have a very large engineering program – but more importantly, we have a class on the books called “Social Board Games”! The person who usually teaches it no longer has time, so he suggsted I take it up. No need to ask twice!

The course description says that “The object of this activity class is to expose students to the history, rules, strategies and fundamentals of a variety of social board games including Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Cranium, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Taboo and Monopoly.” Or, in the words of another professor, the point of the course is “to get the guys in engineering to actually talk to girls before they graduate.”

Of course, since I’m the kind of guy who runs a board gaming blog, I threw all of this out the window. While games like Pictionary and Taboo have some good social interaction and are closer to my aims for the course, games like Chess and Checkers are played in pairs and in virtual silence, and Monopoly and Scrabble can be frustrating and longish. More importantly though, I wanted to have a central goal for the course. I want students to actually learn a thing or two. The course is just 1-credit pass/fail, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a waste of time.

When I think back to my experiences in college, such as our “freshmen college experience” course that everyone college has now, I think of things I would have like to have known then, and what I want students to know now as a professor. The most important thing that came to mind was that I want students to take control of their own learning. (It amazes me the extent to which students who are confused in class will refuse to ask a question, for fear of looking stupid.) This led to me thinking about a variety of mental health issues that people don’t even realize are “issues” until it gets them fired from a job. My wife is a licensed mental health counselor, so with her help I came up with a list of ideas I wanted students to engage with and the games with which to do it. (In the future, I hope to try and get this course to count as a Social Science credit.)

What has been most amazing so far is the generosity of publishers and retailers alike. Since I was rebuilding a course from the ground up for which we already had materials (the old games), it was a safe assumption that I would have no funding from the university for new games. However, almost all of the publishers that I contacted were willing to step in and send some games to use in the course, and only a few were completely unresponsive. CoolStuffInc stepped in when I really wanted to use a game from a publisher I could not seem to contact, and I can’t be thankful enough. MeepleTown is not sponsored at all, by any publisher or retailer, but on a personal level I really want to thank (in no particular order) Rio Grande Games, Days of Wonder, Steve Jackson Games, R&R Games, FoxMind Games, North Star Games, Gamewright Games, Gryphon/Eagle Games, and Indie Boards & Cards, along with CoolStuffInc. This class as I envision it would not be possible without the generosity of every single one of you.

I am not going to share the entire syllabus, but I am going to share the flow of the course and the kind of assignments the students will have. This is a Wednesday night class, and each week students will be playing a game after I lecture a bit beforehand about the concept in mind as well as the ruleset. After about 90 minutes of play, we’ll recap the concept I want them to get and talk about how it appeared within the game. Then they have to go home and write a one-page paper on the importance of the mental health concept and how it appeared in the game. I’ll grade these out of 10 points (5 for grammar, 5 for substance) and they simply need to average a 6/10 on their assignments to pass the course. I hope to collect some important thoughts from these as I blog each week about the course, and maybe talk at some conferences about the importance of play, both psychologically and mathematically. (All that mathematical researchers do all day is goof around until something works. Play is of utmost importance.)

To pick games for this course, I needed them to satisfy some pretty important criteria. They needed to have a relatively short playtime – some games like Ticket to Ride will take a bit longer, but I was really aiming for 20-30 minute games that could be played several times in a row. It was also very important that they had a simple ruleset – the toughest game is probably Dominion, but I’ll be setting out the simplest Kingdom Cards in the basic set when they play, and that’ll be towards the end of the semester. I’ll also be walking around the room to answer rules questions as they play. Most importantly, they had to model some sort of important mental health concept that would be useful later in life as well as right now in college. To that end, the first unit is the most important one for college: realizing that it’s okay to be a little ignorant, and that everyone is a little ignorant too. The point of college is to become educated, which you can’t do if you won’t admit that youaren’t completely educated. The second unit is about communication, whose importance is hopefully obvious, although we will focus on several different types of communication. The third unit is on applying strategic thinking to life in general (which is, of course, a game, although we’re all a little fuzzy on the rules and victory conditions). The last unit is on separating play from reality – students (and even children) need to learn not to huff and puff and scream and stomp out of the room when they lose when they are still young, lest they act the same way at a board meeting.

I’ll talk more about the individual games chosen in detail as they come up each week, and I’ll also talk about responses from the students and what I lectured about. But for now, here is the list of games along with the mental health goals and writing prompts. (The game synopses are straight from BoardGameGeek and included for the students, who have probably never played or heard of most of these, since my Finite Math students at IUPUI did not even know the content of a deck of standard playing cards.) Check back next Friday for Part 1!

UNIT 1: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

The goal of this unit is for students to get comfortable with their own limitations. No one – even a genius – knows that much about the world compared to everything there is to know, and not everyone has the same skill set. It’s okay to be wrong or not know something! It’s more than okay to ask a question during classes! These games are meant to illustrate that.

TelestrationsWeek 1 (1/8) Telestrations

Game Synopsis: Telestrations is the award winning, laugh-out-loud party game that has players simultaneously draw what they see, then guess what they saw to reveal hilarious and unpredictable outcomes. In this fun, modern twist on the classic “telephone game,” there are multiple words being passed around between players, with everyone sketching and guessing at the same time! But the real fun and laughter is the big reveal, where players get their own books back and get to share how “this” became “that”!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to laugh at yourself.

Focus for Review: Were your drawings guessed correctly? When the meaning was entirely lost, was everyone (including you) able to laugh at the errors? How can you apply those aspects of the game to failures in everyday life?

wwfamilyWeek 2 (1/15) Wits & Wagers Family

Game SynopsisWits & Wagers is the trivia game you can win without knowing any trivia! All you do is bet on the answer you think is the closest. Get lucky and your team will be cheering like they hit the jackpot!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly assess how knowledgeable other people are.

Focus for Review: When answers revealed, was your answer ever far from the rest? How did players react to “out there” answers? Did anyone lose self-confidence for that reason? Was an “out there” answer ever right? Were ever you afraid to bet on your own answer, but then it turned out to be right? How would you apply those aspects of this game to real-life situations?

faunaWeek 3 (1/22) Fauna

Game Synopsis: Do you know where the panda lives (… you most likely know)? Do you know where the babirusa lives (… you are less sure about that)? Some of us are not entirely sure what a babirusa is? In Fauna, you are not expected to know all the answers, simply gather your wits and make an educated guess. You are right on target? Great! You are close? That’s good too, since you score partial points. Playing Fauna involves some fun betting for points, but don’t get cocky, as this may cost you your hide!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to strategize and assess a situation with imperfect knowledge.

Focus for Review:  A big difference between this game and Wits & Wagers is the way you play the game on the board. Did you ever make a tactical move that wasn’t really related to what you know? Were you able to still strategize and accomplish things without knowing exactly what the right answer was? How did you use what you thought other players knew? How could this idea be applied in a real-life situation?

timesupWeek 4 (1/29) Time’s Up!

Game Synopsis: Time’s Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, almost any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2 no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, no words are allowed at all. Time’s Up! is based on the public domain game known as Celebrities.

Mental Health Goal: Being comfortable with acting like a fool (in an appropriate situation).

Focus for Review:  Did you have trouble “loosening up” and acting silly in this game? Why or why not? Do you think that the ability to act silly is an actual, important real-life skill? Why or why not?

 Were you able to get your teammates guess the correct words? When you were not able to use words, how were you able to still indicate the card? Were you able to reference what happened in the previous rounds? How could you use this to communicate in real life?

UNIT 2: Communicating Effectively

The goal of this unit is to get students to communicate effectively with each other. This means working together as a team, as well as learning to interpret and use both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Week 5 (2/5) Dixit

dixitGame Synopsis: Every picture tells a story – but what story will your picture tell? Dixit is the lovingly illustrated game of creative guesswork, where your imagination unlocks the tale. In this award-winning board game, players will use the beautiful imagery on their cards to bluff their opponents and guess which image matches the story. Guessing right is only half the battle – to really succeed, you’ll have to get your friends to decide that your card tells the story!

Mental Health Goal: Making mental and emotional connections with strangers and acquaintances.

Focus for Review: Was it difficult to make up appropriate clues? How did you respond when your clue was too easy, too hard, or just right? Were you able to make mental or emotional connections with other players via the clues? How can you apply this idea to real life social situations with new people?

forbislandWeek 6 (2/12) Forbidden Island

Game Synopsis: Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

Mental Health Goal: Working together as a team.

Focus for Review: The game requires that you cooperate with other players to win. Did anyone try to be the “alpha player” and tell everyone what to do? How did you decide on what actions to take? What was different when you played with hidden cards? How does this correspond to working on a team or a committee at a real job, or on a group project? Did you win or lose? Why do you think you won or lost? What lessons did you take away from playing the game?

hanabi_productshotWeek 7 (2/19) Hanabi

Game Synopsis: An intriguing and innovative card game. Race against the clock to build a dazzling fireworks finale! Trouble is, you can see the cards that everyone holds…except your own.  Working together, you must give and receive vital information in order to play your cards in the proper launch sequence. Build and light each firework correctly to win the game and avoid a fizzling fiasco!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly intonate and infer silent communication.

Focus for Review: Were you able to correctly guess what your teammates were trying to say? Did they infer what you wanted them to when you gave clues? What changed when you did not allow intonation? What are some real-life situations where you need to pick up on silent clues?

labocaWeek 8 (2/26) La Boca

Game Synopsis:  In shifting teams of two that sit across from one another, players try to create skylines on challenge cards – but the players can see the completed image only from their point of view, so they must consult with one another constantly to make sure each colored block ends up in the right location while racing against the timer. The faster the players complete their building, the more points they score. Then the next team takes a seat, breaks down the blocks, then begins building anew. Whoever has the most points after a certain number of rounds will stand atop La Boca and glory in the cheers of the Argentinian public!

Mental Health Goal: Communicating effectively under pressure.

Focus for Review: Now that you have communicated with your classmates for a few weeks, was this easier or harder other communication games? Do you think that made a difference? Were you able to communicate under pressure? Did you work better with some teammates than others? Why or why not?

UNIT 3: Applying Strategy to Real Life:

So far, many of the games we have played have been party games, and maybe not what people typically think of when they think of board games. In this unit, we will play some strategy-based board games that will challenge your brain, but more importantly, we’ll talk about how to apply strategy to the game of life (metaphorically, not the board game Life).

Week 9 (3/12) Ticket to Ride

ttrGame Synopsis: Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to adapt your strategy after short-term setbacks.

Focus for Review: Did someone ever claim a route that you wanted? Did you claim a spot someone else wanted? What happened afterwards? Were you able to recover and do your best, anyway? How did you react to winning or losing?

Week 10 (3/19) Dominion

DominionGame Synopsis: In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can “buy” as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

Dominion is not a CCG, but the play of the game is similar to the construction and play of a CCG deck. The game comes with 500 cards. You select 10 of the 25 Kingdom card types to include in any given play—leading to immense variety.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to understand long-term consequences of your actions.

Focus for Review: How often did you see a card that you bought early? What was different about a card you bought in the first few turns, compared to the cards you bought at the end of the game? When do you think you should buy the action and money cards – early, or at the end? What about the victory cards? How does this idea of a game decision having long-term consequences translate into real life? As you approach the end of the game, the consequences of your choices don’t last as long – is there an analog to this in real life? Why or why not?

Week 11 (3/26) Skull & Roses, Coup

skullGame Synopsis: Skull & Roses is the quintessence of bluffing, a game in which everything is played in the players’ heads. Skull & Roses is not a game of luck; it’s a game of poker face and meeting eyes.

In Coup, you are head of a family in an Italian city-state, a city run by a weak and corrupt court. You need to manipulate, bluff and bribe your way to power. Your object is to destroy the influence of all the other families, forcing them into exile. Only one family will survive…

Mental Health Goal: Understanding the moral, psychological, and strategic implications of lying and bluffing.

coupsmallFocus for Review: How often did you and your opponents lie in these games? Was it absolutely necessary to tell some lies to win? Were you comfortable with doing so? Do you think it is ‘okay’ to lie to get ahead? On the other hand, is it sometimes correct or even moral to withhold truth? Is it lying to tell the truth in a way that paints it as a lie? Is it important to be able to recognize a liar when you see one? Can this be done without lying yourself and putting yourself in a liar’s shoes?

UNIT 4: Emotions During Gaming

We’ve all been there. Someone won the last game, so you don’t want to cooperate with them in this game. Someone attacked you within the game, so you want to punch them in the face. The goal of this unit is to get students comfortable with competition, so that they can properly separate play from reality, and deal with competition at their future jobs.

Week 12 (4/2) Hearts

heartsGame Synopsis: Hearts is a trick taking, standard deck playing card game, without trumps, which has been played popularly for generations and has many variations. The object is to avoid capturing hearts at one (1) point apiece and (in the most commonly played version today) the queen of spades, at thirteen (13) points, the card on which the whole game pivots. But to make it interesting, it is also possible to “shoot the moon,” taking all the hearts and the queen, a coup that gives 26 points to each of your opponents!

Mental Health Goal: Separating frustration and “mean” play within a game from the reality outside of the game.

Focus for Review: Did you ever feel targeted or attacked during the game? How did you react? What would you do in a social situation where you became angry because of the game being played? What’s a good way to avoid getting in this kind of situation in the first place?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 1 Zombie Dice

zombiediceGame Synopsis: You are a zombie. You want braaains. More brains than any of your zombie buddies. Zombie Dice is fast and easy for any zombie fan (or the whole zombie family). The 13 custom dice are your victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop rolling before the shotgun blasts end your turn! Two or more can play. Each game takes 10 to 20 minutes, and can be taught in a single round.

Mental Health Goal: Learning firsthand the risks of “gambler’s logic.”

Focus for Review: Did you ever get greedy while rolling, and refuse to stop? If it paid off, did you begin to think that that is “okay” to always do? If you busted after being greedy, how did that make you feel? How do the experiences you had during the game apply to real-life gambling?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 2 For Sale

forsaleGame Synopsis: Bid and bluff your way to purchase the most valuable real estate for the lowest amount of money. Then turn around and sell those houses (and shacks) for cold hard cash. Be the richest mogul at the end of the game to win this Stefan Dorra classic. Considered one of the finest bidding games of all time, For Sale has a devoted following of fans that is about to grow much, much larger.

Mental Health Goal: Learning when to back down from a “fight.”

Focus for Review: You see it quite often in television and movies – someone is angry about being overbid and won’t back down from an auction. Did this happen in your games? Did you feel the urge to overpay for a property because someone outbid you? How do you calm yourself down and convince yourself to walk away? How can this be applied to real life?

Week 14 (4/16) Bohnanza

bohnanzaGame Synopsis: This great card game is about planting, trading, and selling beans – 11 kinds of beans! Players try to collect large sets of beans to sell for gold. There is limited growing space and always new beans to plant. To avoid planting unwanted beans, players trade them to other players who want them for their bean fields

Mental Health Goal: Balancing cooperation with competition.

Focus for Review: How often did you trade or donate within the game? How shrewd were you and the other players? How did cooperating and trading work into your strategy and/or the strategy of the winners? How important was the emotional metagame (the game outside the game)? What kinds of situations in real life require you to cooperate with your competitors?

COMBINING ALL 4 UNITS

Week 15 (4/23) The Resistance

resistance2ndGame SynopsisThe Resistance is a very intense social deduction game for 5-10 players.  While it shares similarities with games like Werewolf,Mafia and even Battlestar Galactica, it has many very unique features such as a quick 30 minute play time, no moderator required and no player elimination.

Mental Health Goal: Learning how to read people’s tells, and to recover from misguided trust.

Focus for Review: Were you loyal or a spy? How did this affect your actions? What did you do to figure out whom to trust, or to trick people into trusting you? What verbal and nonverbal clues did you use? How did you and the other players react when the truth was revealed? Was anyone upset? Were you able to pretend to know things, or otherwise make use of your partial information? How could you apply what happened in the game to real-life situations?





5 Reasons to Embrace Gaming in the Classroom

16 11 2013

By 
Published October 25, 2013
  • Gaming is an amazing strategy to use in the classroom, yet few teachers use it to increase their students’ learning. Generally it is used a ‘reward’ or dismissed as purely fun, with no learning purpose. Gaming, however, is a wonderful way to re-engage students with learning and make learning relevant to their lives. This is not to say that it should be the only teaching strategy that you should use, or that all topics would be best taught through gaming. Many learning situations, however, can be dramatically improved through introducing gaming to your classroom.

Gaming in the Classroom

1. Improve Engagement

When students know that gaming is going to be introduced into a unit, they automatically become a lot more interested in what is happening. Even students who are not ‘gamers’ are interested in the change in the status quo. Something new is happening in their classroom, and they want to be a part of it. For those students who are gamers, the lesson suddenly becomes something that is relevant to them and their lives. It also provides opportunities for students who may not achieve success easily at school to become successful, and even become mentors to other students who are not comfortable in a gaming environment.

 2. Personalise Instruction

All good teachers ultimate goal is to differentiate instruction, giving all students the support they need at their individual level. This, however, is time consuming to achieve. Good games are open-ended, giving all students opportunities to work at their own level. They also allow students to see how to achieve success at the next level, providing them with clear goals. Many games can also be personalised, so that students can connect with the game. Avatars and other similar personalisations allow the students to portray who they are while staying within the safe constraints of the game. This connection is not often possible in schools with strict rules about personal appearance or in children who have little control over their environment.

