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Monday, January 26, 2009

Critical Thinking Co.'s Building Thinking Skills Review


My grandfather was an amazing man. The older I get, the more I appreciate him and wish he was still alive so my children could benefit from his influence as much as I did. He was a man of many passions, but the one that stands out clearest to me is that he felt learning to think critically and analyze a problem to find the solution was the most important skill you could develop. To that end, he constantly challenged us with brain teaser to figure out, puzzles both physical and mental to solve, and games that would force us to really think about our every move if we had any hope of beating him, or even holding our own. He was not a man to hand a youngster a win to spare their feelings, he wanted them to earn it with critical thinking skills.
Maybe that's why I LOVE The Critical Thinking Company so much. I've never met a product of theirs I didn't like. Many years ago, I received one of their books as a freebie (I think it was with my subscription to TOS :-). I was sold when I opened the first page. That book was Mind Benders, and features a bunch of those problems like "A boy, a girl, and their dad each have a pet dog. The girl's dog wears a collar and is smaller that her dad's dog. The dad's dog is not the biggest or the smallest." Then it has a chart with pictures of the dogs across the top and of the people down the side, and you fill in Y or N to figure out whose dog is whose. I worked through them with Scott back then, and he enjoyed them. I liked that the chart was already there, so all he had to figure out (at that age level) was the "yes" or "no".
Fast forward a bit to Scott's therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder. His therapist showed up each week with all sorts of pages for him to work on to strengthen his visual discrimination skills and fine motor skills. Where did those worksheets come from? Critical Thinking's Visual Perception Skill Building.
Then this past May, I picked up their Beginning Word Roots to work through with Scott because I tink he really ought to know some basic prefix/suffix/root meanings since that aids in vocabulary comprehension. We've been doing a section or so a week, and he has enjoyed it. It's not too much written work, which he really likes.


Given my love for Critical Thinking's offerings, I was thrilled to receive their Building Thinking Skills books for Level 1 (2-3 grade) and 2 (4-6 grade) to review. To quote Critical Thinking's website, through these books, "Children learn to analyze relationships between objects, between words, and between objects and words as they:
Observe, recognize, and describe characteristics.
Distinguish similarities and differences.
Identify and complete sequences, classifications, and analogies."

On the "pro" side, these books are BIG. Level one is 363 pages, and Level 2 is 408-that's a lot of bang for your buck. Both are available in software form for slightly more than the book price. There are lots of different activities in these books, and my kids begged to do "just one more page". They didn't view this as "schoolwork" at all, just something fun, like a puzzle to solve. And critical thinking skills are so vital, but something that tends to be overlooked when you just focus on the 3 R's.
I suppose the $29.99 price could be a bit of a stumbling block for some people, but these are beefy books chock full of activities. The price would be the only "con" I have. And I do want to point out that not all their books are $30. In fact, most are between $10 and $20. And they have a ton of offerings, as you can see below.

The bottom line for me is that this is a no-brainer. You must try these books. I can't emphasize enough the importance of the skills they teach. These are life skills. Things they will use in every aspect of their life. Even simple things like figuring out which product is the best deal at the grocery store use critical thinking. If you want them to manage money well, they must learn critical thinking. If you want them to do well on standardized tests, they must learn critical thinking. If you want them to develop sound reasoning skills, they must learn critical thinking. Yet it's one of the subjects we spend the least amount of time working with our kids on. These books will help you bridge the gap, and your kids will have fun doing it. I can't recommend them enough!
To see what other TOS Crew members have to say, go HERE.
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