I am giving tutoring to a high school student since more than one year and half. He is about 17 years old. He has excellent results in mathematics, being best student in his class for the last year and half and he would finally understand every concept I want to teach up to now.

His parents told me the first time we met that they'd like me to teach math, maybe in a more recreational way than school, even though it is up to me to decide.

It has been several days I'm wondering myself if it is appropriate to play Chess with him. I like chess since a long time, I know it has a lot of relations with the mathematics, with the logic, many applications in computer science, game theory and so on. So would it be appropriate playing chess with him?

During the one hour and half I spend teaching to him every week, I was thinking of proposing him a 15 minutes per player game. Maybe proposing him to start 15 minutes before the end of his lesson and possibly allowing the game to last after his lesson, which is find for me because I like playing chess and I like spending time doing mathematics with him.

The cons I see in this idea is that Chess could be seen as a game and will not directly help him pursue his excellent grades in mathematics. Another con is that, although I like playing Chess, I'm not living thanks to it, nor playing at an excellent level. I only have 1500 elo. So maybe it is not so good playing with me for a student learning Chess?

I think when I was younger and went to optionnal math classes, I would have loved playing Chess with one of my math teacher but that logically didn't happen.

Finally, I did try something similar last week, spending the last 15 minutes of the class showing him the very first LaTeX commands. He told me he liked it!

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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because I don't think that it is really on-topic here. It seems to be asking for personal advice about how to tutor students, but narrowly focuses on the situation of a single tutor. The specifics here are unlikely to be of much use to other users. If you can expand the scope of the question to focus less on just your own situation (and perhaps to focus more broadly on games beyond chess), I would be happy to retract my vote. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson
    Jan 16, 2021 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ I have had parents of students that I tutor specifically request I play chess with them. But it is a simple conversation. Just ask them if it would be okay. It is up to your client, not really a pedagogical question. $\endgroup$
    – Carser
    Jan 16, 2021 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ I remember way back in time, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was in High School, the hands down unassailable school chess champion was a major Stoner. He couldn't do much else but damn he could play Chess! $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2021 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that chess has any particular relation to mathematics, at least not any more than drawing, or playing Super Mario Bros or tennis, or about a thousand other things. I've literally never had to know a single thing about chess to learn or do mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – Thierry
    Jan 16, 2021 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


It's a bad idea. (1) It's not that special. He can get a game from chess very easily from anyone. An individual session with you is not high value, not best use of time. (2) It will raise hackles.

I would suggest instead introducing some recreations that are less familiar instead. Playing Hex for instance is an idea. The value is much higher than chess, given he has (likely) never played it before. Whereas, he probably has chess exposure.

In addition, it allows you to segue to John Nash and the like (suggest the kid look it up in Wiki afterwards). Then maybe you can awaken some human interest in math, given the romanticism surrounding Nash.

And I'm sure there are many other things you could do that would be new/interesting to the kid, and look new to his parents. More than just pulling out the chess board. Another idea is experimental derivation of pi by dropping a needle (has the advantage of being interactive) versus a lecture.


“ I know it has a lot of relations with the mathematics, with the logic, many applications in computer science, game theory and so on.“

Do you know these specific relationships and are you prepared to introduce/explain these things in the context of the game? If so, that sounds like it should take quite a bit of preparation on your part to teach a complex game and the science it touches on. Might be worth it if you can do all of that. But if you are only merely aware that “one can apply computer science principles to chess”, then I don’t think doing this on the clock is the right move. Maybe just see if this student wants to hang out after math time is done and learn the game.


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