 3. Provide an entry point to content

Games provide a way for all students to access content that may seem inaccessible when presented in an alternative way. Many games, particularly role playing games, allow students who are not confident to watch others who are more confident attempt the task first. Gaming also allows them to try new tasks without having to worry about getting it ‘wrong’. If they do make a mistake, it is not visible, but they can take that learning and try again. They could also attempt a slightly easier task as a way in to the original task without being seen to ‘fall behind’ by their peers.

 4. Clear rules and objectives

Games have clear rules and objectives and when teaching with games this makes the learning significantly clearer for students. Having clear learning objectives takes the mystery away from learning for students, allowing them to achieve success. They also know exactly what will happen if they do or do not follow the rules of the game. This clarity assists students to take control of their own learning and understand exactly how they can improve.

 5. Increase Learning

Ultimately, all of the above points means that students will improve their learning. When students are engaged, know how to achieve success and have an entry point to all of the content, they will learn the content. Add to this the opportunity to practice and trial new thinking, students can master the content quickly and confidently. Provided that you have a specific purpose for introducing gaming and know what learning you want your students to achieve, then gaming is the perfect opportunity to given students ownership over their own learning.

 What games have you introduced successfully in the classroom? Leave a comment below and let us know how your class is embracing gaming.

 Feature image courtesy of Flickr, kennymatic.

 

Rebecca Davies is a teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. She teaches primary and middle years students (Prep to year 9) and has taught in PYP and mainstream schools. She is passionate about educational technology and how it can engage students, making their learning personalised and relevant to their lives.

- See more at: http://www.fractuslearning.com/2013/10/25/gaming-in-the-classroom/#sthash.GNusSZAt.dpuf





’10 big brain benefits of playing chess’

5 09 2013

'10 big brain benefits of playing chess'

Not for nothing is chess known as “the game of kings.” No doubt the rulers of empires and kingdoms saw in the game fitting practice for the strategizing and forecasting they themselves were required to do when dealing with other monarchs and challengers. As we learn more about the brain, some are beginning to push for chess to be reintroduced as a tool in the public’s education. With benefits like these, they have a strong case.

1. It can raise your IQ
Chess has always had an image problem, being seen as a game for brainiacs and people with already high IQs. So there has been a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: do smart people gravitate towards chess, or does playing chess make them smart? At least one study has shown that moving those knights and rooks around can in fact raise a person’s intelligence quotient. A study of 4,000 Venezuelan students produced significant rises in the IQ scores of both boys and girls after 4 months of chess instruction.

2. It helps prevent Alzheimer’s
Because the brain works like a muscle, it needs exercise like any bicep or quad to be healthy and ward off injury. A recent study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over 75 who engage in brain-stretching activities like chess are less likely to develop dementia than their non-board-game-playing peers. Just like an un-exercised muscle loses strength, Dr. Robert Freidland, the study’s author, found that unused brain tissue leads to a loss of brain power. So that’s all the more reason to play chess before you turn 75.

3. It exercises both sides of the brain
In a German study, researchers showed chess experts and novices simple geometric shapes and chess positions and measured the subjects’ reactions in identifying them. They expected to find the experts’ left brains being much more active, but they did not expect the right hemisphere of the brain to do so as well. Their reaction times to the simple shapes were the same, but the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess position questions.

4. It increases your creativity
Since the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, it should come as no surprise that activating the right side of your brain helps develop your creative side. Specifically, chess greatly increases originality. One four-year study had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain.

5. It improves your memory
Chess players know — as an anecdote — that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player means remembering how your opponent has operated in the past and recalling moves that have helped you win before. But there’s hard evidence also. In a two-year study in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play chess improved their grades in all subjects, and their teachers noticed better memory and better organizational skills in the kids. A similar study of Pennsylvania sixth-graders found similar results. Students who had never before played chess improved their memories and verbal skills after playing.

6. It increases problem-solving skills
A chess match is like one big puzzle that needs solving, and solving on the fly, because your opponent is constantly changing the parameters. Nearly 450 fifth-grade students were split into three groups in a 1992 study in New Brunswick. Group A was the control group and went through the traditional math curriculum. Group B supplemented the math with chess instruction after first grade, and Group C began the chess in first grade. On a standardized test, Group C’s grades went up to 81.2% from 62% and outpaced Group A by 21.46%.

7. It improves reading skills
In an oft-cited 1991 study, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and evaluated them compared to non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess caused increased performance in reading. In a district where the average students tested below the national average, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.

8. It improves concentration
Chess masters might come off like scattered nutty professors, but the truth is their antics during games are usually the result of intense concentration that the game demands and improves in its players. Looking away or thinking about something else for even a moment can result in the loss of a match, as an opponent is not required to tell you how he moved if you didn’t pay attention. Numerous studies of students in the U.S., Russia, China, and elsewhere have proven time and again that young people’s ability to focus is sharpened with chess.

9. It grows dendrites
Dendrites are the tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons they are attached to. Think of them like antennas picking up signals from other brain cells. The more antennas you have and the bigger they are, the more signals you’ll pick up. Learning a new skill like chess-playing causes dendrites to grow. But that growth doesn’t stop once you’ve learned the game; interaction with people in challenging activities also fuels dendrite growth, and chess is a perfect example.

10. It teaches planning and foresight
Having teenagers play chess might just save their lives. It goes like this: one of the last parts of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. So adolescents are scientifically immature until this part develops. Strategy games like chess can promoteprefrontal cortex development and help them make better decisions in all areas of life, perhaps keeping them from making a stupid, risky choice of the kind associated with being a teenager.

This article was cross-posted with permission from OnlineCourses.com.





Chess and Math? Improving math skills one move at a time

30 06 2013

From Deb Russell

First of all, Math provides the building blocks and foundation that children will need throughout their lives. If you think that the basics are adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – think again! Today, we live in an information age where it’s reported that information is doubling at a rate less than every two years. The basic skills need to function in the workplace today are decision making, problem solving, critical thinking and deductive and inductive reasoning along with the ability to make judgements and good estimates. We haven’t loved math but we’ve certainly loved our games. That’s when Chess comes into the picture.

Chess is a game that requires problem solving. Math requires problem solving, it makes good sense then to become a good problem solver means you’ll do better in math. Chess (and other games) require a mental workout, thinking ahead, planning, being systematic, and determining the outcomes of certain moves. Chess moves can’t be memorized, weakness in math often stems from an over emphasis on memory skills instead of thinking skills. Research studies have indicated that students playing chess have improved problem solving skills over the group that have not been involved in the playing of chess. Ollie LaFreniere, the Washington Chess Federation’s statewide Coordinator for Scholastic Chess, said in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview on May 31, “Chess is the single most powerful educational tool we have at the moment, and many school administrators are realizing that.” There are also studies that indicate that many students’ social habits improved when playing chess.

The late Faneuil Adams (president of the American Chess Foundation (ACF). believed that chess could enhance learning, especially for the disadvantaged. He with the ACF founded the Chess in Schools Program which initially began in New York’s Harlem School district. Early in the program, the focus was on improving math skills for adolescents through improved critical thinking and problem solving skills. Remarkably “test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”

The ACF reports that chess improves a Child’s:

Visual memory

Attention span

Spatial reasoning skills

Capacity to predict and anticipate consequences

Ability to use criteria to drive decision making and evaluate alternatives

Many countries are following suit. In Canada, a growing number of elementary schools have incorporated chess into the regular school curriculum. Looking specifically at Quebec, 10 years ago their math scores were the lowest in the country, Chess became a school subject and now the children in quebec have the highest average math scores in Canada.

Overcoming Math Phobia through Chess

Why is it when we ask the majority of people what they think of math or if they’re good at math, they immediately show a look of distaste? Think of what happens when a group of people are at a restaurant and the bill comes on one check instead of on separate checks. Usually, you’ll hear ‘here, you figure it out, I was never any good at math.’ I’m sure you’ve been in this situation yourself at times. However, do they ever say, here you figure it out – I can’t read. When we take a look at why people don’t like math, we’re told it’s because it makes them feel stupid, or that they just don’t understand it because there are too many rules, formulas and procedures to remember. But, can you think of a situation where there are rules, procedures and such that we enjoy? Games!!! Perhaps if our math instructors treated math like a game, more individuals would excel and would like mathematics. A more favorable attitude in math leads to better performance. Let chess pave the way to better math scores and improved problem solving strategies!





Mathematics and the game of chess

30 06 2013

by Enrique Diaz G.

Our purpose for writting this article is to attempt to answer the question: Is there any relationship between thinking mathematically and thinking in the game of Chess? In other words, must a person possessing an active mind in Mathematics become necessarily a good Chess player have skills in Mathematics?

It is necessary to point out that due to the subject complexity, our efforts will be to explain basic characteristics of both Mathematics and Chess which have been posed by well-known Mathematicians and Chess players. Accordingly, we are not interested in exposing facts, for example, from the Theory of Knowledge, Psychology, Epistemology or going further into the technical and sophisticated aspects of Chess.

To begin with, let us examine some qualities of Mathematics.

People having poor experience in Mathematics believe that knowing how to add, subtract, multiply or divide enables them to say that they could master Mathematics. Others possessing some skill in performing quick calculations think they are “Mathematicians”. In both cases, they indicate they do not know about the meaning of Mathematics:

Mathematics as an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality. Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness, and supreme value of mathematical science. (Courant& Robbins, 1941).

Even though at the beginning this definition seems difficult to understand, it is the best approximation to comprehend the whole sense of mathematics.

The first major step which the Greeks made was to insist that Mathematics must deal with abstract concepts… On the basis of elementary abstractions, mathematics creates others which are even more remote from anything real. Negative numbers, equations involving unknowns, formulas, and other concepts we shall encounter are abstractions built upon abstractions. Fortunately, every abstraction is ultimately derived from, and therefore understandable in terms of, intuitively meaningful objects or phenomena. The mind does play its part in the creation of mathematical concepts, but the mind does not function independently of the outside world. Indeed the mathematician who treats concepts that have no physically real or intuitive origins is almost surely talking nonsense .2 (Kline, 1962).

After this brief glance at the meaning of Mathematics, let us seethe most commonly methods used in this science. According to Kline (1962), the major method of obtaining knowledge is reasoning, and within the domain of reasoning there are several forms. One can reason by analogy, which consists of finding a similar situation or circumstance and to argue that what was true for the similar case should be true of the one in question. Of course, one must be able to find a similar situation and one must take the chance that the differences do not matter.

Another common method of reasoning is induction. People use this method of reasoning every day. Inductive reasoning is in fact the method must commonly used in experimentation. An experimentation is generally performed many times, and if the same result is obtained each time, the experimenter concludes that the result will always follow. The essence of induction is that one observes repeated occurrences of the same phenomenon and concludes that the phenomenon will always occur.

There is still a third method of reasoning, called deduction. Let us consider an example. If we accept as basic facts that honest people return found money and that John is honest, we may conclude unquestionably that John will return money that he finds. In deductive reasoning we start with certain statements, called premises, and assert a conclusion which is a necessary or inescapable consequence of the premises.

All three methods of reasoning, analogy, induction, and deduction, and other methods, are commonly employed. There is one essential difference, however, between deduction on the one hand and all other methods of reasoning on the other. Where as the conclusion drawn by analogy or induction has only a probability of being correct, the conclusion drawn by deduction necessarily holds. Despite the usefulness and advantages of induction and analogy, mathematics does not rely upon these methods to establish its conclusions. All mathematical proofs must be deductive.

Each proof is a chain of deductive arguments, each of which has its premises and conclusion.

Finally, we point out that Mathematics must not be considered only as a system of conclusions drawn from premises or postulates. Mathematicians must also discover what to prove and how to go about establishing proofs. These processes are also part of Mathematics and they are not deductive:

In the search for a method of proof, as in finding what to prove, the mathematician must use audacious imagination, insight, and creative ability. His mind must see possible lines of attack where others would not. In the domains of algebra, calculus, and advanced analysis especially, the first-rate mathematician depends upon the kind of inspiration that we usually associate with the creation of music, literature, or art.3 (Kline, 1962).

Let us consider now the game of Chess showing some of its characteristics and trying to find out any special method of reasoning that Chess players could use. First of all, we are not going to explain the game as accurately as in a Chess book. Instead, we will describe the game in a rather general form.

A Chess game is a war between two medieval Kingdoms. In medieval times, when Kingdoms were small, absolute monarchies, if the King was imprisoned or captured the war was over. So it is in the game of Chess. The game is finished when one of the Kings is captured. It may here be noted that Chess is not necessarily a game of elimination but rather a game of tactics. However, elimination of the opponent’s pieces plays an important part since by so weakening or wearing down your opponent the end is hastened. A general definition is given by Mason: “Chess is a process of thought conditioned and limited by the Institutes and Rules of the Game. The judgments of thought are certified or visibly expressed upon the chessboard in movements of various forces”.4 (Mason, 1946)

The invention of Chess had been credited to the Persians, the Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Scythians, Egyptians, Hindus, Irish and the Welsh. Although the precise origin has been lost in obscurity, it continues to excite the speculation of men of learning at one end of dilettantes at the other. Careful research has called it an “ancient” game; the foolhardy are quite ready to underwrite exact dates. Other characteristics are pointed out by Mason (1946).

But there is a mischievous imagination abroad that it is a difficult game. It takes time. Its intricacies and profundities are not rightly within mastery of the average human intellect. This, in a sense, is true enough, else Chess would not be Chess. That it cannot be all known and mastered by anybody is truly its chiefest, crowning merit. It is an instrument all may play, no two precisely alike, and yet everyone his best. Too much time may be devoted to it. Chess is a science as well as an art. In its exercise the tendency is to premature mechanical facility, rather than to a clear perception of principles; though upon this, of course, all true and lasting faculty necessarily depends.

Now, after these rough explanations about Chess, let us see what attributes a person must possess in order to become a good Chess player. In other words, what is the pattern of intellectual skills that makes one man a good chess player while the other remains a duffer?

In the first place, topnotch Chess requires visual imagery. Before you make a contemplated move, you have to visualize how the board will look after you make it, and then how it will be changed by your opponent’s response, and how it will look after you meet another possible answer. You also need patience and restraint.

The quick thinker is often a fool. You need a good memory too. Memory has two components: ability to retain, and ability to recall. The chess player needs both. Finally, Chess calls for a certain kind of “reasoning”. This reasoning consists of joining together the above elements in order to give an appropriate response to any move. This, then, is the “putty” which holds the “blocks” together. The “blocks” are memory, patience and imagery. The putty is associative reasoning. In daily life you use some of these processes, but you also use other intellectual techniques. For instance, inductive reasoning is not much used in chess, but it pays dividends in business and professional life.

Now, let us consider a mathematician with all his capacity to think abstract concepts; with all his methods of reasoning, that is, reason by analogy, induction, and deduction. Will he become a good Chess player? One of the greatest mathematicians, Henri Poincare, denies this possibility:

In the same way I should be but a poor chess player; I would perceive that by a certain play I should expose myself to a certain danger; I would pass in review several other plays, rejecting them for other reasons, and then finally should make the move first examined, having meantime forgotten the danger I had foreseen. In a word, my memory is not bad, but it would be insufficient to make me a good chess player. Why them does it not fail me in a difficult piece of mathematical? Evidently because it is guided by the general march of the reasoning.5 (Binet, 1946).

Also, we have Binet’s thinking about this matter:

Conversely, mathematicians have after been interested in Chess. However, few famous mathematicians have been first-rate chess players … I will readily admit that a similarity exists between chess and mathematics, especially between chess and mental arithmetic, without, however, ascribing to them identical mental operations. Chess and Mathematics follow parallel lines. In other words, the two types of study have a common direction; they presuppose the same taste for complex mental operations which are both abstract and precise; and they both require a strong dose of patience and concentration.6 (Binet, 1966).

Now, let us consider a good Chess player, for example, the so-called, chess master. Could he become a good mathematician also? One categorical, answer is expressed by Horowitz and Rothenberg. ,

As strange as it may seen, the chess player’s skill may have no relationship whatever to any other facet of his personality or activity. The common belief that expert chess players are good mathematicians is fiction. On the other hand, good mathematicians may turn out to be good chess players … One conclusion and one only is a safe one: Expert Chess-players are able to play Chess expertly.7 (Horowitz & Rothenberg, 1963).

Again Poincare points out that:
…, but, however extraordinary he (a chess player) may be, he will never prepare more than a finite number of moves; if he applies his faculties to arithmetic, he will not be able to perceive its general truths by a single direct intuition; to arrive at the smallest theorem he can not dispense with the aid of reasoning by recurrence, for this is an instrument which enables us to pass from the finite to the infinite, (Poincare, 1946).

Another interesting point of view concerning this point is set up by Abrahams:

The Chess process, being intuitive, Is not mathematical in the normally accepted sense of that term. The fact that the Chess player is controlled by rules makes him comparable to the user of a language with a grammar rather than to those who explicitly use rules and formulate deductively. The Chess player is sometimes in a position to be aided by learning and memory. But essentially each Chess act is a fresh application of mind to data. Than which nothing is less mathematical or less inferential.8 (Abrahams, 1951).

To summarize then, we can say that up to now there is not any valuable reason to support the theory that a Chess player must possess abilities related to Mathematics. Lastly, we will indicate some ideas about Chess as a mental process.

Why has Chess remained the world’s most popular game for fifteen centuries? Some authorities attribute the game’s fascination to its mimicry of war and all the other struggles of “real life’ , others see Chess as a convenient escape from reality. Some have found in Chess an admirable schooling for the mind; others would agree with Ernest Cassirer that “what Chess has in common with science and fine art is its utter uselessness” … The great Chess masters, like the great poets, the great composers, the great artists, the great mathematicians, the great mystics, have the faculty of immersing themselves in some creative process with a concentration, a finality, that is beyond most of us… Chess concepts, like mathematical concepts, depend on formal relations, and therefore exist forever, independent of the capacity of this or that human brain to grasp them.

