Is There an "A" in Chess?

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Updated on Jun 11, 2013

Much is made about the positive effect of playing chess on cognitive abilities like critical thinking and pattern recognition. But is it really true that chess improves cognitive functioning? If so, it stands to reason that playing chess can improve grades. In this experiment we'll try to find out if this theory is true.


Does playing chess improve academic performance?


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Color printer
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, glue, etc.
  • 40 student volunteers (under 18) who do NOT know how to play chess.
  • 20 standard tournament chess sets
  • 20 chess boards
  • An official copy of the standardized rules of chess.


  1. Read overview of relevant topics (see bibliography below and terms listed above)
  2. Address all of the above terms and research questions.
  3. Search and print out interesting chess-related images.
  4. Take photographs throughout the course of the experiment.
  5. Find 40 student volunteers who do NOT know how to play chess.
  6. Record the overall Grade Point Average (GPA) for each individual. Also record the GPAs by subject.
  7. Randomly divide the volunteers into two groups. Calculate the average GPA (overall and by subject) for each group.
  8. Have one group learn the rules of chess and practice the game for an hour a day, five days per week, for about eight weeks.
  9. At the time of the next report card, recalculate the averages mentioned above, and compare the chess group against the control group.
  10. Analyze your data.
  11. Interpret your findings in a detailed report.
  12. Include interesting photos, diagrams and models in your science fair display.
Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials. Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.

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