November 9, 2015

The Basics of Critical Thinking {Product Review}

Critical thinking is something that society in general needs to work on, and something that is high on my list of priorities in regards to teaching my children. One of the top manufactures of products to help teach critical thinking is The Critical Thinking Co. I am always trying to find ways to get Little Britches to slow down and think more clearly--thus I was very eager to review The Basics of Critical Thinking by The Critical Thinking Co. to see if it was all it was rated to be!
Basics of Critical Thinking ~ Product Review

Product Information

The Critical Thinking Co. is a top-selling product for educators everywhere offering up award-winning products to help students achieve better academic results, with exercises to sharpen the mind! Offering up resources for reading, writing, science, math, and history, the products are easy-to-use, fun, and are guaranteed to produce better grades and higher test scores! The materials are geared for ages Toddler to high school, so there is something for every age!

Here are a few of the products that they offer:
*Fun-Time Phonics!  (Gr. PreK-2)
*Surfing the Net: Science  (Gr. 3-6)
*The Basics of Critical Thinking  (Gr. 4-9)
*U. S. History Detective, Book 1  (Gr. 8-12+)
*Practical Critical Thinking and Teacher Manual (Gr. 9-12+)

We were given The Basics of Critical Thinking to use with Little Britches (age 9).

How Did We Use This Product?

We immediately jumped in with using our book when it arrived. It is a consumable workbook that is broken up into lessons—each roughly 3-5 pages long depending on the practice problems. The set up is definitely open and go—simply read the lesson and look at the sample problems, then work through the practice problems. Though Little Britches was definitely capable of working through this on his own, I really wanted to go through the concepts with him to make sure he understood them. I decided to incorporate it into what I call our non-core morning work.

Before we began each day, I took a minute to look through the lesson myself to see what was being asked, so I could be ready for any questions he might have. It was very straight forward and I never had any problems understanding what was being asked, which made it very easy for me to work through with him.

We chose to work through one lesson/practice problems set per day at about 3 days per week, though the lessons with more practice problems, we spread out over the week.

The topics covered include:
• What Is Critical Thinking?
• Conclusions and Decisions
• Beliefs and Claims
• Finding (Identifying) Evidence
• Evaluating Evidence
• Inferring and Inferences
• Facts and Opinions
• Facts and Probable Truths
• False and Probably False
• Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
• Venn Diagrams
• Logical Connectives
• Advertising
• Agreements and Contracts
• Common Errors in Reasoning
• Arguments
• Valid and Invalid Arguments
• Fallacies
• Analogy Argument

Here are some photos of our work in the book:
Evidence vs. Inference

Figuring out an answer, based on rating the strength of the evidence

Teaching about truth in advertising
Learning about the difference in evidence and STRONG evidence
Teaching about emotional words to show faulty reasoning
As of this post, we are on Lesson #15 Common Errors in Reasoning (pg 90) 

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

I love that this is an open and go product, and that it’s a simple workbook with short and very basic lessons that are easy to understand. I found that all the examples used in the lessons were “real life” which made it immediately applicable. I also greatly appreciated having the answer key in the back, where I could verify an answer if I wasn’t sure of it myself. I appreciated that the book broke down some very advanced concepts into bite sized pieces that could be understood by Little Britches.

I was very happy to see that he “got” the concepts being taught, as displayed by a discussion we had while completing other work. In this example, he was working through a story and came to a point where the main character shot a man with his bow and arrow and ran away after hearing the man fall down with a cry after being hit. The main character reveals that he’s killed a man, however, Little Britches analyzed the story more and told me that the main character made an “inference” based on “evidence”. Little Britches then determined that really there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the character's inference as being true at this point. I was thoroughly impressed by the application of the lessons we had studied! 

As a side note, some of these lessons are concepts I struggled with in college Introduction to Logic. I wish my professor had broken down some of our lessons that well! I “re-learned” a few of them with this book, and understood them MUCH better this go around. I actually think that an adult could work through this book on their own and have a very good grasp of basic logic and critical thinking principles.

Little Britches didn’t object to the work—especially if it wasn’t going to involve a lot of writing (a few of them required a sentence or two), and he was very proud of himself when he got his problems correct (which he did 95% of the time).

I think one of my most favorite lessons we did was on advertising. I loved how the child had to analyze the claim of the advertisement, and then decide whether or not there was strong enough evidence to support the conclusion that was given. I think this is extremely valuable and possibly one of the most helpful lessons from the book in regards to future application.

Will we continue to use this product?
Absolutely! I plan on finishing the book, and then checking out what other books the company has to offer as I have been very impressed by this one.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! This book was a great introduction to the basics of critical thinking and logic. The reading level was on par for the grade level (4th+) and believe the whole book was as well. If you want to start your child into simple and basic critical thinking exercises that are immediately applicable to their life, I highly recommend this book! 

Want to Know More?

We have been enjoying the results from using The Basics of Critical Thinking ($22.99) from The Critical Thinking Co. There were a few other products reviewed by our crew, so make sure you check out the rest of the team!
The Critical Thinking Company Review
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I am so thankful for this product and how it has helped me with getting Little Britches to think more carefully about the decisions he's making, and the information he is given. I look forward to exploring more of the products offered by The Critical Thinking Co. in the very near future!
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