Now nobody, according to Abrahams (1951), has succeeded in explaining, in casual terms, how the mind apprehends in the first place, or why it falls to apprehend, whether in Chess or in any department of mental activity. The working of the mind is a fact common to intelligent human beings, and Chess has no exclusive claim of vision; for an element of vision or intuition, however slight, is involved in any mental process which is distinguishable form reflex action. But Chess is important because in it the functions of the mind are relatively clear and the mental process is less assisted than inmost other activities by positive rules. Within limits set by the material (the pieces, the board, and the matrix of paths available to pieces on the board) the mind is moving freely. Its scope is the possibility of the material, limited only by the degree of vision available to the player. Its methods, whatever they are, do not resemble the mechanical use of formula, which is the essence of mathematics. The appearance of simplicity that characterizes effective mental action is as deceptive in Chess as it is in any other department of science or art. Imagination traces its own paths and develops idiosyncrasies. Through seeing a clever maneuver, an improving Chess player may find himself quicker at apprehending an analogous idea; and, more remarkably, quicker at apprehending a different clever possibility in a different setting.

Where Chess differs from many other activities is in that, in Chess, the mind is “influenced” by notions and ideas that it has appreciated, rather than “stocked” with them, or guided by them as one is guided by a signpost.

As to Chess ability, at the present stage of psychology, the nature of imagination remains obscure. Therefore, it is impossible to speak about special faculties for Chess, or even to establish any cognate relationship between skill at Chess and other abilities. Certainly, famous Chess masters have excelled in other, and various activities – from the music of Philidor and the Shakespearian researches of Staunton to the medicine of Tarrash and the engineering of Vidmar. Nor is there evidence of the transmission of Chess skill, innate or acquired. Why some persons are good at Chess, and others bad at it, is more mysterious than anything on the Chess board. “Chess can never reach its height by following in the path of science … Let us, therefore, make a new effort and with the help of our imagination turn the struggle of technique into a battle of ideas” ( Jose Raoul Capablanca).

REFERENCIAS

Abrahams, Gerald. (195 1) The Chess Mind. London.

Binet, Alfred. (1966). Mnemonic virtuosity. New York.

Courant, Richard and Herbert Robbins. (194 1). What is Mathematics?. New York.

Horowitz, I.A. and P.L. Rothenberg. (1963). Personality of Chess. New York.

Kline, Morris. (1962). Mathematics. A Cultural Approach.

Mason, James. (1946). The Principles of Chess in Theory and Practice. Philadelphia.

Poincare, Henri. (1946). The Foundations of Science. Lancaster





Six Words You Should Say Today

12 06 2013

Posted on April 16, 2012 by Rachel Macy Stafford

If you have ever experienced an emotional response simply by watching someone you love in action, I’ve got six words for you.

Very rarely does one sentence have immediate impact on me.

Very rarely does one sentence change the way I interact with my family.

But this one did. It was not from Henry Thoreau or some renowned child psychologist. It was a comment from kids themselves. And if I’ve learned anything on this “Hands Free” journey, it is that children are the true experts when it comes to “grasping what really matters.”

Here are the words that changed it all:

“… College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.’”

The life-changing sentence came at the beginning of an article entitled, “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One.” Although I finished reading the entire piece, my eyes went back and searched for that one particular sentence; the one that said, “I love to watch you play.”

I read it exactly five times. And then I attempted to remember all past verbal interactions I had with my kids at the conclusion of their extracurricular activities.

Upon completion of a swim meet, a music recital, a school musical, or even a Sunday afternoon soccer game, had I ever said, “I like to watch you play”?

I could think of many occasions when I encouraged, guided, complimented, and provided suggestions for improvement. Did that make me a nightmare sports parent? No, but maybe sometimes I said more than was needed.

By nature, I am a wordy person—wordy on phone messages (often getting cut off by that intrusive beep) and wordy in writing (Twitter is not my friend).

And although I have never really thought about, I’m pretty sure I’m wordy in my praise, too. I try not to criticize, but when I go into extensive detail about my child’s performance it could be misinterpreted as not being “good enough.”

Could I really just say “I love to watch you play” and leave it at that? And if I did, would my children stand there cluelessly at the next sporting event or musical performance because I had failed to provide all the “extra details” the time before?

Well, I would soon find out. As luck would have it, my 8 year old had a swim meet the day after I read the article.

Her first event was the 25 yard freestyle. At the sound of the buzzer, my daughter exploded off the blocks and effortlessly streamlined beneath the water for an unimaginable amount of time. Her sturdy arms, acting as propellers, emerged from the water driving her body forward at lightning speed. She hadn’t even made it halfway down the lane when I reached up to wipe away one small tear that formed in the corner of my eye.

Since my oldest daughter began swimming competitively two years ago, I have ALWAYS had this same reaction to her first strokes in the first heat. I cry and turn away so no one sees my blubbering reaction.

I cry not because she’s going to come in first.

I cry not because she’s a future Olympian or scholarship recipient.

I cry because she’s healthy; she’s strong; she’s capable.

And I cry because I love to watch her swim.

Oh my. Those six words …

I love to watch her swim.

I had always FELT that way—tearing up at every meet, but I hadn’t said it in so many words … or should I say, in so few words.

After the meet, my daughter and I stood in the locker room together, just the two of us. I wrapped a warm, dry towel around her shivering shoulders. And then I looked into her eyes and said, “I love to watch you swim. You glide so gracefully; you amaze me. I just love to watch you swim.”

Okay, so it wasn’t quite six words, but it was a huge reduction in what I normally would have said. And there was a reaction—a new reaction to my end of the meet “pep talk.”

My daughter slowly leaned into me, resting her damp head against my chest for several seconds, and expelled a heavy sigh.  And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She just loves to watch me swim; that is all.

I knew I was onto something.

Several days later, my 5 year old daughter had ukulele practice. It was a big day for her. The colored dots that lined the neck of her instrument since she started playing almost two years ago, were going to be removed. Her instructor believed she was ready to play without the aid of the stickers.

After removing the small blue, yellow, and red circles, her instructor asked her to play the song she has been working on for months, Taylor Swift’s “Ours.”

With no hesitation, my daughter began strumming and singing. I watched as her fingers adeptly found their homes—no need for colorful stickers to guide them.

With a confident smile, my daughter belted out her favorite line, “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind; people throw rocks at things that shine …”

As her small, agile fingers maneuvered the strings with ease, I had to look away. My vision became blurred by the tears that formed. In fact, this emotional reaction happens every time she gets to that line of the song. Every. Single. Time.

I cry not because she has perfect pitch.

I cry not because she is a country music star in the making.

I cry because she is happy; she has a voice; and she is free.

And I cry because I love to watch her play.

I’ll be damned if I hadn’t told her this in so many words … or rather, in so few words.

My child and I exited the room upon the completion of her lesson. As we walked down the empty hallway, I knew what needed to be said.

I bent down, looking straight into the blue eyes sheltered behind pink spectacles and said, “I love to watch you play your ukulele. I love to hear you sing.”

It went against my grain to not elaborate, but I said nothing about the dots, nothing about the notes, and nothing about her pitch. This was a time to simply leave it at that.

My child’s face broke into her most glorious smile—the one that causes her eyes to scrunch up and become little slices of joy. And then she did something I didn’t expect. She threw herself against me, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and whispered, “Thank you, Mama.”

And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She loves to hear me play; that is all.  

Given the overwhelmingly positive reactions of my daughters when presented with the short and sweet “I love to watch you play” remark, I knew I had a new mantra. Not that I would say it like a robot upon command or without reason, but I would say it when I FELT it—when tears come unexpectedly to my eyes or when suddenly I look down and see goosebumps on my arms.

Pretty soon I found myself saying things like:

“I love to watch you read.”

“I love to watch you swing across the monkey bars.”

“I love to watch you gently admire God’s smallest creatures.”

“I love to watch you love your baby cousin.”

I now know how important it is to say it—say it simply—in moments when I feel that heart palpitating kind of love that comes solely from watching another human being who I adore.

Now at this point, I could wrap up this story with a nice, tidy, Kleenex-required ending, but living “Hands Free” means taking it a step further, going outside the comfort zone.

And it struck me that there is one other person to which this new mantra could apply. It hit me when this person, donned with white bandage on his arm from giving blood, was hoisting a large trashbag as we cleaned the art room at a center for residents with autism.

I watched him, my husband, from the corner of the room where I was dusting shelves with my youngest child. Embarrassingly, I had to turn away so no one saw me tear up. In that moment, I reflected on other recent events where I had been going about my business and had to stop to take pause. Moments when I stopped to watch my husband in action simply to admire the loving person, the devoted husband, and caring father he is.

But had I ever told him in so few words?

It was time.

And since writing is much easier for me than speaking, I wrote my observations down. There were no long-winded paragraphs or flowery descriptions, just words of love, plain and simple:

I love watching you help our daughter learn to roller skate.

I love watching you teach her how to throw the football.

I love watching you help your employees in times of need or uncertainty.

I love watching you interact with your brother and sister.

I love watching you read side by side with our daughters.

I love watching you laugh.

I love watching you love our family.

I typed up his note and plan to give it to him when we have a quiet moment together this weekend. I don’t know what his reaction will be, but it doesn’t matter. I feel these things, so I should say these things.

When simply watching someone makes your heart feel as if it could explode right out of your chest, you really should let that person know.

It is as simple and lovely as that.

*********************************************

The next time you feel the need to guide, instruct, or criticize after a ball game, performance, or extracurricular activity, instead consider six simple words: “I love to watch you play.”

Furthermore, if you become emotional simply by watching someone you love in action, consider these six words, “I love to watch you _______.“

In some cases, less is more.

Less can be exactly what they need to hear. No pressure … just love, pure and simple.

 * For continued inspiration and tips on how to grasp the moments in life that matter, check out The Hands Free Revolution on Facebook. Your support is greatly appreciated! 





Success Principles: lessons from board games that will serve us well in life and business

25 05 2013

 by Adrian Shepherd

   
I have always loved games.

I enjoyed playing Mario Brothers back in the day and in my 20s I got into some PC games such as F.E.A.R. and Crysis but, for me, there’s nothing like a good board game.

Board games are so much more than games. They are social events. I still remember the laughter and excitement of our sitting around the dinner table with my family and friends and being engrossed in a game.

Some I was a natural at – like Connect 4. I have no idea why but I just got it. From the age of 8 my parents stopped playing with me but it wasn’t for till a year or so later that I found out why. I remember asking my parents “How come we don’t play Connect 4 anymore?” I have never forgotten my father’s answer, “You just got too good. Your mom and I just can’t beat you.” And that was that.

Others I had to work hard at. My parents used to slaughter me at Boggle but I just kept at it and one day things just clicked. From that day on I was pretty much unbeatable.

Scrabble is another game that I struggled with but over the years I got better and could at least give my parents a run for their money. I may have only won once but it was a day I’ll never forget.

I had always thought I was good at Monopoly till I played my cousins in Switzerland where they took me to the cleaners, but I’ll get to that later.

Then there are those games that I’ve never been able to figure out. Othello being one. For the life of me, I just don’t get the strategy of Othello. Despite having played over 100 games I have yet to win a single one.

So how do board games relate to life and business?

Here is a short list:

  • You can’t win every time
  • Strategy is more important than your position
  • Some games we’ll never understand
  • Even when you think you know everything, you can still learn more
  • Never underestimate your competition
  • Sometimes people cheat
  • Understand the rules if you want to win
  • The competition sometimes wants to win more than you
  • Luck does play a small part

Let’s take a look at each one individually.

You can’t win every time

The thing about board games is that it’s you versus the other players. As such someone will win, and other people will lose. This is obvious in the business world because companies that make mistakes will often pay the price. Each year there are companies that go belly up which creates a vacuum which their competitors fill.

There is no such thing as batting 1000. Even the great Babe Ruth struck out 7 times out of 10 times at bat.

Accepting that failure is just part of the game of life is important because it allows to have faith even when things seem at their worst.

Strategy is more important than your position

Too many of us think that life and business is all about where you start out. Your educational background, your socio-economic status, your environment, your friends, and the like but we have all heard of those people who were multi-millionaires only to lose it all. It’s not about where you start out or how much money you have but what your strategy is.

A good strategy involves discipline, study, research, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Some games we’ll never understand

Life is full of things that come natural to us, things that we have to work at, and other things that are pretty much mysteries to us.

As each of us is limited to 24 hours a day we must focus our energies on this that we find easy or, at least, understand. That way you’re taking advantage of your natural talents. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try and learn those things that don’t make any sense to you but you must realize that it will be an uphill battle. To get a handle on such things you will most likely have to expend a heck of a lot of energy and invest a serious amount of time.

Think of it this way. If 10 is a professional and 1 is a beginner, then if you have a talent for something you start off at maybe a 6 or 7. If it makes sense but you not great then you’re around a 4. But when it’s like hieroglyphics you’re a 1. Anyone can become a 10 it’s just a difference of how hard it will be to get there.

How can we apply this to our own lives?

In business it means that you should spend time on the things you’re good at or want to learn but those things that you find incomprehensible it might make more sense to figure a work-around solution. Say you are good at numbers while your coworker is better at dealing with customers. If you’re asked to deal with a customer then you might try and work out a deal where your coworker takes care of that for you and you, in return, take care of something they need help with.

After all, the results are what matters. Spending hours of your time on something another person could do in a fraction of the time then doesn’t it make sense to ask them to help you out.

Two of the greatest lessons I learned about life were taught to me by my cousins as I mentioned earlier. I clearly remember warning them that I was pretty good at Monopoly. Boy, did they prove me wrong. They mopped the floor with me. I was shell-shocked but I learned two lessons that day - always be willing to learn and never underestimate your competition.

Too often we think we know enough, but with the speed of change today this is a mistake. Much of what we learn today, especially when it comes to technology will be obsolete in two years. We must continually work to keep ourselves ahead of the curve.

Another mistake it thinking our competition is too small, too weak, too old, too slow…history is full of examples but two of my favorites are IBM underestimating Microsoft, Yahoo underestimating Google. Don’t end up on the wrong end of this.

Sometimes people cheat

Sadly in games, in business and in life, there are those people who cheat. There are those who lie. There are those who take advantage of others. And there are those who waste our time. We must keep our eyes out for such people in order to protect ourselves.

Understand the rules if you want to win

You can’t win a game consistently that you don’t understand. There is such thing as beginner’s luck but we cannot rely on luck each time. By understanding the rules you can develop a winning strategy. That will also allow you to teach others.

The competition sometimes wants to win more than you

To achieve what you want, whether it’s a business deal, the woman of your dreams, or

Luck does play a small part

Luck favors those who plan and prepare but there is no denying that from time to time things will occur we have no control over and can create success or failure. The key is minimizing the effects of the sudden negative black swan events.

There have been times when I’ve been playing a game and all seemed lost. It was curtains for me…and then something incredible happened. Luck.

I won.

Here, on this planet, the strangest things do happen.

So there you have it – 9 lessons that we should all learn to be able to win at board games, at business or in life.

Try putting them to use in your life today, you may be surprised at the results.

Adrian Shepherd

 





200 Free Kids Educational Resources: Video Lessons, Apps, Books, Websites & More

9 05 2013

200 Free Kids Educational Resources: Video Lessons, Apps, Books, Websites & More

This collection provides a list of free educational resources for K-12 students (kindergarten through high school students) and their parents and teachers. It features free video lessons/tutorialsfree mobile appsfree audiobooks, ebooks and textbooksquality YouTube channelsfree foreign language lessonstest prep materials; and free web resources in academic subjects like literature, history, science and computing. This newly-released list is a work in progress. Please tell us if we’re missing something good.

Free Audio Books, eBooks and Textbooks

Free Audio Books: Our collection of 450 free audio books includes many children’s classics. The Wizard of Oz, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Swiss Family Robinson, Gulliver’s Travels, Anne of Green Gables, Aesop’s Fables, and much more. You can download audio files straight to your computer or mobile device.

Free eBooks: This collection includes many children’s classics in ebook format. You generally have the option to download these texts to your Kindle, iPad, Nook or computer. Video tutorials are included on the page. You may also want to visit our resource: Download 20 Popular High School Books Available as Free eBooks & Audio Books.

Bartleby.com: Gives you access to free online classics of reference, literature, and nonfiction, including Strunk & White’s Elements of StyleThe World FactbookThe Oxford Shakespeare, and The King James Bible.

Calibre: Download free e-book software that will manage your electronic library, convert e-books from one format to another, and give you online access to free e-books. We have more on it here.

CK-12: This non-profit provides “open textbooks” for K-12 students all over the world. It offers free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

ePubBud: Makes available free children’s books for the the iPad, Nook, Kindle and other ereaders. Begin browsing books here, and find instructions here.

International Children’s Digital Library: Provides free access to high-quality children’s books from around the world in different languages, including Arabic, Afrikaans, Danish, English, Farsi and beyond. Hosts books for kids 3-56-9, and 10-13. Start browsing the library here.

Librivox: A favorite of ours, Librivox provides free audio books from the public domain. You will find 5000+ books in their catalogue.

OER Commons: Discover a meta collection of free textbooks that can be sorted by subject and grade level.

Project Gutenberg: The mother of all ebook sites hosts 40000 free ebooks, and makes them accessible for Kindle, Android, iPad, and iPhone.

The Harvard Classics: Harvard’s influential president, Charles W. Eliot, said that if you spent just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. He published a 51-volume series, now known as The Harvard Classics, and they’re available free online. Ideal for the older student.

