April 21, 2024

BRIDGING THE GAP BEFORE IT’S TIME

THE CASE FOR INCLUDING BRIDGE PLAYING INTO SCHOOL PROGRAMMING

By Carmen Greger

Bridging the Gap Before It’s Time

Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, once said, “I wouldn’t mind going to jail if I had three cellmates who played bridge.” While Buffett’s sentiments may seem extreme, they underscore the profound value that playing bridge, a card game, can offer. Bridge is not just a game but a rich source of cognitive, strategic, and critical thinking development. It is profoundly evident that bridge should be taught in schools for the vast array of benefits it provides, as eloquently explained in the TEDx Talks by Sunil Varghese and Dr. Paranjape.

Why Bridge?

Bridge is not just a game of chance but a fusion of mathematics, psychology, communication, and logical reasoning. It is a mental workout that necessitates teamwork, strategic thinking, and sharp decision-making skills. These attributes are increasingly valued in an ever-evolving world that prizes not just knowledge but the ability to analyze, innovate, and adapt.

Sunil Varghese, in his TEDx Talk, “Bridge- The Ultimate Mind Game,” goes in-depth into the cerebral gymnastics involved in playing bridge. “A great bridge player,” he says, “always carries three things in his arsenal. First, memory; second, visualization; third, and most important, inferential reasoning.”

As Varghese further explains, bridge is not just about the cards you hold but about how you play them, a concept that resonates beyond the card table and into real-world decision-making. The very essence of the game lies in strategizing and planning, fostering critical thinking skills that prove invaluable in navigating the world.

The Science Behind Bridge

Neurologically, bridge’s multifaceted nature gives our brains a comprehensive workout. Dr. Paranjape, in his TEDx Talk, delves into how playing bridge can enhance our cognitive function; “Bridge is a game of partnership, communication, and trust, which stimulates our brain, keeping it active and functioning at its peak.”

Research backs up these claims. Bridge has been shown to improve memory, focus, and cognitive agility, leading to a decreased risk of dementia and other age-related cognitive declines. The game is a natural tool for promoting neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and form new neural connections throughout life.

The Bridge to Learning: Five Key Points

With such compelling arguments, here are five key reasons why bridge should be taught in schools:

Mathematical and Logical Reasoning: Bridge requires quick calculations, probability assessments, and complex decision-making, promoting mathematical thinking and logical reasoning.

Strategic Thinking: A successful bridge game is all about strategy and planning. Players need to predict opponents’ moves, plan their play and anticipate possible outcomes.

Communication and Teamwork: Bridge is a partnership game that requires excellent communication and cooperation among team members.

Memory and Focus: Remembering the played cards and using that information strategically challenges and improves memory and focus.

Lifelong Learning and Brain Health: As players age, bridge can provide an enjoyable means of keeping the mind active and healthy.

The Call to Action

Given these considerable benefits, it’s time for students, parents, and teachers across lower schools, high schools, and colleges to champion the inclusion of bridge in school curriculums. Bridge is more than a pastime—it’s a powerful educational tool that prepares students for a complex and interconnected world. We need to do what it takes to implement bridge in schools, engaging the community and relevant educational bodies in understanding its value.

Bridge offers a platform for teaching mathematical calculations, strategic thinking, decision-making, and many more invaluable skills that students can carry throughout their lives. It is an investment in cognitive resilience and lifelong mental agility. As Varghese says in his TEDx Talk, “Every hand of bridge that you play is a new puzzle waiting to be solved. It’s a journey of discovery.”

It’s not just about producing a generation of bridge champions, but about nurturing a generation of critical thinkers, effective communicators, and strategic decision-makers. By introducing bridge in schools, we are not just teaching a game, we are “bridging the gap” before it’s time—providing students with a strong foundation of skills that they can apply in academics and beyond.

We can draw parallels between a successful bridge game and life. Both require strategy, the ability to communicate, critical thinking, and mental agility to adapt to changing circumstances. Just as Warren Buffett’s passion for bridge isn’t contained to just the enjoyment of the game but is a testament to its intellectual rewards, we should recognize and utilize bridge’s potential as a teaching tool.

In the words of Varghese, “Bridge isn’t a game, it’s a sport for the mind.” Let’s take this opportunity to nourish young minds with the benefits of this challenging, fascinating, and rewarding sport. Let’s make bridge not just a game we teach but a cognitive, communicative, and strategic training ground.

By doing this, we are not just bridging the gap, we are also paving the way for a brighter, smarter, and more innovative future—one where our youth are not just well-informed, but also well-equipped with the skills they need to thrive in the complex landscapes of their future lives. Let us all act now to make this vision a reality.

Parents, teachers, and students, it’s time to step up and proactively embrace bridge on the collective. Together, let’s ensure that our schools are inspirational, transformative places that transcend the bounds of rote learning, that they are ever-evolving, nurturing grounds for critical thinking, strategic decision-making, social interaction and cognitive resilience.

It’s time to bridge the gap before it’s time.

After all, as Buffett aptly puts it, “Bridge is a game and an intellectual sport that is meant to be enjoyed for a lifetime.” A lifetime that begins with a single game. So let’s start that game in our schools today.