Monday, 17 April 2017

Chess and maths

It is well known that world champions Emmanuel Lasker and Max Euwe were also mathematicians, but I was quite surprised to realise that I have played chess against five professors of mathematics, namely Peter Dankelmann, John van den Berg and his father Johan, Michael Henning and Max Euwe. I don't believe I have played any other professors! I have also played against a number of actuaries, who are also very good at maths. Is there a connection between chess and maths? Both are based on problem solving. Chess players make extensive use of logic and pattern recognition skills, as do mathematicians. I think this is the reason that playing chess appeals to many mathematicians.

There is a school of thought that says that teaching chess to children is a good thing, as it also teaches them skills that can be used in other fields, such as mathematics.

In Ms Msomi's classroom at Kati Primary, Mandlazini Village, near Richards Bay
"Master Moves Kids" provides chess lessons that are linked into the school syllabus. It is supported by donations from many of South Africa's biggest companies. In the picture above, the pupils are learning about files by placing coloured stickers on a chess board. They are also learning about chess notation, number sizes, bar charts and co-ordinates at the same time!

There are lots of possibilities to learn whilst also having fun with chess. Take for example the piece values. When we exchange pieces, you have to add up how much each piece is worth and then say which is greater. Do we win or lose if we trade two minor pieces for a Rook? One final example, how do you move a Rook from a1, so that it touches every square on the board only once? My immediate reaction was the lawn mower method, but there is another, more elegant, solution. Think about it!