Free Textbook Collection: Our site provides a meta collection of free textbooks available on the web. It covers everything from Art History to Biology, Math, Physics, and Psychology.

Foreign Languages 

Open Culture Foreign Language Collection: This list created by Open Culture offers free lessons in 40 different languages. You can generally download the mp3/podcasts to your devices.

Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish: This video instructional series for high school and college classrooms teaches Spanish speaking and listening skills. Produced by WGBH Boston.

Deutsch – warum nicht?:  An extensive collection of introductory German lessons put together by Deutsche Welle. Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

French in Action: Become fluent in French by exploring French culture in this well-known video series for high school and college classrooms. Produced by Yale University and WGBH Boston with Wellesley College.

Ma France: The BBC offers 24 video lessons that will teach you French.

Real Chinese: Presented by the BBC. A lively introduction to Mandarin Chinese presented in 10 short parts with video clips from the Real Chinese TV series.

Talk Italian: A lively introduction to Italian presented by the BBC.

WatchKnowLearn: This site has aggregated YouTube videos that will teach students new languages.

Video Lessons/Tutorials

iTunesU: Apple provides hundreds of free courses, lectures and academic talks, mostly suitable for older students. The easiest way to access the courses available on iTunesU is to visit our collection of 550 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Khan Academy: The site famously features K-12 video tutorials created by Sal Khan and team. It currently gives students access to thousands of video tutorials that explain the ins-and-outs of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, finance, physics, economics and more. Videos can also be accessed via YouTube and iTunesU, or on the Khan Academy’s website.

Learner.org: Run by The Annenberg Foundation, Learner.org hosts multimedia resources for teachers, students and lifelong learners. You can browse their general collection of educational videos here. Selected collections are cataloged below.

MIT-K12: Taking a page from Khan, MIT is now producing ”short videos teaching basic concepts in science and engineering” for K-12 students. The videos are generally created by MIT students. You can sort the videos by topic and grade level.

NeoK12: Designated a “Great Site for Kids” by the American Library Association, this site provides educational videos, lessons, quizzes and educational games for K-12 students in various subject areas, such as science, math, health, social studies and English.

TED-Ed: The maker of TED Talks now provides carefully curated educational videos or ”lessons worth sharing.” Topics range from Literature and Language, to Mathematics, to Science and Technology.

WatchKnowLearn: This site has indexed over 33,000 educational videos from YouTube and placed them into a directory of over 3,000 categories. The videos are available without registration or fees to teachers in the classroom and to students at home 24/7.

YouTube EDU: A curated collection of educational videos from sources ranging from Sesame Street to Harvard. Created by YouTube itself.

YouTube for Schools: Containing a large collection of educational materials, this newish service also gives teachers and administrators the ability to filter out everything but their own selections from YouTube. In other words, you can separate the wheat from the chaff. Get more details here.

Art & Visual Culture (Web Resources)

Art Babble: Sometimes called the ”YouTube of the Arts, the site offers high definition video of art that ranges from classical to contemporary. It has partnered with many major museums and arts institutions.

ArtThink: Created by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this site offers theme-based activities in visual arts, language arts, history and social studies. The site lets students investigate artists’ work, lives, and their historical context.

Google Art Project: A new tool that gives you access to more than 1,000 works of art appearing in 17 great museums across the world. Using Google’s Street View technology, you can now tour collections at 184 museums world wide, including the MoMA and Met in New York City, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

SmartHistory: Now folded into the Khan Academy, Smarthistory provides an extensive collection of audio and video introductions to works of art found in standard art history survey texts. You can find a complete collection of their videos on YouTube.

Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel: Thanks to Villanova University, you can take an amazing virtual, panoramic tour of the Sistine Chapel. Using buttons in the lower left screen, you can move around the room and zoom in on the paintings, including those on the ceiling.

Geography (Web Resources)

National Geographic: Provides facts, photos, videos, and more about countries around the world — something NatGeo knows a lot about.

World Atlas: An educational resource for world maps, atlases, and in-depth geography information. Provides teachers and students free maps of Europe, Asia, the U.S., Canada, Florida, the Caribbean Islands and much more.

History & Politics  (Web Resources)

50States.com: Offers copious information about the fifty United States of America.

A Biography of America: This video series for high school and college students presents American history as a living narrative rather than a collection of facts and dates. Produced by WGBH Boston in cooperation with the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.

A Crash Course in World History: Best-selling author John Green gives you a playful and highly visual crash course in world history, taking you from the beginning of human civilization 15,000 years ago through to our modern age. The videos are animated and fun. We have a few more details here.

Abraham Lincoln at the Crossroads: An educational game for advanced middle- and high-school students. Learn about Lincoln’s leadership by exploring the political choices he made.

Ancient Web: This site positions itself as the best online destination for information and resources related to the Ancient world. It includes educational videos, images and maps.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government: A primer on American government for grades K-2.

Bridging World History: Created by Learner.org, this site offers multimedia materials designed to help learners discover world history. The material is organized into 26 thematic units, which include videos and an audio glossary.

Democracy Web: The site features an interactive world map and an online study guide for teachers. Designed for use with upper secondary- and lower college-level students, this resource provides an overview of the principles of democracy and their origins, as well as an examination of how a variety of contemporary political systems function.

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit devoted to the improvement of history education. The GLI web site features video/audio with experts discussing various topics in American history. Don’t miss their iTunesU collection with talks including: Famous Americans, American Presidents, The U.S. Constitution, The American Civil War, The Great Depression and World War II, Women in American History, Lincoln and the Civil War, and Slavery and Anti Slavery.

Google Cultural Institute: Google has built a robust, umbrella Cultural Institute to house 42 new online historical exhibitions. Each exhibit features, in Google’s words, “a narrative which links the archive material together to unlock the different perspectives, nuances and tales behind these events.” Topics currently covered include the Life and Times of Nelson Mandela, the Fall of the Iron Curtain, the Spanish Civil War, the Life of Anne Frank, D-Day, and Apartheid in South Africa. The Cultural Institute also gives you access to super high resolution images of The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Google Historical Voyages and Events: This site is dedicated to the explorers, voyages, events, and historical backgrounds of countries throughout the world, and uses Google technology to bring this history back to life.

History and Politics Out Loud: A searchable archive of politically significant audio materials for scholars, teachers, and students. It is a component of “Historical Voices,” funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with Michigan State University.

History Matters: Designed for high school and college students and teachers, History Matters serves as a gateway to web resources and offers other useful materials for learning and teaching U.S. history.

iCivics: Founded by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics prepares young Americans to become knowledgeable and engaged 21st century citizens by offering free and innovative educational materials. iCivics has produced 16 educational video games as well as vibrant teaching materials that have been used in classrooms in all 50 states.

Liberty’s Kids: An animated educational historical television series originally broadcast on PBS Kids. Teaches 7 to 14 year olds about the founding of the United States.

The Living Room Candidate: An archive of presidential campaign commercials from 1952 to the present, organized by year, type, and issue, with teacher resources and playlists created by experts.

Teachinghistory.orgThis site is designed to help K–12 history teachers access resources and materials to improve U.S. history education in the classroom. Provides lesson plans and best practices. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for History and New Media.

The Internet History Sourcebooks: This site features collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly for educational use. Hosted by Fordham University, this resource is broken down into sub-areas: Ancient HistoryMedievalModernByzantine StudiesAfrican StudiesEast Asian StudiesGlobal StudiesIndiaIslamicJewishLesbian and GayScience, and Women’s Studies.

What So Proudly We Hail: An educational resource about what it means to be an American, inspired by the anthology of the same title. Through a series of online conversations about classic American texts, award-winning teacher-scholars Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass seek to educate both hearts and minds about American ideals, American identity and national character, and the virtues and aspirations of our civic life.

World History for Us All: A powerful, innovative curriculum for teaching world history in middle and high schools. The site offers a wealth of teaching units, lesson plans, and resources. Ideal for anyone thinking about how to teach world history to students.

World Wonders Project: Created by Google, this valuable resource lets students virtually discover some of the most famous sites on earth — for example, the ruins of Pompeii, Stonehenge, Versailles and more. It also lets you visit the Great Barrier Reef and Shackleton’s Expedition in Antarctica. The project offers an innovative way to teach history and geography to students of primary and secondary schools. Teachers can download related guides for using these resources.

Visualizing Emancipation: A map of slavery’s end during the American Civil War. It finds patterns in the collapse of southern slavery, mapping the interactions between federal policies, armies in the field, and the actions of enslaved men and women on countless farms and city blocks.

Literature (Web Resources)

Download 20 Popular High School Books Available as Free eBooks & Audio Books: Gives you access to classic texts  frequently taught in the classroom. Includes works by Mark Twain, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more.

A Crash Course in English Literature: A new video series by best-selling kids author John Green covers Shakespeare and will eventually get to  Fitzgerald, Salinger, and Emily Dickinson.

Folger Shakespeare Library: Offers a world of online resources for teachers — from lesson plans to study guides to videos — for teaching Shakespeare on the K-12 levels.

Google Lit Trips: This site provides free downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. We offer more details here.

International Children’s Digital Library: Provides free access to high-quality digital books from around the world. Offers books for kids 3-5, 6-9, and 10-13. Start browsing the library here.

Lit2Go’s Audio Books: The University of South Florida provides an extensive collection of free audio books along with materials to help K-12 teachers present literature in the classroom. Find more information on our blog here.

Poetry Archive: Search the Poetry Foundation’s archive of over 10000 poems. Searchable by poet, title, first lines and more.

Shakespeare’s Plays: If you’re looking for Shakespeare’s plays on the web, MIT has you covered. They offer the Web’s first edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. If you’re looking for a nice collection for the iPhone/iPad, Oxford has you covered. They offer the first complete collection of Shakespeare’s plays, from the First Folio of 1623, in their original spelling and orthography.

Shakespeare’s Plays AnimatedThe Animated Shakespeare brings to life 12 famous Shakespeare plays. Leon Garfield, a well-known British children’s author, wrote the scripts, mainly using Shakespearian language. And some talented Russian artists did the animation. You can find free copies of Shakespeare’s plays in our collections of Free Audio Books & Free eBooks.

Invitation to World Literature: A multimedia course for students, teachers, and lovers of literature. The course moves from ancient to modern literature, and is taught by David Damrosch at Harvard. Find more details here.

Mathematics  (Web Resources)

AAA Math: Features a comprehensive set of interactive arithmetic lessons. Unlimited practice is available on each topic which allows thorough mastery of the concepts. You can sort by grade level. K-8.

Against All Odds: Inside Statistics: This resource shows students the relevance of statistics in real-world settings. Video series for high school and college classrooms.

Algebra: In Simplest Terms: A step-by-step look at algebra concepts. This instructional video series for high school classrooms is produced by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications and Chedd-Angier.

Calculus Lifesaver: Adrian Banner, a lecturer at Princeton, has put together a lecture series (in video) that will help you master calculus, a subject that has traditionally frustrated many students. The 24 lectures are available on iTunes. It’s worth noting that Banner has used the lectures to develop a handy book, The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel at Calculus.

IXL:  Site features thousands of exercises designed to help young students (K-8) practice math. Features practice questions, step-by-step explanations, engaging awards and certificates, easy-to-read progress reports, and more.

Khan Academy Math: You can dive into the Khan Academy’s math tutorials using the following links: Arithmetic and Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Probability,  Statistics, Precalculus, CalculusDifferential Equations, Linear Algebra, Applied Math, Brain Teasers, and Vi Hart Animations.

Math for All: Learn math activities to do at home in this video series for families with K-3 students.

NRICH: The Nrich Math Project (based at Cambridge University) offers mathematics resources for children, parents and teachers to enrich learning. It provides resources for students of all ages.

TutPup Math: Helps young children gain confidence and mastery of basic educational skills. Its math section comes recommended by our readers.

Wolfram MathWorld: Bills itself as the web’s most extensive mathematical resource.  Designed for more advanced students, this collection is provided as a free service by Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica. Topics covered include: AlgebraApplied MathematicsCalculus and AnalysisDiscrete Mathematics, Foundations of MathematicsGeometryHistory and TerminologyNumber TheoryProbability and StatisticsRecreational Mathematics, and Topology.

Music (Web Resources)

A Child’s Introduction to Jazz: In 1961, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, the jazz saxophonist best known for his work on Miles Davis’ epic album Kind of Blue, narrated a children’s introduction to jazz music. Features music by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk and Cannonball himself.

Bach’s Complete Organ Works: They were recorded by Dr. James Kibbie (University of Michigan) on original baroque organs in Leipzig, Germany. Start with a collection of Favorite Masterworks, or get the complete works.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations: You can download and share the newly-released recording by Kimiko Ishizaka, performed on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial piano in Berlin. You can do pretty much whatever you want with the recording because it’s released under a Creative Commons Zero license, which automatically puts things in the public domain.

Classics for Kids: Introduces elementary and middle school children to classical music in a fun and entertaining way. The site gives you access to famous pieces of classical music online and also related lessons plans and activity sheets.

Exploring the World of Music: Learn the essentials of music theory and how music expresses culture in this instructional video series for high school classrooms.

K-12 Resources for Music Educators: Valuable resources for music educators and music students at all educational levels. Carefully researched and commercial free.

The Alan Lomax Sound Archive: This huge treasure trove contains folk songs collected by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax from the 1940s to the 1990s, as well as interviews recorded by Lomax.  The collection has been digitized and made available online for free listening. Gives you access to 17,000 songs. More details here.

The World Music Archive: Run by the BBC, this archive allows you to sample the musical traditions of more than 40 countries. India, Corsica, China, Cuba, Iran, Brazil, Mozambique, Turkey — they’re all represented in this eclectic collection of indigenous music.

Philosophy (Web Resources)

Philosophy for Kids: Dedicated to helping adults conduct philosophical discussion with elementary school children, this site uses well known picture books to raise philosophical questions — for example Harold and the Purple CrayonHarry the Dirty DogThe Cat in the Hat, various Frog and Toad stories and much more. The site is run by Tom Wartenberg at Mount Holyoke.

Philosophy for Kids!: This site given the same name as the one above is run by Gary Matthews, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It also uses children’s stories to introduce students to philosophical questions.

Philosophy for Children:  A non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington Department of Philosophy, the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children provides lesson plans for using children’s literature to introduce philosophy, activities for engaging children in philosophy, and tips for successful pre-college philosophy sessions.

Science  (Web Resources)

100,000 Stars: An interactive visualization of—you guessed it—more than 100,000 stars. 100,000 Stars was created by Google using data from NASA and the European Space Agency. Before you experience the map, you will need to download the Chrome browser. We have more on it here.

Ask an Astronomer: In video format, scientists answer questions about the universe. For example, where is the center of the universe? What happens when galaxies collide?

Atlas of the UniverseContains maps of the universe zooming out from the nearest stars to the entire visible universe.

BioED Online: An online educational resource for educators, students, and parents. Dedicated to biology, the site offers access to streaming video presentations and a slide library that features, among other things, exciting lesson plans and activities.

Bugscope: Lets K–12 students view bugs under a scanning electron microscope over the web. From the University of Illinois.

BuiltByKids: Encourages next generation of makers to tackle the do-it-yourself projects of their dreams. Engineering very 101.

CELLS Alive!: Brings together 30 years of computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research.

Chemistry Activities for Kids: Features chemistry demonstrations, crafts, and projects that are suitable for kids. Some activities require adult supervision. Assembled by Anne Marie Helmenstine, About.com Guide to Chemistry.

Digital Universe Atlas: Developed by the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, with support from NASA, this digital atlas makes available the most complete and accurate 3D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe. Download it for free!

Dynamic Periodic Table: An interactive Web 2.0 periodic table with dynamic layouts showing names, electrons, oxidation, trend visualization, orbitals, and isotopes.

Impact Earth!: An interactive tool that lets anyone calculate the damage a comet or asteroid would cause if it happened to collide with our planet. You can customize the size and speed of the incoming object, among other items.

Khan Academy Science: You can explore the Khan Academy’s science and technology lessons using the following hotlinks: BiologyChemistryCosmology and AstronomyHealthcare and MedicineOrganic ChemistryPhysicsLeBron AsksMIT+K12Projects.

NASA for Students: America’s space agency provides educational media for different age groups. See Grades K-4Grades 5-8, and Grades 9-12.

Eyes on the Solar System: A 3-D environment lets you explore the cosmos from your computer, hop on an asteroid, fly with NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, see the entire solar system moving in real time. Created by NASA.

NASA Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth: Brings together all images and videos of the Earth taken by NASA astronauts from space.

NASA Photo Archive: NASA curated a big archive of historical images into Flickr Commons, giving users access to more than a half century of NASA’s photographic history. The images are divided into three neat sets – “Launch and Takeoff,” “Building NASA” and “Center Namesakes” – and they’re all copyright-free, meaning that you can share and use these images however you like.

NIH Science: The National Institutes of Health provides a collection of educational resources for science teachers. The material is divided by topic and grade level: High SchoolMiddle School and Elementary School.

Paleontology Portal: This site is a resource for anyone interested in paleontology, from the student in the classroom, to the interested amateur scouting for fossils, to the professional in the lab. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the site was produced by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the Paleontological Society, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the United States Geological Survey.

Physics to Go: A collection of websites where you can learn physics on your own, through games, webcasts, and online exhibits and activities. Features a collection of more than 950 websites with physics images, activites, and info. Produced by the American Physical Society.

