Friday, March 18, 2011

"Mind Benders": Deductive Reasoning Made Fun

Mind Benders, published by The Critical Thinking Co., tackles deductive reasoning skills for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Its stated purpose is . . . to improve deductive reasoning, reading comprehension skills, and organized analysis skills. My son would argue that it is just plain fun.

I originally purchased the A1 workbook because my son saw it on the back of another workbook he enjoyed and asked that I get it. When he first glanced at Mind Benders, he was unsure what to do with the problems and charts. After reading a few problems, he found one that he felt comfortable doing, and figured out his own way of completing the charts. (The book does have instructions and explanations, but why bother reading those, when you can just plow ahead and figure out things on the fly?) After that, he did not want to stop, and ending up finishing the entire workbook in one day.

 A sample problem from the A1 book looks like this:

Who Are The Twins?
Edmund, Ida, Joanne, and Tony are two sets of twins. Tony is a month younger than Edmund. Joanne is a month older than Ida.
Which pair is the younger set of twins?
Which pair is the older set of twins?

In the A1 version, the pages contain lots of white space for jotting down notes and thoughts about the questions. By not crowding the pages with text and diagrams, and using large text, the publisher allows the reader to focus on the problem, without feeling overwhelmed with information.

We have since started working on level C1, which is far more involved, and we have spent a few days working through some of the challenges. Spending days focused on a problem, instead of minutes, teaches patience, promotes creativity, and gives a strong sense of accomplishment. Students realize that not everything has a quick and easy answer, and that persistence has value.

In addition to detailed solutions in the back, the workbooks include examples with step-by-step procedures showing some of the ways to tackle the problems. Some students will find this helpful, especially if gone through with an adult; others may find it confusing or repetitive. Regardless, this section can be useful in showing alternate ways of approaching a problem, as well as reinforcing ideas already introduced.

Deductive reasoning transfers to so many areas that honing this skill should be integral to any learning experience. The Mind Benders series provides an entertaining way to practice and succeed in this essential area of thought.

Article by Sarah J. Wilson

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