Today in society the digital world reigns supreme. This includes leisure activities for the younger generations. Playstation, Xbox, IPads, Mobile devices are just a fraction of the ways the digital world is inserted into the real world. The RPG (Role Playing Game) is a huge proponent for this growing market. Children of all ages seem to be attracted to this form of gaming. If one were to remove the incredible graphics and sounds, the foundation of these games is simple, strategy. It is the underlying object for all of these types of games.
J.C. Harsanyi, R. Selten and John Nash combined to win the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work in Game Theory. Many at the time did not see the relationship between the two vastly different subjects until Nash made a discovery known as the “Nash Equilibrium (or Programme).” Basically Game Theory has two areas: Co-Operative (Coalitional) games and Non-Cooperative (Strategic) games. Mr. Nash’s find roughly claims that no player can gain advantage through a unilateral change of strategy assuming the others do not change what they are doing—or that one should be able to reduce all co-operative games into some non-cooperative form.
Combinatorial Game Theory studies strategies, problem solving and mathematics of two-player games like the PRG’s that are prevalent today. But how can we also draw on this in our Montessori classrooms and have the children learn as well as enjoy the activity? The answer is quite simple, Chess (or, “the King’s Game”).
Chess has been around since some time before the 7th century and is played by millions of people worldwide. Although traditionally referred to as “The King’s Game”, the average age of a player now is 20 years old. Chess involves knowledge, comprehension, analysis, evaluation, all of which are pivotal in critical thinking. It requires forethought and visualization skills, improves problem solving, and teaches concentration and self-discipline. Chess encourages the child to overcome the fear of risk-taking as well as helps socialization skills that extend across cultures and generations. It enables the child to assume responsibility for their decisions, teaches concentration and self-discipline, rewards determination and perseverance while promoting self-esteem and good sportsmanship, not to mention that it promotes math skills, enhanced memory, and reasoning.
Teaching children Chess allows, as Woman International Master Beatriz Marinello said, “a sort of ‘Zen’ quality of symmetry, equality and fair play.” Changes in human behavior, Game Theory and advances in technology have gone hand and hand in catapulting human intelligence into new and other dimensions. Rather than allowing technology and advancements to slow down the intellectual muscle, shouldn’t we take a strategic stance on nurturing the brain towards a goal of higher cognitive development? Whether Chess is taught in the classroom, in Extended Day, or at home the benefits for the child’s growth and development are numerous. By exposing a child to the game of Chess we are helping them in various ways educationally, socially, technology comprehension and just plain fun.
Hercule Poirot said it best: “It is the brain, the little grey cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within - not without.”