Robotics: Created by the University of Southern California, this web site is designed to help K-12 teachers and other educators in developing or improving courses that use robotics as a tool for teaching STEM topics or robotics itself. Robotics is a great way to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: Back in 1825, Michael Faraday, the venerated English scientist, established The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children, hoping to get a younger generation interested in science, and the tradition has carried on ever since. You can watch the lectures presented by famous scientists online, including Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan.

Science Kids: Provides educational resources for teachers and parents to help make science fun and engaging for kids. Features fun activities, facts, projects and experiments that promote a desire amongst kids to learn more about science and technology.

Science News for Kids: Helps kids (middle school and above) stay up-to-date on scientific trends. Provides crisp, concise coverage of all fields of science daily.

TeachEngineering.org: A searchable, web-based digital library collection populated with standards-based engineering curricula for use by K-12 teachers and engineering faculty to make applied science and math (engineering) come alive in K-12 settings.

The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science - A multimedia course for high school teachers and adult learners interested in studying environmental science. The Web site provides access to course content and activities developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field. Jointly created by Harvard and the Smithsonian.

The Known Universe: This video takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. The film is made with the Digital Universe Atlas (download it here) that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.

Try Science: A science education resource for children, parents and educators, featuring information for kids on science, science museums, and science fair project ideas. Created by a partnership with IBM, the New York Hall of Science, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and science centers worldwide.

Understanding Evolution: Created for K-12 teachers, this online resource provides a one-stop, comprehensive resource on evolution. This site is a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education.

USGS Science Resources: Assembled by the U.S. Geological Survey, this site brings together lots of resources that will teach students about Biology, Geography, Geology, Water, and more. The site is divided into a K-6 section and a grades 7-12 section.

Technology (Web Resources)

Codecademy: This venture gives students the ability to take free computer science lessons online. Teaches everything from HTML basics to Python in a “user active” style. We have more details here.

Google Code University: This Google site provides course content and tutorials for Computer Science (CS) students and educators on current computing technologies and paradigms. It covers HTML, CSS, and Javascript from the Ground Up, Python and more.

Computer Science Courses from Great Universities: The more advanced student can watch lectures from computer science courses presented at great universities.

Khan Academy Technology: Find lessons in DrawingProgramming BasicsAnimation, and User Interaction.

Educational Apps (Mostly for iPhone/iPad)

Aesop’s Fables Interactive Book: The Library of Congress has released a free app for use on iPhones, iPads and Android platforms. This innovative reading experience has been adapted from the 1919 book The Aesop for Children, and includes outstanding drawings by Milo Winter, a noted illustrator.

American Museum of Natural History: Cosmic Discoveries: Take a ride with the Museum’s astrophysicists through our Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, and beyond. Cosmic Discoveries is the first app to collect nearly 1,000 stunning astronomic images.

Babbel: Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the Babbel apps are available for 11 languages, and contain 2,000-3,000 vocabulary words per language. All words are accompanied by images and pronounced for you by native speakers.

BrainPop Featured Movie: This well-respected app presents a different animated movie every day covering subjects related to historical and current events, and then lets youngsters test their new knowledge with an interactive quiz.

3D Brain: Discover how each brain region functions, what happens when the brain is injured, and how it is involved in mental illness. Each detailed structure comes with information on functions, disorders, brain damage, case studies, and links to modern research. Use your touch screen to rotate and zoom around 29 interactive structures.

Color Uncovered: Beautiful app teaches you the basics of color science using smart, interactive optical illusions.

Dictionary.com: Pretty simple, but handy. A good dictionary in your pocket.

Earthlapse: Turn your iPad or iPhone into a window aboard the International Space Station. Experience stunning views of planet Earth captured by NASA astronauts. Touch the views and control the planet with your finger.

EduCreations: This app will turn your iPad into a whiteboard where you can do screencasting.

Evernote: A handy app for taking notes.

Exoplanet: This app offers a comprehensive visual database of all known exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) discovered so far. It is frequently updated as new discoveries are confirmed.

Flashcards+: Designed at Harvard University, Flashcards+ is an optimized way to learn and retain new information. The highly-rated app allows you to easily create and study flashcards without the hassle of having to buy and write on actual note cards.

Fotopedia UNESCO World Heritage Site: Drawing on 20,000 curated photos, this free iPhone/iPad app lets you visit (at least virtually) 890 UNESCO World Heritage sites. In a matter of minutes, you can move from Notre Dame in Paris, to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, to Machu Picchu in Peru, to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Fotopedia offers a number of other great apps related to foreign travel here.

Gene Screen: A fun way to learn how recessive genetic traits and diseases are inherited and why certain diseases are more prevalent in different populations. Gene Screen also provides information on some recessive genetic diseases and genetic screening programs.

Google Sky Map: Sky Map enables users to identify stars and planets by pointing their devices towards these objects in the sky. Users can zoom in and out, and switch various layers such as constellations, planets, grids, and deep sky objects. Users can also determine the locations of planets and stars relative to their own current locations.

iTunesU: The iTunes U app gives you access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools — plus the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content — right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. You can find many of these courses on our list 550 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Khan Academy: This new app for the iPhone and iPad gives users access to nearly 3,500 videos covering K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, physics, and the humanities.

Letterpress:  The highly rated app lets young students find words, steal tiles, and color the board!

Louvre Museum: From the most important museum in Paris, this app provides a virtual tour of the Louvre’s galleries and lets users check out the works of everyone from DaVinci to Michelangelo. The app gets you up close and personal with paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and even the French Crown Jewels.

Molecules: An app for viewing three-dimensional renderings of molecules and manipulating them using your fingers. You can rotate the molecules by moving your finger across the display, zoom in or out by using two-finger pinch gestures, or pan the molecule by moving two fingers across the screen at once.

Mindsnacks Spanish Lessons: Award winning app teaches students the language skills they need: getting directions, ordering food, meeting new friends, shopping, relaxing. The introductory level is free, although more advanced levels require paying for the app.

Moon: The perfect resource to help students learn about the moon.

Moon Globe: This free app puts the moon in your pocket with 3D graphics and touch screen navigation.

Museum of Modern Art: The MoMA lets you take a close look at art by Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, David Smith, Willem de Kooning and many others.

NASA: Discover a wealth of great space travel information on this free app. The NASA App collects, customizes and delivers an extensive selection of dynamically updated information, images and videos from various online NASA sources in a convenient mobile package. Available for Android, iPhone and iPad.

Official SAT Question of the Day: Created the College Board, this app gives you a new official SAT question every day. It also gives you a statistical analysis of your performance.

Periodic Table of Elements in HD: Created by Merck, this chemistry app has received lots of praise.

Planets: A 3D guide to the solar system for aspiring astronomers. Downloaded over 8 million times, the app lets kids locate planets with a flat view of sky in 2D, or a planetarium style view of the sky in 3D.

Poetry from the Poetry Foundation: From William Shakespeare to César Vallejo to Heather McHugh, the Poetry Foundation’s app turns your phone into a mobile poetry library.

Project Noah: A great tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere. Available for Apple devices and the Android.

Quick Graph: A powerful, high quality, graphic calculator that takes full advantage of the multitouch display and the powerful graphic capabilities of the iPad and iPhone, in both 2D and 3D.

Science 360: The Science360 for iPad app, created by The National Science Foundation, provides easy access to engaging science and engineering images and video from around the globe and a news feed featuring breaking news from NSF-funded institutions.

Shakespeare: A nice app that puts the complete works of Shakespeare on your iPhone. As you will see, the app comes with some handy functionality: you can search the text by keyword and also increase/decrease the fonts. Plus the app automatically remembers the last page you read.

Sight Words List: Sight Words, also known as the Dolch List, are an integral part of learning how to read. The Dolch Word list contains 315 words that are broken down into appropriate age groups. Ideal for kids 1 – 5 years old.

Spacecraft 3D: NASA’s Spacecraft 3D is an augmented reality application that lets you learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth, and observe the universe.

SparkNotes: SparkNotes — the publisher of popular literary study guides — offers a free iPhone app that features 50 pre-installed study guides. And it also gives you access to hundreds of study guides available for viewing online.

Stanza: Another good app for downloading free e-books on the iPhone. Once you download the app, navigate to the “Online Catalog” section and then focus on the “Project Gutenberg” materials, which contain a long list of free classics.

StreetMuseum: This free iPhone app from the Museum of London overlays 400 years of historic images on today’s city streets.

TED: TEDTalks need no introduction. They’re perhaps the most popular video lectures on the web, featuring talks by “the world’s leading thinkers and doers.” Now you can access these talks on your mobile phone too.

The Elementals: Introduces children to the different elements of the periodic table. Highly rated and free.

Today in History: Lists notable events in history and when important people were born/died. Includes over 100,000 events.

USA Presidents: A flash card app that teaches you cool facts about the historical line of American presidents.

Yours, Vincent The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh: Provided by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, this application uses the artist’s own letters to explore the life and times of the great painter. Includes videos and images of Van Gogh paintings.

Note: The popular blog BoingBoing hosts a podcast called Apps for Kids. You might want to pay a visit.

YouTube Channels

American Museum of Natural History: This channel features the excellent “Known Universe” video, which gives you a six-minute journey from Mt. Everest to the farthest reaches of the observable universe.

Bad Astronomy: Bad Astronomy is all about astronomy, space, and science. The videos are created by Phil Plait, an astronomer, writer, and sometimes TV-science-show host.

HooplaKidz: This channel is dedicated to animated nursery rhymes and stories designed to entertain and educate children between the ages of 2 and 8.

Edutopia: Offers inspiration and information for what works in education. Edutopia is run by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Khan Academy: This channel features thousands of videos that will teach students the ins and outs of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, finance, physics, economics and more.

Minute Physics: Cool science videos that are all about getting people into learning physics.

NASA Television: NASA’s mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. This channel helps explore fundamental questions about our place in the universe.

Numberphile: Videos about numbers – it’s that simple. Videos by Brady Haran.

Periodic Videos: Your ultimate channel for all things chemistry. A video about each element on the periodic table.

Sick Science: Videos and cool science experiments from Steve Spangler and SteveSpanglerScience.com

SpaceLab: Can plants survive beyond Earth? Can proteins observed in space reveal the mysteries of life? These questions and more get answered by SpaceLab, a YouTube channel created by Google and Lenovo, in cooperation with Space Adventures, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

YouTube EDU: YouTube hosts a section dedicated to academic videos. It’s a little bit of a mixed bag, but it features some quality videos.

Test Prep (Web Resources)

Khan Academy TutorialsSAT MathGMATCAHSEECalifornia Standards TestCompetition MathIIT JEESingapore Math.

Official SAT Question of the Day: Created the College Board, the iPhone/iPad app gives you a new official SAT question every day. It also gives you a statistical analysis of your performance.

SAT Practice: The College Board (the makers of the SAT exam) also hosts free practice exercises on its web site.

General Reference (Web Resources)

Bartleby.com: Gives you access to free online classics of reference, literature and nonfiction, including Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, The World Factbook, The Oxford Shakespeare, and The King James Bible.

Convert-me.com: Provides instant conversions for thousands of various units and measurements, both common (e.g., U.S. and metric) and quite exotic, such as ancient Greek and Roman measurements.

Dynamic Periodic Table: An interactive Web 2.0 periodic table with dynamic layouts showing names, electrons, oxidation, trend visualization, orbitals, and isotopes.

Encyclopedia Smithsonian: The Smithsonian provides a set of handy online resources across many disciplines. From Art & Design to Science & Technology.

Eric Weisstein’s World of Science: Contains encyclopedias of astronomyscientific biographychemistry, and physics. This resource has been assembled over more than a decade by internet encyclopedist Eric W. Weisstein with assistance from the internet community.

Interactive Timelines: This site allows people to create interactive timelines, which they can share anywhere on the web.

Learning Is for Everyone: This non-profit has created a valuable collection of web resources.

Unz.org: This right-leaning archive gives users access to American periodicals going back to 1821. The archive also has a collection of free books and videos & film. We have more on the archive here.

World Atlas: An educational resource for world maps, atlases, and in-depth geography information. Provides teachers and students free maps of Europe, the U.S., Canada, Florida, the Caribbean Islands and much more.

Teacher and Parent Resources

20 Great Online Resources for Elementary Teachers: Just what the title says.

Classroom Earth: Helps teachers integrate environmental education into their classrooms. A program of NEEF, the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Climate Classroom: A National Wildlife Federation initiative that focuses on creating age- and developmentally appropriate curricula and projects that educate youth about the causes of and remedies for global warming. The NWF also offers a great number of lesson plans.

Curriki: The site hosts an online community for creating and sharing curricula and teaching best practices. Currently the site offers over 46,000 free K-12 lessons, units, assessments, and multimedia learning resources across all subject areas, and the platform enables educators to build their own curriculum by assembling Curriki resources, as well as their own, into collections.

Edutopia: Run by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, Edutopia empowers teachers, administrators, and parents with innovative solutions and resources to better education. You can access materials by grade level: K-23-56-8 and 9-12. Edutopia also offers a series of helpful guides, including Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know and A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning.

EDSITEment: A free high quality K-12 educational resource from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The collection has over 450 lessons plans in the humanities written by scholars and teachers covering the fields of history, literature, art and culture, and foreign languages. The site curates links to other educational sites on the web as well.

Google Earth for Science Teachers: Includes a downloadable poster and 25 page manual. By Dr. Eric Fermann of Eastchester High School in Eastchester, New York and Steve Kluge of Fox Lane High School.

Learner.org: Run by The Annenberg Foundation, Learner.org provides multimedia resources for teachers, including video series designed to help teachers improve their instruction in specific areas. Explore the collection here.

National Science Foundation Classroom Resources: A diverse collection of lessons and web resources for classroom teachers, their students, and students’ families. Covers Astronomy & SpacePhysicsBiology and much more.

PBS Teachers: PBS Teachers serves up educational resources, lesson plans, and activities for the K-12 classroom.

Share My Lesson: A site where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources. Developed by teachers for teachers, the free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other.

Teaching Channel: Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America’s schools. The video library offers educators a wide range of subjects for grades K-12. The videos also include information on alignment with Common Core State Standards and ancillary material for teachers to use in their own classrooms.

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Annenberg’s Learner.org provides lessons appropriate for K-12 teachers of foreign languages.





Chess and Math?

6 04 2013

Chess and Math?

Improving Math Performance 1 Move at A Time

First of all, Math provides the building blocks and foundation that children will need throughout their lives. If you think that the basics are adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – think again! Today, we live in an information age where it’s reported that information is doubling at a rate less than every two years. The basic skills need to function in the workplace today are decision making, problem solving, critical thinking and deductive and inductive reasoning along with the ability to make judgments and good estimates. We haven’t loved math but we’ve certainly loved our games. That’s when Chess comes into the picture.

Chess is a game that requires problem solving. Math requires problem solving, it makes good sense then to become a good problem solver means you’ll do better in math. Chess (and other games) require a mental workout, thinking ahead, planning, being systematic, and determining the outcomes of certain moves. Chess moves can’t be memorized, weakness in math often stems from an over emphasis on memory skills instead of thinking skills. Research studies have indicated that students playing chess have improved problem solving skills over the group that have not been involved in the playing of chess. Ollie LaFreniere, the Washington Chess Federation’s statewide Coordinator for Scholastic Chess, said in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview on May 31, “Chess is the single most powerful educational tool we have at the moment, and many school administrators are realizing that.” There are also studies that indicate that many students’ social habits improved when playing chess.

The late Faneuil Adams (president of the American Chess Foundation (ACF). believed that chess could enhance learning, especially for the disadvantaged. He with the ACF founded the Chess in Schools Program which initially began in New York’s Harlem School district. Early in the program, the focus was on improving math skills for adolescents through improved critical thinking and problem solving skills. Remarkably “test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”

The ACF reports that chess improves a Child’s:

Visual memory

Attention span

Spatial reasoning skills

Capacity to predict and anticipate consequences

Ability to use criteria to drive decision making and evaluate alternatives

Many countries are following suit. In Canada, a growing number of elementary schools have incorporated chess into the regular school curriculum. Looking specifically at Quebec, 10 years ago their math scores were the lowest in the country, Chess became a school subject and now the children in quebec have the highest average math scores in Canada.

Overcoming Math Phobia through Chess

Why is it when we ask the majority of people what they think of math or if they’re good at math, they immediately show a look of distaste? Think of what happens when a group of people are at a restaurant and the bill comes on one check instead of on separate checks. Usually, you’ll hear ‘here, you figure it out, I was never any good at math.’ I’m sure you’ve been in this situation yourself at times. However, do they ever say, here you figure it out – I can’t read. When we take a look at why people don’t like math, we’re told it’s because it makes them feel stupid, or that they just don’t understand it because there are too many rules, formulas and procedures to remember. But, can you think of a situation where there are rules, procedures and such that we enjoy? Games!!! Perhaps if our math instructors treated math like a game, more individuals would excel and would like mathematics. A more favorable attitude in math leads to better performance. Let chess pave the way to better math scores and improved problem solving strategies!





Why Do Kids Need Strategy More Than Math Facts?

26 01 2013

By On September 18, 2012

In historical China, children played a game that involved a rooster, a man, and a worm.
  • Man eats rooster
  • Rooster eats worm
  • Worm eats man

You may recognize this game as rock-paper-scissors, also known as Roshambo.  The origins of this game are hard to track as almost every culture has had a version of it.

It has been used to settle differences of every sort from chore duty to who gets the last piece of pizza.

But why is this game so effective?  Why is it used so widely, and with such seemingly random results?

When you play a game of Yahtzee, what slots should you be looking to fill first?  If you roll a 3,4,5 vs a 1,2,3 – which roll gives you better chances of rolling a large straight with your other 2 die?

