Chess for general development: the history of the development program

    All my life I had two parallel professional interests: programming (and computers in a broader sense), and psychology. When I worked as a psychologist in state educational institutions, my life was very meaningful, I felt that I was good to the world (and I’m ready to say that it brought it to some individuals), but I didn’t have clear thinking, “think about” tasks, and IT salary -shnika. When I worked as a programmer, there were no problems with tasks and money, but I was stifled by the feeling of general senselessness from the need to solve other people's tasks, to work for the goals of other people, not related to my personal feeling of the need to bring “good” to the world (whatever that means) .

    But once I was very lucky - I was involved in the project “Chess for General Development”, where to this day I combine the responsibilities of a programmer, psychologist, school teacher, and many others. I want to talk about this.

    Three years ago, Professor V.K. approached me at a psychological party . Zaretsky said, “Alexey, let's already do the chess program.” I agreed, and we began to come up with a program that allows students to solve chess problems on a mat in one move.
    I’ll immediately notice that there are a lot of chess programs, but they all implement the same approach to learning - the user is asked to solve problems or play against the computer on a virtual chessboard, while the program is usually ready to helpfully suggest the strongest move, that’s all. Learn chess as you like. Professor Zaretsky, however, was engaged in (and continues to do) human development, and uses chess material as the basis for developing the ability to act in the mind. It’s not just to make a chess move in your mind, but in a broader sense, to learn to see yourself from the outside, to plan your own activities (primarily educational, since it works with students, but not only it). Psychologists call this the phrase "reflection of their own activity."
    If someone is interested in the psychological side of the method, I will gladly tell you in detail in personal correspondence (since the subject of the resource is different), and in the article I will focus on the general description of the program, as well as on some technical details and nuances.

    Since the use of the program was planned in various schools of the country and abroad, the format of the web application was immediately selected. Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, JavaScript, Heroku. The content of the program is divided into two parts - the tasks themselves (there are six stages of these tasks at the moment) and the wrapper (creating teachers and their classes, students, statistics, instructions, etc.).

    An unexpected problem was the need to identify students in the program, because not every first-grader has an email address, but it is necessary to distinguish them somehow. Therefore, it was decided to identify teachers according to the standard email + password scheme, and to give students in a special way generated unique keys (which they should write down in their diary and never lose).

    At the moment, the program includes six stages of tasks, each of which consists of several types, and in total offers 167 difficulty levels. The main psychological ideas that determined the implementation - stepwise progression from simple to complex and at the same time movement in solving problems from a large number of material supports (in other words, various tools that facilitate the solution) to work in the "ideal" plane (that is, when the student sees before is an empty contour of a chessboard, and must complete all necessary operations in the mind).

    The progress from the material to the ideal mental action plan can be illustrated by the following pictures from the first stage of the program.
    Task 1.1.1Task 1.1.3Task 1.1.5Task 1.1.7Task 1.1.8
    Stage 1 is called "Tasks for selecting a field from the plane of the board", and is aimed at developing the simplest ability to select a board field at a specified address, as well as perform the opposite operation (call the address of a specific field). In tasks of the first type “Field color”, you need to learn how to find the field at the address and correctly name its color. For elementary school students of this type, assignments are very popular, kids are delighted, sit for hours, performing these simple tasks.

    At the first difficulty level (first picture), you need to pave a green chip from the a1 field to the desired field (in this case e3), on the third damage you need to immediately mark the field with a black and white chip, on the fifth you need to do the same, but the board on the screen lacking signatures, level 7 deprives the coloring board, and level 8 is just an empty square (and the task remains the same - to determine the color of the field). Of course, the target field is randomly generated each time.

    For example, can you blindly call the color of the field a1? And the fields f6? But the singer who worked with our program can!

    Here is a list of all stages of the program:
    Stage 1. Tasks for selecting a field from the plane of the board.
    Stage 2. Tasks for selecting a line from the plane of the board.
    Stage 3. Tasks for highlighting the field configuration.
    Stage 4. Tasks for finding the line intersection field.
    Stage 5. Mat tasks in one move.
    Stage 6. Tasks on the mat in two moves.

    The logic of the gradual transfer of mental action from the material plane to the ideal is preserved in all types of tasks at all stages of the program. The first stage is usually easily completed by first-graders in a few lessons, the tasks of the sixth stage sometimes cause difficulties for grandmasters.

    The tasks of the first four stages are not chess in the strict sense, and are generated in the browser at runtime, the tasks of stages 5 and 6 are entered into the program using a special task editor and stored in the database. In the pictures below you can see examples of decision trees for the mat problem in one move and the mat in two moves, respectively.

    Currently, the program is widely used in schools, colleges, universities and other educational and medical institutions of Moscow, as well as in Quebec (Canada) and some other cities around the world, work is also underway to translate the program interface into French (in addition to English and German). People who systematically work with the program talk not only about improving their own chess competence, but also about improving the perception of the road situation (“I began to see interchanges in 3D”), and about the developed ability to memorize a sequence of 20 digits once, there are even reports of the form "I began to better plan my life." However, while these are preliminary results, in the future we plan to conduct a fundamental psychological study of the effect of working with the program on different age groups.

    I will be happy to answer any questions both about the technical structure of the program, and about the psychological component (if it seems interesting to someone).

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