Teaching chess to children

The other day I was wondering how to teach chess to my son without brainwashing him with the various movement of the pieces and check mating. Things he does not appreciate too much. So I started searching methods and by asking questions on a large chess forum, I harvested some very valuable advice.

One grandmaster who gives lessons to children aged 5-6 advises to play games with reduced hardware. For example play a match with 8 pawns against eight pawns, the aim being to take all the pieces of the opponents, and where pawns can promote. Or play a game with reduced chessmen, eg queen and three pawns against knight, bishop and three pawns. Children are interested in taking (eating) the pieces of the opponent, the concept of mat is too abstract for them.

And as children also want to play with all the pieces, you can try to play one time (10-20 min) and then they count the points when the time is elapsed: 1 point per pawn, 3 for a bishop or knight, 5 for a rook and 9 for a queen. This chess teacher states to start small, first a match rook against rook and then add pieces, bit by bit. Queen, rook, bishop is easy, then the harder pieces in small games and later the chessmate. A tip: do not show en passant, it is too complicated!

Another recommendation by a specialist is to use handicrafts. Bring colored pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, and a notebook and it goes very well. If small kids do not yet know to move the pieces, add color to some of the boxes or trace a path (especially for the knight), etc. Generally, everything is based on equipment (scissors, crayons, erasers, post-it on the board wall to mark the boxes, etc …) and works fine at this age to learn a game like chess. Otherwise try to think of memory games like reconstruction of a single position that was on the wall board. Along the same lines, ask them to place on the chessboard a position of mate with a tower, or a queen, after having defined the patterns in a  previous meeting .

A panel discussion raised the question of whether we can really teach the rules of the game and chess and mate to kindergarten children? There are published chess handbooks for teachers, and many grandmasters are known to have learned the game around 6 years old. There is also a very simple version of a chess instruction book for kindergarten children. But some people are skeptical and think that it is better to teach other simple games first, like dice, poker or bridge. They think that in kindergarten, it is impossible to learn properly even just the rules of the game in 16 meetings (on a 1 hour per session, which is the maximum time for children ages 5 to 6 years on a single subject before they start to flutter to something else).

The only notion of checkmate, although it is the object of the game, is so complex to understand for children this age. Even after 30 sessions of one hour over the year, only 10 to 20% of children confusedly perceive what the checkmate is all about. One should therefore be aware that at that age, more than learning chess, this is an awareness of the game of chess that you can provide, and chess is then effectively a support to introduce notions of official instructions like two-way table entries, location in space and geometric concepts associated with socialization.

Is there a big difference when children reach seven years? Yes, when children are 6 years old, they develop a real capacity for learning and attention. It is not by chance that basic skills are fixed at this age. 20 minutes sessions are recommended, knowing that a child this age can really mobilize for only 7 minutes, but a 7 years old can stand a learning session lasting 45 minutes which appears as largely sufficient. While some students can assimilate some rules of the game it seems difficult. However, learning in a club with children this age, in a motivated public place, is in turn possible and successful. One way to teach is first to show how to move the pieces properly and then approach the checkmate. But ignore the en passant capture. Then provide group lessons with the whole class involved,  lasting about thirty minutes. After that the children play by 2. A session can last an hour. It is true that their attention is limited to ten minutes, but it varies, if they are interested in an activity it is more.

Are video games good for kids

Since the digital revolution in the early 2000s, children have started to invest more and more of their time into video games. Studies show that the average American 8th grader spends 23 hours a week playing video games as opposed to 12 hours invested in such games by average 8th grader in 2001.

The average amount of time gathered by various studies carried out on the topic has increased a lot, although it has not yet been proven, whether video games are really worth the time spent on them or are just a waste of time and energy.

Pros of video games

First of all, we must consider that video games have become far more advanced than they were a decade ago. The graphics and the complexity of the games is more and more similar to what can be experienced in real life.

For example, several professional motorsports drivers have admitted that they are training for different circuits on video games, as the game features are very similar to the real circuit. Even some colleges use some video games in their studies. For example the University of Florida, University of California-Berkeley, Boston College and several other colleges use a video game called Starcraft in their management studies, as they believe it is a great way to develop stategical thinking of their students.

