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Literature Review of Chess Studies

In a systematic review of the literature, this report examined the degree to which existing empirical evidence supports the theory that participation in chess programs, whether designed as in-school or after-school programs, resulted in improved academic, cognitive, and/or behavioral outcomes for school-aged children. Twenty-four studies met a set of pre-determined criteria for eligibility and were included in analyses. The literature review found that after-school chess programs had a positive and statistically significant impact on mathematics outcomes and in-school chess interventions had a positive and statistically significant impact on mathematics and cognitive outcomes. While the two primary outcomes are based on studies that used rigorous research design methodologies, the results should be interpreted cautiously given the small number of eligible studies that the pooled results encompass (two high-quality after-school studies and six high-quality in-school studies). The after-school chess studies examined competitive chess clubs and provided very little detail about how the programs were implemented. On the other hand, the in-school chess studies examined scholastic chess programs that use chess as a springboard to work on cognitive and academic skills that are critical to student performance. The positive mathematics and cognitive outcome results from in-school chess studies may be explained by the chess programs being incorporated into students’ weekly academic schedules, instruction during the school day leading to higher attendance rates and lower attrition, administering the program for an extended period of time, and connecting the intervention with math instruction and curriculum.