Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Memory Chess and Exercising a Cognitive Skills

I read an article about Susan Polgar once and I remember reading that she can look at a chess board for 10 seconds and replicate where up to 32 pieces were on the board with nearly 100% accuracy.  Or, some such
thing like that (my memory might be a bit dim about the facts of this).  This might be a common element in a professional chess player or teachers practice, but it was new to me.
Start simple with few pieces and build up some confidence.  All students could get this kind of setup.
I thought I'd try the technique with students in Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking class offered at WRHS for credit.  I called it Memory Chess and started with low numbers of pieces and simplistic board setups.  I gradually introduced more complexity and reminded students how to memorize what they are seeing on the board.
Chunk information and look for relationships.  Introduce more complexity to the puzzles.
The procedure was to use it as a bell-ringer or beginning activity to engage the students by moving through five boards displayed on the Promethean board (a fancy shmancy SMART board that projects images from the computer on the wall).  I displayed the image for 10 seconds, then removed it and let the students try to replicate the image on a real board.  As a bone I threw in a Porth Buck (extra credit) for each student that got it right.  They thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and eagerly waited for us to play this each day.
Identify patterns and visualize preceding events (what opening did white begin with?)
I think the students could have done this all hour!   They would keep working until I displayed the board again and they could check their work.  After five a day for a week, I noticed that some students really did improve their memory.
Recognize relationships between pieces and the board (my mistake was another lesson, white has an extra knight )
As a nice way to integrate (hence the name of the class - Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking) the lesson into their other subjects, I asked students if they had teachers that said, "Don't forget to study your notes for the test tomorrow!"   Of course this is (unfortunately) common practice in high school settings.  So, yes, everyone had teachers like this.  But, do any of the teachers actually show students how to assimilate the information they "study?"
Recognizing consequences of exchanges.  Students were able to remember boards like this by the end of one week.
I had the students tell me how they remembered where the pieces went.  They successfully identified the mental skills necessary for memorizing or remembering the board setup, that could be applied to studying other information:

1.  chunk information into similar groups (on the board).
2.  identify relationships (between pieces and between pieces and the board).
3.  identify patterns (e.g., bishops side by side, castled kings, etc.).
4.  visualize preceding process (i.e., how the pieces moved to get to where they ended up).
5.  visualize subsequent process (i.e., what the pieces will do next).
6.  recognize consequence (e.g., checkmate in one).

When I listed these ideas on the dry board, students immediately recognized how they might better study for all their classes.  And Tanya exclaimed, "We should do this every day."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive