South 2 North

Counting check mates

What do time-travel, chaos theory and skyscrapers have in common with chess? We discuss the mathematics.

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2013 07:45
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No subject is off limits - Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

What do time-travel, chaos theory and skyscrapers have in common? They all involve mathematics. But is there a reason why girls seem to do worse at maths than boys? And how does playing chess make you better at maths?

This week on South2North Redi speaks to Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov; Mamokgethi Phakeng, the vice principal of research and innovation at the University of South Africa; and junior chess champion Tshepang Tlale about maths and chess.

Kasparov explains the findings of his foundation, noting that chess can be played by the young and the old, across all countries and languages.

"Chess is a game that goes across all barriers ... You might call it a form of psychological warfare, because at the end of the day you are not simply comparing your notes, or trying to find the ultimate truth, it’s about winning or losing." 

Phakeng, the first black woman in South Africa to receive a PhD in mathematical education, explains where maths and chess can aid each other.

"The similarity between chess and maths is that it requires discipline. You’ve got to have focus, you’ve got to have patience. Introducing chess to schools in and of itself, will not solve our problems, all our problems. It can help, and it can get some of the learners that you don't identify or who might not have an opportunity to shine and develop their skills - they may be better at chess."

Tlale tells Redi how her commitment to maths has taught her skills she has used in other aspects of her life.

"I believe that since I started playing chess at a young age, before I even went to school, that it gave me the mental capacity to be able to concentrate more, to be able to take in work and know how to handle it. In the game of chess you have to have a strategy, so even when it comes to my exams I must have a strategy .... It also teaches you discipline, because it’s always one move at a time. You can’t do two moves at a time and you also have to wait for your partner to move back .... That’s how it is also in life." 

The group discusses the introduction of gaming in teaching maths, the effects a national drop in maths ability can have on the economy, as well as the role of language in understanding maths.

South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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