What do these problems have to do with becoming adept in math?

Math Education Misses The Mark

Our education system has taught and thought about mathematics the wrong way for far too long. Even as homeschoolers, most of the math curriculum that is available to us barely touches the surface of the true purpose of math.

What is math really for?  Is it to memorize and cram as much into our brain so that we can pass a test that says we can “do” math?

Most people will answer that we need math to get along in our everyday lives.  But how and why do we need math in our everyday lives?

Mathematics

  • is ”the science of numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations, and abstractions and of space configurations and their structure, measurement, transformations, and generalizations.” (from Webster’s dictionary)
  • finds patterns and tries to understand them
  • is a tool
  • describes processes, not answers
  • solves problems

I think the last few bullet points are a great working definition of how we would see math in our lives outside of education.  Math is a tool we use to solve problems, find patterns, and describe processes.

Math is a lot more than just abstract equations in a workbook.

And instead of focusing on teaching children how to figure out how to solve complex life problems, find new patterns, and describe processes that they come across, we spend most of their formal years on “math grammar – a term my sister coined for the rote education of formulas and factors that is spoon-fed from Kindergarten up.

Mathematical Reasoning

The real important thing that is missing from most algebra textbooks is strategy – otherwise known as logical reasoning or problem solving.

And all logical reasoning is really mathematical reasoning.  Because the solutions to problems involve patterns and processes, and all patterns and processes involve numbers whether it is apparent or not.

Did I just blow your mind?

Math is foundational to the universe, to life, to walking down the street.

So why are we not teaching kids to reason mathematically?

Word problems don’t count.  They are simple puzzles that give you all the convenient information you need and they never exist in the real world.

In real life, that train going x miles per hour would never keep an exact steady rate of speed.  And neither would the car.  No textbook wants to explain human error, or the effects of friction, or wind speed in relation to velocity.

Strategy Is A First Step

So if math textbooks are way off course in getting kids to actually think mathematically (and they are), where should you start?

You could start noticing patterns and processes in your everyday lives.  When you see patterns in shape and form, that is geometry.  When you begin to try to construct a birdhouse together and need to figure out how to make everything fit, you are doing algebra and a host of other processes.

Start with the problems and patterns first.  Get your kids curious about figuring out how to solve a problem in real life.  Then you can show them the resources and tools they will need – like the formula for finding a circumference of a quadrilateral.

But I think the easiest and fastest way to teach your kids the beauty of mathematical reasoning is by introducing strategy to them through games.

After playing Yahtzee online and in our home for weeks on end, I finally started figuring out that I should try to fill the hardest and most point-awarding slots first instead of worrying about the 1′s slot- which could only give me a total of 5 points.

And while taking a course on Game Theory, I learned that rock-paper-scissors works because there is no dominant strategy.  Each choice has about the same chance as the others to win – 1:1:1.

That class may seem like some sort of hobby class you can take at a community center, but this was a class taught at Yale with master-level business and economics majors filling the room.

The information that was being taught was mind-boggling because it completely destroyed my views on math and on marketing and human choice.

It led me to believe that  we should be encouraging children to explore mathematical reasoning and strategy – and leave the rote facts for later when they want to get deeper into a field of research or work.





Teaching Strategic Thinking with Games

27 04 2011

The issue of the definition of what a game is has open up many opinions. It has been said that the simplest questions are the most difficult. I would like to take a brief tangent from this discussion to apply this issue to teaching.  Is there enough agreement of the definition of the word ‘game’ so it can be used as an adequate metaphor for life or at least some aspects of life? I believe every game has some sort of strategy.  Given that every player suspends disbelief and enters the spirit of the game, every player has a method in which they use to seek to win the game.  Can we assume that this is true with life?  Would it be too much to say that every person has a strategy for life whether they have articulated or not?  Perhaps it is easier to confine this idea to a particular task or assignment.  What is the method or strategy that a person uses to accomplish a puzzle?  I do this often with my students.  As I give them an assignment or a problem I walk around the room and ask them, “What is your method? What is your strategy?”

What I mean to do is for the student to be aware of his thinking method.  I am asking the student to practice metacognition which for many is very difficult.  When asked, “How did you arrive at that conclusion many students would say, ‘I don’t know I just did’”.

Arthur L. Costa says, “We can determine if students are becoming more aware of their own thinking if they are able to describe what goes on in their head when they think. When asked, they can describe what they know and what they need to know. They can describe their plan of action before they begin to solve a problem; they can list the steps and tell where they are in the sequence of a problem solving strategy; they can trace the pathways and blind alleys they took on the road to a problem solution.

They can apply cognitive vocabulary correctly as they describe their thinking skills and strategies. We will hear students using such terms and phrases as: “I have an hypothesis…,” “My theory is…,” “When I compare these points of view…,” “By way of summary…,” “What I need to know is…,” or “The assumptions on which I am working are…”

As an experiment start asking students what their strategy is for simple tasks and ask them the same question for more difficult tasks.  Hopefully as they become used to this and learn to articulate their mental process they can begin to see similar strategies with more complex tasks.

I started today by teaching my students some basic “row” games based on Tic Tac Toe.  We talked about how well known Tic Tac Toe was and transferred this knowledge to more complex games. We discussed how intuitive the rules of these other games were because they had a connection to this simple game.  This laid the groundwork for the principles of learning by drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new situations

Some of those games were: Gobblet, Quixo, Quarto, Penta, Score Four, Connect Four, Rubik’s Magic Strategy Game, Slide Five, Bolix, Shift Tac Toe.

Today’s goal was to learn how to play three games and to sense the learning process from learning the rules, playing a practice game where they learn to observe, and then to some basic strategy.  When I played one boy a game of Bolix I lead him to a double two way win to demonstrate the depth of a simple (elegant) game.  His response was, “My head hurts”.  In my chess club a similar occurrence happened when the younger students murmured, “This is too hard”.

 Perhaps Samuel Goldwyn said it well, “If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”
Knowing that my pedagogy may be some of the issue, I do recognize that many students do not understand how to learn. This brings me to the quote…..

 “Thinking is what you do when you do not know the answer”

Intelligent behavior is performed in response to questions and problems in which the answers are NOT immediately known. This is one reason I teach strategy.  How a person plays a game reflects how they think in other areas.     Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.





Motivational Life Lessons from Games

12 03 2011

-When you don’t understand the rules, you cannot play the game of life successfully.

-Be willing to learn new things so you are more equipped to make better choices and decisions.

-Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

-Your actions determine your outcomes.

-Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

-If you hope to have a winning life strategy you have to be honest about where your life is right now.

-Life rewards action.

-A strategy requires courage, commitment and energy in order to succeed.

-When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

-Study and dissect your mistakes so you can avoid repeating them.

-Study and analyze your successes so you can repeat the behavior that has brought you positive results.

-Losers just make it up as they go along.

-Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.

-Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

-Some people dream of success, while others wake-up and work hard at it.

-The race goes not always to the swift…but to those who keep on running.

-Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.  We must sail sometimes with the wind and     sometimes against it- but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

-  Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

- Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

- Seize the opportunity when it presents itself and create opportunity where it does not exist already.

- Winners are people who have taken meaningful actions, not just thoughts about the thing they want to do.

- Be persistent in the pursuit of your life’s goals.

- Winning doesn’t just happen to people. On the other hand losing is what happens when you are not making the right choices to win.

-The team on top of the mountain did not fall there.

- When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

 - Tactics is something you do when there is something to do and strategy is something you do when there is nothing to do.





A Collection of Chess Wisdom-Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me These Things?

8 03 2011

Part 5


Don’t play automatic moves. Make sure you understand the opening before playing it.

Understanding, not memory, is the essential key to chess success. The chess player who understands why will consistently defeat the player who only knows how. Play by sound general principles adapted to the specific requirements (offensive opportunities and defensive necessities) in each position.

If your opponent controls more space, advance pawns to gain space yourself.

If your opponent has greater elasticity in his position, loosen your own position, strive for more freedom or flexibility (perhaps by exchanging one or more pieces), then look for your own least active piece or pieces and develop a plan to make it or them active.

If your opponent controls the center, challenge it with pawns.

The surest way to consistently win chess games is to anticipate & nullify your opponent’s plans, and to create no weaknesses in your position for your opponent to attack.

Chess is a creative process. Its purpose is to find the truth. To discover the truth, you must work hard, be uncompromising, and be brave.

Play as if the future of humanity depends on your efforts. It does.

 There must be no reasoning from the past moves, only the present position. Logically, the previous moves in a game should not affect one’s play in the slightest, as each move creates a new position.

The best practical rule for a winning game: destroy your opponent’s counter-chances. It may be slower, but it’s surer.

When your opponent is short on time, try to continually present him with problems that will require a lot of time to analyze.

Never take a risk for material when you already have a win.

The chief factor in chess skill is the storing of patterns in the mind, and the recognition of such patterns in actual play.

The closer to the time trouble your opponent is, the more tactical your game should be. This way you will pose the most unpleasant problems for your opponent. He or she is much more prone to miscalculate in such a situation.

While a stockpile of principles, guidelines, rules, and basic positions can be very useful in any chess player’s arsenal, one should never forget that there is no substitute for analysis.   A general idea or guideline is not the end, but the means to an end.





A Collection of Chess Wisdom-Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me These Things?

8 03 2011

Part 4


Don’t play the first good move you see. Look around for an even better one.

The two most common (and often fatal) mistakes in chess are moving too fast and overlooking opponent’s threats. Sit on your hands until ready to move.

If your opponent is in time trouble, don’t rush your moves. Take some time to find surprising moves that force your opponent to think.

Don’t be afraid of higher rated opponents. They have more to lose than you do. Have some fun and learn.

Take no prisoners. Draw only if you must. If offered a draw, make sure you understand what it will mean if you accept it. In general, don’t accept a draw unless you’re losing.

If you touch a piece and your opponent calls you on it, put the piece back on the board and search for the best move for it. Don’t hold the piece in your hand while thinking.

Be aggressive, but play soundly. Don’t take unnecessary chances.

Make sure EVERY move has a purpose.

If you know your opponent’s style, take advantage of it. But in the final analysis, play the board, not the person.

Don’t check needlessly. Check only when it accomplishes something useful.

Answer all threats, but do so while trying to improve your position and/or posing a counter-threat.

Never play a risky move, hoping the opponent won’t see it.

The goal in chess is to play the best move in every position.

Winning at chess basically consists of creating and exploiting opponent’s weaknesses.

Play slowly. Haste and carelessness are greater enemies than your opponent. Accuracy, not speed, is essential in chess. Be patient. The reward for speed is a legacy of lost games.
Be serious while playing. Don’t talk to your opponent during the game. If he or she talks to you, complain to the leaders. You can socialize after the game, not during it.





A Collection of Chess Wisdom-Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me These Things?

6 03 2011

Part 3

 Don’t eat a heavy meal before playing. Keep your energy level up by snacking on healthy items like fruit or fruit juice. Avoid junk food or anything with too much sugar.

If you blunder, don’t immediately resign, and don’t play as if you’re going to lose. Fight on as if the fate of the world depends on it. Quite often after you make a blunder, your opponent will relax and let his guard down, and then make an even bigger blunder himself. If you blunder, take a few minutes to compose yourself and get your head back into the game. Instead of playing aimlessly, as if the game is hopelessly lost, take a few minutes to evaluate the position and figure out a strategy to maximize your chances. Present your opponent with as many problems and difficulties as possible, and make him earn the win. There’s always a best course of action, even when lost. Make sure you find it.

Expect to win, whenever the opportunity arises – opening, middle game, or endgame. Remember that checkmate is the goal.

To find the best moves, and avoid becoming intimidated or overconfident, play the position on the board, not the opponent.

Stay calm, relaxed, and focused during each game. Tension and panic destroy logical thought.

When even or ahead, play hard. When behind, play harder.

Use time wisely. Think and plan on your opponent’s time during the game. Avoid time trouble. When in time trouble, try to think and play calmly.

Do not relax and become overconfident and careless when ahead. Apply the “killer instinct” throughout the game.

Keep the normal value of the pieces in mind (queen=9, rook=5, bishop=3+, knight=3, and pawn=1), but remember that these values vary according to the position, mobility, and potential of the pieces. Whether attacking or defending, count the number and consider the values of both attackers and defenders on a target piece, pawn or square before exchanging or occupying, to insure against losing material.

Chess is not Solitaire. Sound chess begins with respect for your opponent’s ideas, moves, threats, plans and ability.

Determine the purpose of each move by your opponent. Ask yourself, “What is the THREAT?” and “What has CHANGED in the position?” after each of your opponent’s moves. Concentrate on offense and attacking, but recognize and answer all threats.

To win a game of chess, you must first not lose it. Avoid mistakes, such as leaving pieces en prise (unguarded) or exposing your king. Before each of your moves, ask yourself, “DOES THIS MOVE IMPROVE MY POSITION?” and “IS THIS MOVE SAFE?” Avoiding mistakes is the beginning of improvement in chess. THINK before you move!





A Collection of Chess Wisdom-Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me These Things?

6 03 2011

Part 2

Concentrate. Keep your attention on the board. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t you wander either. Don’t leave the board unless necessary.

Use your time to think of specifics and to find the best move. Use your opponent’s time to think in generalities and of future possibilities. Always make sure you use your opponent’s time productively.

Play to win in as few moves as necessary. Don’t waste time gobbling up your opponent’s pawns when you’re well ahead. Go for the safest and most efficient mate.

Until you reach at least master level, playing as error-free as possible is MUCH more effective and important than playing brilliantly, and will win a lot more games for you. One critical error will usually cost you more than a dozen brilliant moves will gain for you. Remember, the first step to mastery, is the elimination of errors.

To improve your chess game, combine STUDY AND PLAY; study and play, study and play, study and play…

Always play “touch-move” and never take back a move. It is against the rules of chess and is detrimental to your improvement.

Avoid having a favorite piece.

Learn chess notation, then record and review your games.

Review all your games. This is how you learn to find & eradicate the mistakes from your play.

Play stronger players frequently, and learn from them. After a loss, ask them to go over the game and point out your mistakes. Playing stronger players strengthens your chess.

Focus on playing your best, rather than on winning. The wins will follow.

Enjoy your wins and learn from your losses. Learn at least one lesson from each loss. You will learn more from one loss than a dozen wins. Defeats are the greatest teachers.

After losing a game, especially against a much stronger player, ask them to review the game with you and show you where you went wrong.

 Always play touch-move, and call it if your opponent touches a piece. Do not hold a piece in your hand while thinking.

Focus on the game in front of you, not the one next to you. Good concentration is one of the keys to success in chess.





A Collection of Chess Wisdom-Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me These Things?

6 03 2011

Part 1

“Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.”

                                                                                                                                        Rudolf Spielmann

When you see a good move, sit on your hands and see if you can find a better one.      Siegbert Tarrasch

Memory should never be a substitute for thought.

Even when a move seems forced, it is worth taking a few moments to see if there might be a better alternative.

If a move is absolutely forced, don’t waste time calculating it. Make the move and calculate the ramifications on your opponent’s time.

Given the choice of two moves, if you calculate that the first move is clearly losing, and the other is vague and complex, the second move should be played without prolonged calculation. You can calculate the consequences on your opponent’s time.

Don’t play a game or even a move if you don’t feel like trying your best.

Attack pinned pieces with pieces worth less than them; never take a pinned piece unless it leads to some sort of tactic or advantage, or you cannot maintain the pin.

Rooks need open and semi-open files. Don’t let your opponent control open files with his Rooks.

When capturing with pawns, it is correct most of the time to capture toward the center. If the result is doubled pawns, this is correct even a higher percentage of the time.

If you worry about your opponent’s rating or play to the level of your competition, then don’t look at his rating until after the game.

If something is happening on your board that is strange or you don’t understand, stop the clock and get the tournament director.

In a Swiss tournament, the most important rounds are the first and the last.

In chess, if you learn to consistently (each move) do the little things: take your time, count the material effect of your move, and check for basic tactics, you will soon find that these are not so little!

Move every piece once before you move every piece twice unless there is a clear reason to do so.





Game Crossing #3:An Efficient and Effective Lesson from Games

11 08 2010

An Efficient and Effective Lesson from Games

A few weeks ago I was noticing how my students were playing chess.  Many of the younger students spend many moves to achieve what experienced players would have done in just a few moves.  For example, one young student could not set up a standard end game checkmate. The student called check and moved the pieces around the board for 20 moves and was called a draw by the umpire. One boy in a similar situation accidentally achieved the checkmate but took many needless moves.  This got me thinking about the difference between effectiveness and efficiency in game play. 

Effective choice: Accomplishing a task decisively but with possible excess of time, material, and/or effort.
Efficient choice: Accomplishing a task with precision, economically with little or no excess of time, material and/or effort.

One day I used this illustration to explain the difference to the students.  Imagine that there is a fly on the wall and I wanted to kill it.  I dramatically took out an imaginary rocket launcher to blast the bug.  I would definitely kill the bug but I would knock down the wall and the building in the process.   I related the fact that it is not necessary to capture all the pieces in chess like Pac Man gobbling up points.  In fact, capturing pieces can waste time if it does not help achieve the goal of checkmate.  Destroying a wall to kill a fly might be very effective but not at all efficient.

Another example I gave the class is how to solve a large maze (in our part of the country we have human sized corn mazes during October).  An effective method to solve a large maze is the right-hand-rule algorithm.  This is where the player keeps his hand on one of the walls and goes wherever it leads and eventually escapes.  (Many recent maze makers in trying to circumvent this algorithm have constructed loops and false trails leading to other false trails.)  The point is that players may use the only algorithm they know and though being effective is not very efficient, fun or elegant.

