UTD To Teach Chess to Dallas Elementary Students
Pilot Program at DISD Sites Funded by Two Community Foundations

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), home of the nation’s top collegiate chess team, will bring its formidable chess prowess to bear on a new quarry – helping South Dallas elementary school students improve their academic performance and boost their self-esteem, while building their chess acumen.

Under a unique pilot program funded by two local community foundations, two members of the UTD chess team will teach dozens of fifth- and sixth-grade students at two Dallas Independent School District (DISD) sites how to play chess. In addition to the in-class lessons, the UTD team members will implement an after-school chess program at each school.

The lessons, which will consist of nine hours of instruction a week for an entire semester beginning in January, are aimed at producing better students as well as conveying chess fundamentals.

“Researchers have found that children who play chess – even at a beginning level – score higher on standardized reading and math tests,” said Tim Redman, a professor of literary studies at UTD and director of the university’s chess program. “Experts are not entirely certain why that happens, but they suspect that the cognitive processes used in chess are similar to those employed in learning in the classroom.

“This is an effort to reach into inter-city Dallas and, through a vehicle that appeals to their sense of fun and competitive spirit, lift children up in both mind and spirit,” said Redman, a past president of the U.S. Chess Federation.

The chess training is being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Foundation for Community Empowerment and the Todd Wagner Foundation, both of Dallas. The money will fund two teaching assistantships, to be filled by UTD chess team members.

The pair will train fifth and sixth graders at two Dallas schools, Charles Rice Elementary and the Daniel “Chappie” James Learning Center, both located near Fair Park. They will also provide guidance to selected classroom teachers who will take part in the program.

“I am delighted that this partnership between the foundations, UTD and DISD has come together to benefit students in such a unique way,” said Shirley Ison-Newsome, DISD’s area 2 superintendent. “Chess offers the opportunity for developing critical thinking skills, as well as being a fun activity after school. I am hopeful that we will be expanding the program to other south and west Dallas schools next year.”

“Virtually every school has a gymnasium so that students can improve their physical well-being,” Redman said. “We view the game of chess as a gymnasium for the mind. By their actions, the Foundation for Community Empowerment, the Todd Wagner Foundation and the DISD have demonstrated their interest in exploring unorthodox means of developing the intellect of these young people.”

Redman said that he will consider the new program a success “if a student who has received instruction comes to UTD in six or seven years on a chess scholarship, then goes back into the community to share his or her skills with other youngsters – the student becomes the teacher and the cycle begins again.”

This fall, UTD became the first university in the country to offer online “Chess and Education” courses aimed at K-12 educators seeking new ways to incorporate chess into their classroom curricula. Teachers from a number of DISD schools are enrolled in the courses, which are offered via UT TeleCampus, the distance-learning arm of The University of Texas System.

Chess is part of UTD’s emphasis on “cerebral sports,” which includes a nationally ranked debate program and strong entries in creative problem solving and College Bowl competitions. Redman started the chess program at UTD six years ago and has built it into one of the top such programs in the nation.

Last spring, UTD won the “Final Four” of college chess, claiming the title as the top collegiate chess team in the United States. Also this year, the U.S. Chess Federation named UTD “Chess College of the Year.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].