Ever since they were little my boys always loved solving “brain teasers”. You know, the kinds of puzzles where they got clues and had to figure out the end? At the time, these were just things we did for fun, but as they got older I began to see the value in these types of activities for teaching real skills in a fun way. So, I was excited to review The Basics of Critical Thinking from The Critical Thinking Co. with my youngest boy. We have used products from Critical Thinking before, but those were aimed more at mathematical reasoning, so I was happy to get to check out some of their more general reasoning and logic products.
This workbook is aimed at grades 4-9, so it was perfect for my 14 year-old boy. The book starts with an introduction to critical thinking that is pretty simple. I liked this because it was something my son could read for himself. It then moves into a pretty fun pre-test where students are challenged to find a thief. My son loved this! From there, the book is divided into sections that focus on different skills like inferences, evaluating evidence, facts and opinions, discovering probable truths and so-on.
What I like about how this book is set up is that it is so user-friendly. Each section begins with a concise and easy to understand explanation of the concept, some information about why it is important, and then an example of how to use the concept. From there, the students go into a series of practice problems where they apply the concept, and those practice problems are really fun.
I also really like how this book makes it easy to understand concepts that can be applied to other subjects. For example, inferring and inferences are often taught in reading, but many students find these topics difficult to grasp because they are so intangible. However, working with them in the context of the critical thinking exercises makes it so much easier to understand. Also, the ideas of facts, opinions, and probable truths can easily be applied to the studies of government and politics. Using something like The Basics of Critical Thinking alongside these other subjects can help your kids transfer what they are learning to those subjects too.
As students work toward the end of the workbook, they get introduced to more formal logic study like common fallacies and analogies. However, the process of learning these topics is handled in the same way. They also learn to evaluate arguments, something that will come in handy as the election process moves into full swing. We actually practiced applying many of these concepts as we watched the debates on television, because I love trying to find real-world applications for the things we do in school, and debates and politics are natural areas where critical thinking skills apply!
I think that, in general, this was one of our favorite critical thinking studies. It is a great overall introduction to the ideas applied in the subject, and is something I would recommend parents use before moving into a more focused study with older students. It is available for $22.99, along with many other products. To learn more, connect with Critical Thinking on social media here: