Checkmate! Teachers learn to use chess in classroom

Published 1:55 pm Friday, July 10, 2015

By Beth Hyatt
The Greenville Advocate


That’s a word Butler County Schools math students may soon be hearing in the classroom.

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Teachers from W.O. Parmer, Greenville Elementary, Greenville Middle and Georgiana School attended a workshop in Montgomery July 6-9 to learn how to incorporate the game of chess into math classes.

The workshop gave the teachers the opportunity to learn the rules of chess themselves while finding ways to turn the game into a learning opportunity. Each school was able to send two to three teachers and one gifted teacher for the county. The teachers involved in this workshop were Belinda Cook and Mallie Killpatrick, Greenville Elementary School; Ashley Simmons, gifted program; Stephanie Conner and Quendolyn Carmichael, Greenville Middle School; Tim Hattaway, Jaqueline Anderson and Marcus Nichols, W.O. Parmer Elementary School; and Ken Hamilton and Jessica Morgan, Georgiana School.

The grant is called the State Department of Education (SDE) Chess in Schools Initiative and covered the cost of the workshop for the teachers who attended. This grant lasts for three years and will give the previously mentioned schools access to teaching and training materials for each student in the class as well as an interactive online program called Chess Kid which allows the students to practice their chess skills.

The idea came to Dr. Tera Simmons when she received a memorandum about the program from the SDE. She then shared the information with the schools and the idea was quickly accepted. Within a month after applying for the program, Simmons heard word that they had received the grant.

This program represents a great leap in the education field; this is the first time in the United States that chess has been embedded in scholastic curriculum, according to Tera Simmons.

“Chess improves a student’s problem solving skills and critical thinking skills. I hope that we will be able to organize not only a district and state competition this year, but I also envision the students playing students in other countries in a competition via the web,” said Tera Simmons.

The teachers involved enjoyed the experience and were excited to find new methods of teaching. It is believed that chess will help the students develop or improve their problem solving skills as well as critical thinking skills. Research has shown that there are many educational benefits that accompany children who play chess.

“One of my goals for gifted services in the county is to improve students’ problem solving skills and thinking strategies by creating chess teams and hopefully competing in tournaments,” said Ashley Simmons, gifted teacher for the county.

The program is set to come into effect this August.

The teachers who attended, as well as Tera Simmons, have high hopes for the success of the program and cannot wait to bring it into the classroom.

“I am so excited at the possibilities and how the game of chess can help students become better problem solvers. Not only will it help the students academically, but it also teaches character and social skills such as perseverance, grit and teasmanship,” said Tera Simmons.