Learning by Teaching

When you learn, teach. When you get, give. ~ Maya Angelou

Today I want to talk about another idea that I think you can use to improve your chess game.

That idea is to teach others.

Most of the time when we learn something, we quickly forget it.

learners retain approximately:

  • 5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.
  • 10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
  • 20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
  • 30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
  • 50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
  • 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
  • 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.


   So when you teach someone, you learn it the best. This is because you are forced to actively use your brain when teaching.

  I know that just writing this blog and my Tactics Time e-mail newsletters has helped me in my own chess games. I can think of specific games, and positions where a tactical motif came up that I had written about.

   For example, recently I was playing Isaac Martinez in a USCF rated G/90, when I thought to myself, “Self, There is a possible Hook Mate!” I understood this pattern really well from writing about it.

   When I got the chance to play it, I whipped it out, and Paul Covington, who was watching the game said “Nice Checkmate!” My girlfriend was there that night too, so I felt extra cool ;-)

   Some ideas how you can use the idea of teaching to improve your own chess game

  • Write an article for your local chess club or state chess magazine. As a former editor, I know they are always looking for good content. I was normally happy to even get bad content :-)
  • Create a “Tactics Time Guest Newsletter”, and I will send it out to my subscribers.  (You do not need to worry about the formatting, just e-mail me the content).
  • Write a chess blog, or comment on other people’s blogs.
  • Create a YouTube video where you explain some chess idea. You can even do it using puppets and costumes, like Anthea Carson and I did when promoting her book, How to Play Chess Like an Animal :-)
  • Answer questions on chess forums, such as the one on reddit.com, which tends to have a lot of beginners.
  • Teach a child or friend to play.
  • Ask yourself “If I had to explain this idea to someone, how would I do it”?
  • Print out some of my newsletters, and explain the tactics in them to someone who is just learning the game.  In the recent podcast that I did with Randy Reynolds, he mentions that he often uses my newsletters to teach his elementary school aged students.
  • Post about chess on facebook and twitter, sharing a lesson learned from your latest game.
  • Teach your cat if no one else is around :-)

   I am sure you can come up with lots of additional ideas yourself.

   If you have any good ideas on this subject, please add them in the comments below!

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