By TYLER MASK
Who said learning can't be fun? Better yet, why not make it a game? Tuesday night's Mineral Wells ISD School Board meeting welcomed Houston Elementary to the podium to discuss a new program they have initiated in their grades two and three classrooms. It is a classic. Chess club.
Houston Elementary Second-Grade Teacher Robin Wilson led the chess presentation, teaching the board about the complications of math, their hesitations in incorporating chess into the curriculum and how they feel about the game now.
“As a math teacher, it can be a challenge to get students to think beyond basic math operations,” Wilson said. “For second- and third-graders, abstract thinking needs to be taught, but how? How can we begin to foster the mental math process?”
Enter “First Move,” an educational chess program that has left Houston Elementary teachers and students raving about its benefits. Teachers consider First Move a powerful and dynamic in-classroom curriculum for second- and third-graders. The program utilizes chess as a tool for increasing critical thinking skills, reading aptitude, math, writing and social and behavioral skills.
Early in the school year, grades two and three math instructors were approached about the program. Their first concern was that none of them were very familiar with the game. Because of the history and intellectually daunting stigma behind the game of old, all the teachers worried about the idea of incorporating chess into their classrooms, while at the same time their curiosity was sparked.
“Not one of the math teachers at Houston jumped in and said, 'Oh yeah, I can play chess,'” Wilson said. “It's a game, and we were just plain intimidated. So, we sat through an almost three-hour presentation by the 'Chess Lady,' showing hundreds of kids playing chess through the First Move program, and we were intrigued. Could our kids do this?”