Besides the ability of different video games to develop the thinking and brain of young children, it has also been found that video games motivate children to learn different topics that they need at the game. For example, in Jyvaskyla University in Finland a research found that 6-7 year-old children, who started playing different video games at an open-ended computer environment were much more eager to learn reading and writing than the other children at their age. Also the children who took part in the survey increased their peripheral vision and language skills in English quite significantly.

Cons of video games

On the other hand video games also may have negative effects on the mental health of children. Already in 1992 Japanese professor Takashi Sakamoto found that children at the ages on 11-13, who were playing computer games most of their time, were less creative and emphatic than the other kids at their age range.

After the invention of different social networks like Facebook, children can get connected with other kids at any time, whether it would be in a game, smart phone or just a chat online. Although the quantity of communication has increased, the quality of information seems to have decreased. At the end it may result with social disconnection and increase in likelyhood for depression.

As children are spending more time playing multiple electronic games, the rate of video game addiction is also growing. Addiction in any area in life is not healthy, especially for young developing minds. Usually video game addiction results in increased aggressiveness, social disconnection with family and friends and lower academic achievement.

In a study conducted by Iowa State university it was found that nearly one in ten youths is addicted to video games. One of the main dangers in that particular addiction is that the player may lose sense between the fantasy world and the real world. In several cases children have found to be trying to imitate violence seen in video games. Many researchers suggest that there may also be a link between playing violent video games and bullying.

All in all, video games may have both positive effects and negative effects on children.

On one hand they increase different mental skills, on the other hand overuse of them may result in various mental health problems, lack of creative thinking and empathy. Overall we must admit that in healthy doses video games may have a positive effect on the development of children. As in every other area of life, there must be found a balance – a balance between video games and other activities, a balance between the real world and the fantasy world.

the Rubik’s cube

Everything You Need to Know about the Rubik’s Cube

The Rubik’s cube has been in existence since the mid 1970’s. This famous toy was named after its inventor Erno Rubik.

Each cube is made up of 6 sides each has a distinctively different color. There have been a number of different color cubes released in the later years but the original colors (orange, yellow, green, white, red and blue) remains the norm. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? The answer will surprise you.

The inventor Rubik first had it released in his home country Hungary where it was a huge success. Convincing the authorities to let him market his clever puzzle to the rest of the world proved to be a daunting task at first, but he was finally granted the patent to do just that.

This was just in time for the dawning of the 1980′, and it was such a massive hit that by the end of 1983, a total number of 100,000,000 units had been sold. The interesting thing about all these sales statistics is that the majority of these toy puzzles went on to remain unsolved.

It is estimated that at least one in every 8 people in the world has had an encounter with one of these cubes. The degree of distribution of the toy since its introduction makes it one of, if not the most famous puzzle toys of all time. Solving it takes a high level of concentration coupled with patience and mental fortitude.

The difficulty aspect of this puzzle is so high that the possible numbers of wrong moves are unquantifiable. This is why most people gather that calling it a toy does not accord it fair justice. The people who have managed to solve this puzzle testify that at first the whole experience is usually frustrating. When interviewed, they always cite their growth in skills stemming from an interaction they had with the cube while growing up or at some early stages in their lives.

To a normal human being, the cube may take days on end without making any significant progress. This could be due to the fact that regular people do not understand that there is a formula to solving this famous puzzle. How is it that the world record for the fastest Rubik’s cube solving is 5.66 seconds? The answer is speed cubing, this is where people try to solve the puzzle as fast as possible. And they used so-called algorithms, which are sequences of moves to be memorized in order to solve a specific part of the problem.

The world record holder, Feliks Zemdegs is one such fan of the speed cubing techniques. The cube’s impact on the world was so tremendous that it has been made into a sport. This is where enthusiasts of the cube get to compete trying to outdo each other.

Speed cubing involves a large category of disciplines. There is an event that seeks to determine the best competitor by having them solve a series of cubes in short time. Times from each cube are tallied and the one with the least recorded gets the tag of “best in the world”, at least till the next competition is held. There is also a blind folded class where participants compete as well.

All this continued interest has effectively ensured that the Rubik’s cube remains a relevant and integral part of our society and culture. It is a great games for kids, who can learn eye hand coordination, geometry, mathematical sequencing and much more.