In my problem solving classes I have an imaginary tool box for the problem solving tools. When students do not know the various tools they invariably use trial and error as if harder tasks could be solved if only I had a larger hammer.

In chess, as well as in other games I strongly suggest having more than one reason for every move.  This serves at least two purposes: one is that the opponent will not know which reason to respond to and two, so that the move will accomplish more than one goal.  Having more than one reason for every move practices subterfuge as will as the strategy of economy. 

In solving jigsaw puzzles with my 2nd grade class, I took this opportunity to discuss the same issue.  Solving jigsaw puzzles is a wonderful metaphor of strategic thinking.  When asked how to solve a jigsaw puzzle I often get the answer “one piece at a time”.  So I take one piece out of the box and then fished the box for a matching piece.  This method may work but is not very efficient. 

After much discussion the class came to this pretty efficient method:

1.  Dump pieces our and turn them all face up on the table.

2.  Sort the pieces by edges and inside pieces.

3.  Locate the corners and construct the frame of the puzzle.

4.  Sort inside pieces by color and design.  Use the picture as a guide to have the finished product in mind.

5.  Switch modes of thinking constantly by:

Finding pieces to go in a particular space and look for a space for a particular piece.

Looking for unique pieces and for similar pieces that can be categorized.

Often I give my 6th grade gifted students math problems that have an easily found “effective” number crunching method and a not so easy to be found but elegant “efficient” method Some students in a rush will start the number crunching method and give up after getting lost in the arithmetic. But others stand back from the problem and take the time to find the more elegant method.

 This all reminds me of Sun Tzu’s comments in the Art of Strategy

 “Those who are skilled in executing a strategy bend the strategy of others without conflict: Uproot the fortifications of others without attacking and absorb the organizations of others without prolonged operations.”

 The other side of the issue is that efficiency can replace effectiveness.  Players can be so possessed with being efficient and multitasking that the quality of the activity is endangered.  A recent news report covered how youths can multi task on the computer but to the expense of quality understanding.

 So what is the difference between Effective and Efficient?

Being efficient means producing results with little wasted effort.  It’s the ability to carry out actions quickly. However, by so doing, you may not necessarily be achieving effectiveness. Effectiveness allows you to accomplish the worthwhile goals you’ve chosen.

Simply: Efficient is doing things right, while Effective is doing right things.

Being efficient means you spend less time on something, you spend less money on something or you spend less effort (or number of workers) on something.

Being effective means you do your job well. In other words, the output (finished product) is of high quality.

  • Effectiveness is about “doing the right things”.
    It is about maximising value, creating the right outputs, knowing what needs to be done.
  • Efficiency is about “doing things right“.
    It is about minimising cost, using the right processes and inputs, knowing how to do things.

Success comes from getting them both right — getting the right balance between the two.





Game Crossing #2: The Importance of Games

10 08 2010

The Purpose of Games

  1. Games help you actively learn thinking skills.  You cannot develop your thinking skills without being forced to think.
  2. Games contain the elements of our everyday activities in work, school and home: planning ahead, decision-making, setting priorities, dealing with people whose goals are incompatible with yours.

      3. The rules of a game give you a structure within which to work toward your goals, to resolve personal problems         and conflicts, and to develop your personality.

      4. Games help you learn to behave well in a social setting, to cooperate with others, to obey rules, and to propose new rules. You can’t always win in life, and games teach you how to lose gracefully.

       5. Games can be set up for play at different levels according to the players’ abilities.  In this way everyone can participate and enjoy playing.  You can begin a game at a level you are comfortable with, and gradually increase your skill and your self-confidence.

       6. Games provide a better opportunity for the educator or psychologist to observe a student’s intelligence in action than does the more artificial and anxiety-laden setting of an intelligence test.

      7. Games give you an opportunity to use your imagination, to fantasize, to try out new roles, to take risks and experiment with new behavior.

       8. Games enable learning to be enjoyable, challenging and stimulating; exploiting the most natural and effective process of learning through personal experience and experimentation.

       9.  Games enable participants to realize their strengths and weakness in a relatively safe environment.

       10. Games graphically illustrate when the effective transfer of theory into practice occurs and an effective review enables participants to understand the process for success to be repeated.

       11. Games enable participants to see and experience the gap between what they think they believe and what their behavior demonstrates they truly believe. Once this contradiction has been confronted, the way is open for real behavioral and attitude change to occur.

    12. Since participants often know more than they think they know, games help participants to discover the underlying principles that make them competent.  These experiences help them build confidence in their ability to correct their mistakes and improve their performance.

 

 What can be learned by playing games?

        Problem-solving-establishing an efficient step-by-step method that can be applied to all situations

        Critical Thinking- analytical, deductive and inductive reasoning

        Recognition and Evaluation of Choices and Options- comparisons of alternatives, relative values

        Evaluation of the Results of a Decision-recognition of consequences and avoiding futures errors

        Non-violent conflict resolution-working out disputes by discussion

        Impulse Resistant-impulsive or angry moves are always a mistake

        Decision making and having the courage to act decisively

        Goal Orientation-sometimes with multiple and simultaneous goals.

        Patience and Self-control-sitting still and quiet while others are thinking

        Personal Discipline-self-restraint and internal rather than external control

        Perseverance-even in the face of setbacks-determination to succeed

        Positive Social Values- friendship, honesty, fairness, justice, integrity

        Respect for others-both teammates and opponents

        Politeness, courtesy and manners-social conditioning to get along in society

        Civilized and socially-accepted behavior

        Coping with success (with magnanimity and grace) and failure (with fortitude and perseverance)

        Developing communication skills – communicating ideas with confidence in one’s abilities





Game Crossing #1:The Influence of Strategy Games

10 08 2010

In preparation for my upcoming book on teaching Strategic Thinking in life based on strategy games I offer some blog articles for your pleasure.  Please comment and add your thoughts. The title may be something like Game Crossing: Winning Ways for the Game of Life.

————————————————————————

Your family has gathered around the dining room table and is playing a family game.  “Your turn”, says your daughter eagerly as she looks intently at the playing board then at you.  You know she has found your weakness.  She has learned from you how to solve a difficult situation.  She is excited about using a strategy and applying it and in doing so win a game. Most of us like this family have spent many hours playing board games as a pastime or as a rainy day activity. Teachers have also used games as educational devices or as reward activities for completing class work. We can all agree that board games have always been popular. But, is it possible for teachers and parents to take this fun activity and draw some life changing lessons from them? How can teachers and parents take more advantage of this fun teaching potential? 

 Some have even called this the Gaming Generation saying that even many video games, despite what many think, can prepare youths for the future. John C. Beck, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern California, and Mitchell Wade, a consultant to companies like Google and the RAND Corporation, have just published “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever” (Harvard Business School Press). They assure us that by playing video games kids are actually training for the new world of work, not avoiding it. They are learning such lessons as: there is always an answer; you might be frustrated for a while, you might even never find it, but you know it’s there. Players are also learning willingness to take chances (60 percent of frequent gamers, compared with 45 percent of nongamers in the same age group, agree that “the best rewards come to those who take risks”). To add to this is a view that failure is a part of the game as well as a part of life.

If video games have this potential might not classic board games? Many have talked about the educational value of board games (especially Chess), but give little or no guidance on how to make them life-applicable. There are, of course, educational board games designed to teach or reinforce educational concepts such as math skills, historical trivia, etc. However, the games that may be most beneficial are those that teach creative problem solving and critical thinking.  How can we take advantage of this “playful” spirit and help students draw life applications from these fun activities? I believe this work you have before you will open this door of potential.

Before the reader think that game playing is not important I offer these quotes.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.                                                                                                                        Plato

We don’t stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing.                                                                                                                                                                                                               George Bernard Shaw

In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ovid

Human beings are never more ingenious than in the invention of games.                                                                                                             Leibniz

Games have influenced so much of our language with idioms.  Here is a partial list……………………….

Check off the ones you have used in the last week.

Play by the rules

The game is afoot

Let the games begin

I’m game

The game is up

Two can play at that game

Game plan

Gamekeeper

Game Crossing

Stymied

Hands down

Underhanded

Umpire

Above board

Handicap

Kibitzer

Forfeit

Gambit


across the board  -  applying to all (in horse racing a bet where an equal amount of money is placed on a horse to finish in any top winning position)

at this stage of the game    - at some point, at some time during an activity

ball is in someone’s court    - it is that person’s turn to act next (from tennis or a similar game)

ballpark estimate/figure  -  a guess in a certain area or range

bat a thousand- be successful in everything that you do

behind the eight ball - at a disadvantage (from the black ball which is numbered eight in the game of pool)

beyond one’s depth - in water that is too deep, do something that is too difficult

blow the whistle on someone-reveal information about someone

bounce something (an idea) off someone -  test someone’s reaction to an idea

call the shots- control something, make the rules (from calling the shots in billiards/pool)

carry the ball -   be in charge (from carry the ball in American football)

clear a hurdle - overcome an obstacle (from a hurdle in a race)

come out of left field-be completely unexpected

cover all of one’s bases-  thoroughly prepare for or deal with a situation

dive right into something - begin to do something without hesitating

down/out for the count - defeated, unconscious

down to the wire- at the very last minute (from the wire at the end of a horse race)

drop the ball -   make an error or mistake, handle things badly

first out of the gate- be the first person to begin a project

get off to a flying start -  have a very successful beginning

get one’s feet wet - start a new project cautiously

get the ball rolling- begin

get two/three strikes against someone -  get several things against one, be in a situation where success in unlikely

go to bat for someone-  support or help someone (in baseball you sometimes substitute one batter for another)

hand the torch/baton to someone  - hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone

hard to call -   hard to decide or determine something

have the inside track- have an advantage

hit the bull’s-eye- achieve your goal perfectly

in full swing -   full capacity, greatest activity

in the ballpark- in a particular area or range (from a baseball field)

in the homestretch- be close to completion

in the running - to be a candidate (from horse racing when two horses are running evenly)

in the same league as someone- be at the same level as someone

jump the gun -  start before the starting signal or before you should start (as in a race)

keep one’s eye on the ball- remain alert, keep one’s attention focused on the ball or the matter at hand

keep the ball rolling- maintain the momentum of an activity

kick off -  kick the ball and start the game

know the score- know the facts about something

level playing field- a situation where everyone has an equal chance at success

make the cut/miss the cut -  meet or come up to a required standard/ fail to come up to or meet a required standard

meet one’s match- encounter one’s equal

neck and neck -  exactly even (as in a horse race)

off and running- make progress in something from the beginning)

off base -  wrong, unrealistic

off to a running start- start with a good fast beginning

on your marks -  used to tell runners in a race to get into the correct starting position

 out in left field- offbeat, unusual

out of one’s league- not equal to or in the same class as someone

out of the running - eliminated from a contest, no longer being considered

par for the course- what is normal or expected in a given situation

pass the torch/baton to someone - hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone

play ball (with someone)- cooperate with someone

play by the rules-  follow the generally accepted rules of something

play fair - avoid cheating

play hardball with someone - behave in an extremely determined way to get what you want

rally around someone or something - join together to support someone or something

right off the bat- at the very beginning, immediately

roll with the punches- adapt to difficult circumstances

run interference - intervene on behalf of someone to protect them from something

saved by the bell-rescued from a bad situation at the last minute

score points with someone- gain the favor of someone

set the pace- establish the speed or pace of something

sporting chance - some possibility of success

strike out - fail

tackle a problem- attack a problem with much effort

take one’s eye off the ball- fail to keep one’s attention focused on the ball or the matter at hand

team player- someone who works well with others to achieve some goal

“That’s the way the ball bounces.”- that’s life, there is nothing you can do about something

throw in the towel/sponge-admit defeat, stop fighting

throw/pitch someone a curve - pitch a curve in baseball, confuse someone by doing something unexpected

too close to call - so evenly balanced that it is not possible to predict the outcome (in a contest, race, election)

touch base with someone- briefly meet or make contact with someone

whole new ball game- a new set of circumstances (from a new game of baseball)

win by a nose - win by a very small amount (the narrowest margin that a horse can win in a horse race)





Forced Dilemma Game

10 02 2010

This game involves forcing the participants in making a choice when neither one is attractive or involves some metaphorical interpretation.  The object is to put the participants on the horns of a dilemma or between a rock and a hard place. Participants are pushed to not say “neither one” or to interpret the choice so that one would include the other so as to soften the dilemma. The object is to struggle with an either/or choice. The leader gives the choices to each participant and they must defend their choice with three good reasons. Here are two types of game play:

 Would you rather….?  (Examples)

Would you rather be rich or famous?

Would you rather ride a roller coaster or a mechanical bull?

Would you rather have the power to fly or the power to disappear?

Would you rather be a baby again or seventy years old?

Would you rather be gossiped about or lied to?

Would you rather have a life of good memories or a life full of exciting

adventures you couldn’t remember?

Would you rather have no values or have no friends?

Would you rather try everything and succeed at nothing or try only one thing and succeed?

Would you rather be convicted of something you didn’t do or see someone else convicted for something you did?

Would you rather do a job well and be grossly underpaid or do a job poorly and be paid so much it feels like stealing?

Would you rather see every movie in slow motion or at double speed?

Would you rather be really smart and really boring or really dumb and entertaining?

Would you rather have the theme song of your choice play whenever you walk or have your own mood lighting wherever you are?

Would you rather have a nose that glows red when you get excited or have steam come out of your ears when you get mad?

Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island or live your life in a bubble?

Would you rather go back in time and give your younger self advice that will change your life or go into the future and find out what you will encounter in years to come?

Would you rather always look tremendous but say the wrong thing to everyone you meet or always say the right thing but look terrible?

Would you rather have everything you say and do revealed publicly or live in total obscurity like a hermit?

Would you rather lose your ability to speak or move for one year?

Would you rather know all but be bitter or know nothing and be optimistic?

Would you rather always succumb to peer pressure or have no one ever like you?





Basics of Strategy From a Third Grade Class

11 10 2009
 
Last week my students and I were reviewing the strategy of the game of Nim in my third grade class.

Nim is a very simple game that can introduce big ideas of strategy.

The object of the game is to force your opponent to take the last marker. That is, the loser removes the last marker. Of course, the game could be played that the winner is the one who takes the last marker.

Construct three rows of markers: the top row has three markers, the center row has five markers and the bottom row has seven markers. The number of markers for each row and the number of rows is open to options. But, 3-5-7 Nim provides for a short game and yet complex enough for variety and analysis.

Players take turns removing as many markers as they like in one row only. Each player must remove at least one marker per turn. The word Nim probably comes from the Shakespearean word meaning “to take away” or “steal”.

This game can be played anywhere because one can use toothpicks, little rocks or play animals,marks on a chalkboard, or on a foggy window.

Nim is a game that has been played, in various forms, on at least four continents for at least four centuries. Like tic tac toe, it is a challenging game until one realizes that there is a correct way to play. In the case of tic tac toe, there is a correct way for both players and, if both players make the correct moves, the game must always end in a tie.

In the case of Nim, when one player makes the correct moves, he will always win. (Whether this is the player who goes first or the player who goes second depends on the variation of nim being played.)

Where the perfect strategy for Tic Tac Toe is discoverable by a bright child, discovery of the correct nim strategy takes a mathematical intuition of the highest order for one without mathematical experience.

After two months of playing one of my third grade students studied with his parents for a week to discover a winning strategy. He came to class and confidently won me in a game. He has now become a partner teacher in strategy for the class.

For some websites on Nim try:
http://www.eserc.stonybrook.edu/wise/HSfall2000/Nim.html
http://www.archimedes-lab.org/game_nim/nim.html
http://www.2020tech.com/fruit/

This gave a good introduction to the basics of strategy. Here I laid the foundation to three basic ways students approach games:

1. Superstitious Plans
According to the writer Raymond Lamont Brown: “Superstition is a belief, or system of beliefs, by which almost religious veneration is attached to things mostly secular; a parody of religious faith in which there is belief in an occult or magic connection.”

Another way to put it is that superstition is an irrational or nonscientific belief in the existence of certain powers operant in the world, with positive or ill (usually ill) effects. These are rituals or patterns of behavior that are believed to have some power to influence the outcome of the game.
What are some examples you have seen as we played the game?

2. Psychological Ploys
The art or practice of using tactical maneuvers to further one’s aims or better one’s position. The use in a sport or game of aggressive, often dubious tactics, such as psychological intimidation or disruption of concentration, to gain an advantage over one’s opponent. Here the concepts of Gamesmanship versus sportsmanship are introduced. Also mentioned are ways players try to psych-out your opponent. Psychological Ploys are the use of dubious (although not technically illegal) methods to win a game
What are some examples you have seen as we played the game?

3. Strategic Play
Strategy is a careful plan or method. Victory is completely dependent on your reasoning and pattern recognition skills, and completely independent of luck
What are some examples you have seen as we played the game?

But it is amazing how such a simple game can introduce the ways people approach life.





Teaching Concentration Rather than Cheating

11 10 2009
 
There are many lessons we learn from games. When players cheat we learn about character and the expression of ethics. Perhaps games give us a clue of the true character of an individual. Like the quote from Ovid, “In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”As a teacher I am trying to teach students to learn from games and not just play to win. Perhaps winning is the only time students have been rewarded and praised. And sadly this could lure students into cheating. As a teacher I must think of the big picture- the long view. Winning is a great feeling but learning from mistakes and building mental strength has more transferable aspects. Of course building self-esteem by winning is a fine goal but unique and honorable is the student who can pick up the pieces of a lost game and seek to learn from it.

