Algebra For Beginners Using Chess Pieces

We prepared a set of fun math exercises inspired by the way pro chess players calculate every possible move during a game. Download these fun, free math exercises and introduce your child to the point system of chess, while getting a first stab at algebra.

You probably know that chess players often sacrifice their own pieces in a game, if they stand to win one or more of the opponent’s pieces in the process.
But did you also know that they use a specific point system to help them assess whether the exchange of pieces will leave them in a better or worse position?

Each chess piece has its own point value indicating the strength of the piece, so by comparing the point value of the pieces they stand to win to the point value of the pieces they stand to lose, they can make a quick decision as to whether to pursue this option versus other options. This obviously involves thinking several moves ahead. So they might decide to sacrifice two of their own pieces in exchange for just one of the opponent’s pieces, if the combined point values of the pieces still fall in their favor.

Experienced chess players have probably internalized these calculations to a point, where they instinctively know whether a certain move would be beneficial or not. But anyone new to chess will need to consciously do this math as they are considering their next move.

Doing math with a non-numeric object could be compared to a very simple type of algebra. Granted, the “objects” have constant (and not variable) values, but the notion of solving math problems by assigning a number value to an object requires a small shift in thinking to the untrained mind not unlike that needed for understanding the basic principles of algebra. It introduces an obstacle that can bring the mind’s internal calculator out of its comfort zone until it has become familiar with this simple point system.

In reality there are different theories about which point values that most accurately express the strength of each chess piece, but hey, this is not an article on chess theory. The most widespread method goes back to the 18th century and can be described as the 1/3/3/5/9 system, which indicates the values assigned to the chess pieces.

Note: The king is normally not assigned a value, since the game ends if the king is captured anyway.

Based on the point values of chess pieces above, we created 24 simple addition and subtraction exercises with a chess twist. They are a great way to challenge a young mind with the added benefit of sneaking in basic chess knowledge. So if your kid turns out to be the World’s next great chess master, please remember where it all started.

To download a printable PDF with these free exercises, please click the image below:

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