News > Vancouver Courier on Chess moves provide mathematical insight, Vancouver math tutor program
Vancouver Courier on Chess moves provide mathematical insight, Vancouver math tutor program
Vancouver newspaper Courier reports Ho Math and Chess Vancouver math tutor, chess tutor, and Vancouver Summer Program -- Sep 10, 2008 --

Vancouver Courier published on 11/22/2006

Chess moves provide mathematical insight

By Mark Hasiuk-Staff writer

A Vancouver math tutor is using the ancient game of chess to help students checkmate problems with math.

Frank Ho is the founder of Math + Chess, a tutoring company headquartered in Kerrisdale that offers once-a-week sessions to students from Grades K-12, although he mostly deals with elementary school children.

Ho said his unique teaching method combines the elements of fun and competition with the mathematical principles required to play chess.

"The goal is to checkmate your opponent, but to do that you need to devise patterns and visualize a chess diagram and come to a numerical conclusion," said Ho, adding that students compete against each other or an instructor.

Ho said young chess players develop math skills more advanced than what they learn during their regular school studies.

"If kids play chess at an early stage, six or seven years old, they in fact are learning mathematics principles they won't learn until Grades 4 and 5," he said.

"In school, children learn in simple one line patterns like 2, 4, 6, 8, from left to right or sometimes vertically. When they get older they get into fractions and cross multiplying, but we train them to think in a multi-directional way at an early age."

Ho emigrated from Taiwan in 1978 and earned a masters degree in statistics before becoming a statistical consultant at UBC. He started Math + Chess in 1995, after watching his son-who is studying medicine at the University of Manitoba-become Canada's youngest chess master at the age of 12.

Ho studied the relationship between math and chess in textbooks and several academic journals, and became convinced that combining the two disciplines could benefit young students.

"Math problem-solving can get boring because you are basically just competing with your brain," he said. "This is a hands-on approach of friendly competition where students can see a result before their very eyes."

Ho's Kerrisdale learning centre now tutors approximately 200 kids a month at $34 for a two-hour session.

The success of his Vancouver operation allowed Ho to franchise, and there are now Math + Chess outlets in Burnaby, Richmond, a handful in the United States and one each in India and Mexico.

Mary Zahrai enrolled her six-year-old daughter in Math + Chess so she would have an easier time with her regular studies.

"Her problem-solving has really improved," said Zahrai, "I thought it might be too complicated for her, but it's been really good for her brain. She is doing very well with her school math, and I know she likes the challenge of competition when playing chess with the other kids."

Vancouver Courier published on 11/22/2006