At early ages focus and concentration are often difficult habits to learn. Rather than trying to teach winning at all costs and allow for the temptation to cheat, I am attempting to praise characteristics of staying at something and concentrating.

Here are some character defintitions to help in this goal:
Character attributes of concentration:

1. Determination: The mental act of deciding, establishing and adherence to an aim.

2. Persistence: Persevering in an effort for a considerable time regardless of seeing results.

3. Tenacity: Holding firmly to a course or direction.

4. Resoluteness: Sticking to the focus of the goal.

5. Toughness: Sustaining one’s spirit following defeats.

6. Endurance: Staying power and the ability to sustain an increased level of activity without getting distracted or discouraged.

These are honorable characteristics for games as well as for life. Perhaps these are greater lessons than playing just to win.





What We Can Learn From Games

11 10 2009

by Ben Bishop

I came across an interesting article in the Idaho Statesman two days ago. It was a great article on teaching math to students and one of the final points was to play games that emphasized math like Monopoly or Risk. I am glad that any game can be used to teach concepts; however that seems to be an oversimplification of the potential of a game. If that is all a game is (a conceptual teaching tool) then the higher levels of Bloom’s famous taxonomy are not being reached at all. I can see games like Snakes and Ladders being used for this purpose (after all that is basically a counting game) but doing this is a higher grade class like 6th grade would turn me off of math and games in general.Games are expressions of the struggles we face, a miniature version of reality without the painful loss. If they are used like a set of flash cards then the purpose is lost. Yes, I’ll learn about probability when I roll the dice, I’ll learn about trivia when I play a question game, etc… It’s the participation of play that teaches me not just the memorization of facts and figures.Here’s a link to an article that says about the same thing but in a more logical manner:
http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Ethics5.shtml

Till next time,
Ben Bishop





Lessons from Strategy Games

11 10 2009

I was just interviewed for a local newspaper concerning what we can learn from games. I was quoted saying that students may not naturally learn from games. We often say how helpful games are in teaching life lessons, math, strategy or whatever. As a teacher, I have realized that unless a teacher is explicit, students do not transfer their knowledge to other areas. Here are some ideas about drawing life lessons from games.

Here are some guidelines for guidelines:

They must be easily repeatable, quotable, meaningful, and memorable

They must be a generalization to all or a specified group

They are commands or they implies what we should do

They are short and concisely worded

Examples of Life Lessons written by my students….

-When you don’t understand the rules, you cannot play the game of life successfully.

-Be willing to learn new things so you are more equipped to make better choices and decisions.

-Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

-Your actions determine your outcomes.

-Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

-If you hope to have a winning life strategy you have to be honest about where your life is right now.

-Life rewards action.

-You must realize that your plans will alter and sometimes change along the way. Winners adapt to these new developments.

-A strategy requires courage, commitment and energy in order to succeed.

-When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

-Study and dissect your mistakes so you can avoid repeating them.

-Study and analyze your successes so you can repeat the behavior that has brought you positive results.

-Losers just make it up as they go along

Here is a quote that sums up my thoughts………

There are one-story intellects,
two-story intellects,
and three-story intellects with skylights.
All fact collectors who have
no aim beyond their facts
are one-story men.
Two-story men compare, reason, generalize, using the labor
of fact collectors as their own.
Three-story men idealize,
imagine, predict-
their best illumination comes
from above the skylight.
–Oliver Wendell Holmes





Life Lessons from Chess

4 10 2009
 The following is an essay by Benjamin Franklin on chess. 

THE GAME OF CHESS is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:

 

1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”

 

2d, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: – the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to; the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

 

 

3d, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game; such as, if you touch a Piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand.

 

 

Therefore, it would be the better way to observe these rules, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops, and place them more securely, but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

 

 

And lastly, we learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs; the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our skill; or, at least, from the negligence of our adversary: and whoever considers, what in Chess he often sees instances of, that success is apt to produce presumption and its consequent inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage, while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by any present successes of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may therefore, be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement in preference to others, which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded; and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the parties, which is, to pass the time agreeable.

1st, Therefore, if it is agreed to play according to the strict rules, then those rules are to be strictly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted upon for one side, while deviated from by the other: for this is not equitable.

2d, If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other.

3d, No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain an advantage; for there can be no pleasure in playing with a man once detected in such unfair practice.

4th, If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay; not even by looking at your watch, or taking up a book to read: you should not sing, nor whistle, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may distract his attention: for all these displease, and they do not prove your skill in playing, but your craftiness and your rudeness.

5th, You ought not to endeavor to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending to have made bad moves; and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game of Chess.

6th, You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expressions, nor show too much of the pleasure you feel; but endeavor to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth; such as, you understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive, or, you play too fast; or, you had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favor.

7th, If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence: for if you give advice, you offend both the parties: him against whom you give it, because it may cause him to lose the game: him in whose favor you give it, because, though it be good, and he follow it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves, you must not, by replacing the Pieces, show how they might have been placed better; for that displeases, and might occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation.

 

All talking to the players lessens or diverts their attention; and is, therefore, unpleasing; nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion; if you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.

If you desire to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game, when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counseling the play of others.

 

Lastly, If the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules before mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself.

 

 

Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskilfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly, that by such a move he places or leaves a Piece en prise unsupported; that by another, he will put his King into a dangerous situation, &c.

 

By this general civility (so opposite to the unfairness before forbidden) you may happen indeed to lose the game; but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and the good will of the spectators.

When a vanquished player is guilty of an untruth to cover his disgrace, as “I have not played so long, – his method of opening the game confused me, – the men were of an unusual size,” &c all such apologies, (to call them no worse) must lower him in a wise person’s eyes, both as a man and a Chess-player; and who will not suspect that he who shelters himself under such untruths in trifling matters, is no very sturdy moralist in things of greater consequence, where his fame and honor are at stake? A man of proper pride would scorn to account for his being beaten by one of these excuses, even were it true; because they have all so much the appearance, at the moment, of being untrue.

 

 Author: Benjamin Franklin




Strategy Games and Teaching Metacognition

15 09 2009

The issue of the definition of what a game is has open up many opinions. It has been said that the simplest questions are the most difficult. I would like to apply the lessons of strategy games to teaching.

Is there enough agreement of the definition of the word ‘game’ so it can be used as an adequate metaphor for life or at least some aspects of life? I believe every game has some sort of strategy.  Given that every player suspends disbelief and enters the spirit of the game, every player has a method in which they use to seek to win the game.  Can we assume that this is true with life?  Would it be too much to say that every person has a strategy for life whether they have articulated or not?  Perhaps it is easier to confine this idea to a particular task or assignment.  What is the method or strategy that a person uses to accomplish a puzzle?

I do this often with my students.  As I give them an assignment or a problem I walk around the room and ask them, “What is your method? What is your strategy?”

What I mean to do is for the student to be aware of his thinking method.  I am asking the student to practice metacognition which for many is very difficult.  When asked, “How did you arrive at that conclusion many students would say, ‘I don’t know I just did’”.

Arthur L. Costa says, “We can determine if students are becoming more aware of their own thinking if they are able to describe what goes on in their head when they think. When asked, they can describe what they know and what they need to know. They can describe their plan of action before they begin to solve a problem; they can list the steps and tell where they are in the sequence of a problem solving strategy; they can trace the pathways and blind alleys they took on the road to a problem solution.

They can apply cognitive vocabulary correctly as they describe their thinking skills and strategies. We will hear students using such terms and phrases as: “I have an hypothesis…,” “My theory is…,” “When I compare these points of view…,” “By way of summary…,” “What I need to know is…,” or “The assumptions on which I am working are…”

As an experiment start asking students what their strategy is for simple tasks and ask them the same question for more difficult tasks.  Hopefully as they become used to this and learn to articulate their mental process they can begin to see similar strategies with more complex tasks.

I started today by teaching my students some basic “row” games based on Tic Tac Toe.  We talked about how well known Tic Tac Toe was and transferred this knowledge to more complex games. We discussed how intuitive the rules of these other games were because they had a connection to this simple game.  This laid the groundwork for the principles of learning by drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new situations

Some of those games were:

Abstract Strategy Game Checklist

Nim

Dots and Boxes

Dodgum

L Game

3 Spot Game

Hex

Cathedral

Tetra Trax

Isolation

Goblet

Quivive

Lotus

Quixo

Othello

Abalone

Pylos

Quoridor

Quarto

Quits

Mancala

Penta

Input

Score Four

Twixt

Qubic

Stadium Checkers

Stay Alive

Connect Four

Rubiks Magic Strategy Game

Slide Five

Bolix

Zertz

Paradux

Shift Tac Toe


Today’s goal was to learn how to play three games and to sense the learning process from learning the rules, playing a practice game where they learn to observe, and then to some basic strategy.  When I played one boy a game of Bolix I lead him to a double two way win to demonstrate the depth of a simple (elegant) game.  His response was, “My head hurts”.  In my chess club a similar occurrence happened when the younger students murmured, “This is too hard”. Perhaps Samuel Goldwyn said it well, “If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”
Knowing that my pedagogy may be some of the issue, I do recognize that many students do not understand how to learn. This brings me to the quote…..

Thinking is what you do when you do not know the answer”

Intelligent behavior is performed in response to questions and problems in which the answers are NOT immediately known.

This is one reason I teach strategy.  How a person plays a game reflects how they think in other areas.     Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.





Examples of Life Lessons from Strategy Games from Elementary Students

13 09 2009

When you don’t understand the rules, you cannot play the game of life successfully.

Be willing to learn new things so you are more equipped to make better choices and decisions.

Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

Your actions determine your outcomes.

Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

If you hope to have a winning life strategy you have to be honest about where your life is right now.

Life rewards action.

You must realize that your plans will alter and sometimes change along the way.  Winners adapt to these new developments.

A strategy requires courage, commitment and energy in order to succeed.

When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

Study and dissect your mistakes so you can avoid repeating them.

Study and analyze your successes so you can repeat the behavior that has brought you positive results.

Losers just make it up as they go along





The Educational Value of Strategy Games

13 09 2009

Your family has gathered around the dining room table and is playing a family game.  “Your turn”, says your daughter eagerly as she looks intently at the playing board then at you.  You know she has found your weakness.  She has learned from you how to solve a difficult situation.  She is excited about using a strategy and applying it and in doing so win a game. Most of us like this family have spent many hours playing board games as a pastime or as a rainy day activity. Teachers have also used games as educational devices or as reward activities for completing class work. We can all agree that board games have always been popular. But, is it possible for teachers and parents to take this fun activity and draw some life changing lessons from them? How can teachers and parents take more advantage of this fun teaching potential?

Some have even called this the Gaming Generation saying that even many video games, despite what many think, can prepare youths for the future. John C. Beck, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern California, and Mitchell Wade, a consultant to companies like Google and the RAND Corporation, have just published “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever” (Harvard Business School Press). They assure us that by playing video games kids are actually training for the new world of work, not avoiding it. They are learning such lessons as: there is always an answer; you might be frustrated for a while, you might even never find it, but you know it’s there. Players are also learning willingness to take chances (60 percent of frequent gamers, compared with 45 percent of nongamers in the same age group, agree that “the best rewards come to those who take risks”). To add to this is a view that failure is a part of the game as well as a part of life.

If video games have this potential might not classic board games? Many have talked about the educational value of board games (especially Chess), but give little or no guidance on how to make them life-applicable. There are, of course, educational board games designed to teach or reinforce educational concepts such as math skills, historical trivia, etc. However, the games that may be most beneficial are those that teach creative problem solving and critical thinking.  How can we take advantage of this playful spirit and help students draw life applications from these fun activities? I believe it is possible with explicit teaching of strategy with games.

Because of instructive reasons I choose strategy board games, (two person, abstract strategy games) to begin with.  Two person games have face-to-face interaction with real people as opposed to most video games.  But, on the other hand, two person games emphasize strategy over team and social implications of multi-person games. For these reasons, strategy board games may be a more constructive choice than video games and a wonderful tool in teaching important life skills.

I will share more of these ideas in upcoming posts……..

From one thing, know ten thousand things.  When you attain the way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see….

if you know the way of strategy broadly you will see it in everything.

Miyamoto Musashi

A Book of Five Rings





The Game of Chess as a Class Motivator

7 09 2009

The game of Chess is a great motivator in the classroom. Today after a tournament a teacher colleague were discussing mutual benefits of chess with lessons taught in the regular classroom.  We mentioned ideas like paying attention, planning ahead and cooperation.  But two points stood out in our discussion.

1.  Many student play chess like children play in a sandbox.  When young children play they exhibit parallel play in that they activity does not show interaction, proactive strategic thinking, and responding to the previous move of the other player. They make a plan and try to carry it out with the flexible “jazz” thinking that involves, responds to, and interacts with the other person.  Perhaps game playing is parallel to the maturity of a child who grows more aware of his place in the community of human interaction.  We see this in the classroom when a student does not see how his or her actions effects and benefits others and that interacting with other people could be helpful in learning.

2.  When asked why a student should take notes of their game many students thought it was a dead end assignment in penmanship or writing ability and when asked to review these notes they thought it was to please the coach.  I had to explicitly teach that winning a game would make me happy and losing would make me happy.  But what I like the most is when students learn from their mistakes and upon reviewing their game seed how they can improve and grow.  Here a mother who was listening in mentioned that this is like her child who now just understands the connection from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.  Just as in life there are lessons we can learn if we keep our mind in gear.

I have been chewing on these ideas and want to expand upon them but for now here are some more general benefits of chess.

Christine Palm of the New York City Schools Chess Program says:

Chess instills in young players a sense of self-confidence and self-worth

Chess dramatically improves a child’s ability to think rationally

Chess increases cognitive skills

Chess builds a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the ability of the individual

Chess makes a child realize that he or she is responsible for his or her own actions and must accept the consequences.

Chess teaches children to try their best to win, while accepting defeat with grace.

Chess allows girls to compete with boys on a non-threatening, socially acceptable plane.

Chess teaches the value of hard work, concentration and commitment.

Ron Wallace of Hill Street Public school in Corunna, Ontario says:

What can chess teach our students?

-concentration

-long range planning

-predicting outcomes

-drawing conclusions

-memory skills

-quiet activities can be fun

-importance of controlling numerous variables

-analyzing situations

-spirit of true sportsmanship

-value of changing one’s point of view to find solutions

The National Scholastic Chess Foundation says that Chess education is extremely effective with children because:

Chess involves all levels of critical thinking (knowledge, comprehension, analysis, evaluation)

Chess requires forethought and cultivates visualization skills

Chess improves problem solving skills

Chess encourages children to overcome the fear of risk-taking

Chess teaches concentration and self-discipline

Chess enables children to assume responsibility for their decisions

Chess rewards determination and perseverance

Chess raises self-esteem and promotes good sportsmanship

Chess encourages socialization skills that extend across cultures and generations

Daniel Brown inventor of PI Chess says that most of a child’s most enduring lessons come from playing games and interacting with others.  He lists these as the skills and the values that can be developed from playing chess and especially PI Chess (a way to extend Chess to multiple players).

-Problem-solving-establishing an efficient step-by-step method that can be applied to all situations

-Critical Thinking- analytical, deductive and inductive reasoning

- Recognition and Evaluation of Choices and Options- comparisons of alternatives, relative values

- Evaluation of the Results of a Decision-recognition of consequences and avoiding futures errors

-Partnership and Teamwork-learning to work as part of an effective team

-Non-violent conflict resolution-working out disputes by discussion

-Recognition and respect for Rules and Codes of Behavior in a Social Group-society

-Impulse Resistant-impulsive or angry moves are always a mistake

-Decision making and having the courage to ac decisively

-Goal Orientation-sometimes with multiple and simultaneous goals.

-Patience and Self-control-sitting still and quiet while others are thinking

-Personal Discipline-self-restraint and internal rather than external control

-Perseverance-even in the face of setbacks-determination to succeed

-Positive Social Values- friendship, honesty, fairness, justice, integrity

-Respect for others-both teammates and opponents

-Politeness, courtesy and manners-social conditioning to get along in society

-Civilized and socially-accepted behavior

-Coping with success (with magnanimity and grace) and failure (with fortitude and perseverance)

- Developing communication skills – communicating ideas with confidence in one’s abilities

-Tolerance- learning to inter-relate with others of different backgrounds and abilities

Chess Spells STRATEGY

S – Safe environment

Chess provides a safe environment to practice decision making, problem solving skills, and new tactics.                                                                                                                                                       Did you try something new?

T - Thinking skills

Chess teaches efficient methods in thinking by managing impulsivity and acting with forethought.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Did you take your time?

R – Rules

Chess teaches respect for rules of behavior.                                                          Did you play by the rules?

A – Adeptability

Chess gives opportunities to demonstrate competence. This builds confidence in ability to correct mistakes and improve performance.                                                                                                                        Did you improve?

T – Taking risks

Chess gives occasions to risk and to learn the consequences of choices. Chess provides opportunities for courageous decision making.                                                                                                                                              Did you show initiative?

E – Everyday applications

Chess applies habits of many everyday activities such as planning ahead, decision-making, setting priorities, and dealing with people with different goals.

Can you apply these skills at home or school?

G – Gracefulness

Chess teaches sportsmanship. Chess gives opportunity for winning and losing gracefully.

Did you practice good sportsmanship?

Y – Yardstick

Chess enables children to experience the gap between what they think they know and what really is accurate.  Chess acts as a yardstick to measure this self-discovery.

Did you learn something new?

In this way, Chess spells STRATEGY and teaches students how to think.

Chess—Chess Helps Every Student Succeed








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