STEM Skills

STEM is a relatively new method of education for children where the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are taught “in coherence” rather than in isolation.

STEM is all about applying the following educational principles (from Kidpillar.com):

Suitable Ages for Learning STEM

Current thinking, with respect to ages suitable for learning STEM, is the earlier the better. This is because the brain develops and is “wired” in the early years. Four years of age seems to be a generally accepted starting point for this kind of learning, though there are some programs that start even earlier.

A NASA test that was applied to 1,600 children showed that 98% of children are born geniuses, while the % falls as follows: 4-5 years – 98%; 10 years – 30%; 15 years – 12%; Adults – average -2%. Children’s high scores are the result of their innovative and divergent imagination. As they grow up, their imagination becomes convergent resulting in a drop in intelligence. Children learn better if they bypass the traditional rote learning method. Researchers are now saying that we should not interfere with how kids naturally learn.

Chess and STEM

Chess is a great medium for teaching STEM. The game of chess enables students use their brains to find creative solutions to complex problems. Using chess to teach STEM involves having children solve puzzles that draw upon chess elements (e.g. partial chess boards, fewer pieces) and piece attributes (e.g. mobility, point value and colour), working either individually or collaboratively with classmates. This is less complex than having to deal with a full 64-square board with a full complement of pieces. For younger learners, neat supporting stories can also be added to make the puzzles fun and interesting. According to Márk Szávin, a chess and logic teacher at LearningChess (Hungary):

“Problems arising on the chessboard are universal, so the skills can be more easily transferred to other domains where they can be used successfully. The development of mathematical logic, generalization, and thinking in systems is enormously helpful for grasping the essentials of STEM domains.”

At Chess Institute of Canada, we license technology developed by Mark/LearningChess to teach STEM to our students aged 5 years of age and older. Our instructors receive a combination of lecture and hands-on training and they learn to teach STEM in five key areas:

Our instructors are also encouraged to develop their own STEM puzzles and to add them to our teaching curriculum.

SAMPLE STEM Skills Chess Problem - MATH on the chessboard

Guidelines

Experimenting is important. Identify and avoid dead ends. We encourage the students to solve this problem in their heads; also to use backtracking when the sum is less than 10. This forces the working memory to high performance as information about the accumulated sum as well as the path must be kept in mind. We tell students to collect 10 points to make the puzzle more concrete and easier to accomplish.

Areas of development: strategic planning, arithmetic, problem-solving.

Displayed with permission from Márk Szávin/LearningChess.

In this Chess960 starting position, what surprising first move could you make as White?

(Click puzzle for solution)
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