Teaching Logic & Critical Thinking to Your Kids

Cover of "Being Logical: A Guide to Good ...

Cover of Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking

It’s pleasing to know that parents are taking a more proactive role in the education of their children, whether or not they are homeschooling. I’ve been asked if I can recommend tools that could be used to teach children the elements of logic and critical thinking.

  1. My first suggestion is that the best way to teach children how to think critically is to be a visible model of critical thinking. Children have a far greater aptitude for critical thinking than adults credit them for. They tend to be good at inferential reasoning. Their powers are limited in part by their limited storehouse of information from which to make inferences.
  2. Modeling excellence in critical thinking presupposes skill in critical thinking. So parents need to be students of logic and critical thinking themselves. Unfortunately, most have not had the opportunity for formal education in these skills. But there are accessible books to consider. I’ll add a list of recommendations at the end of this post.
  3. If your children see you making the attempt to sharpen your skills in reasoning, this will itself be a good example to them. You can tell them what you’re learning.
  4. Learn the names of basic inferential moves (for example modus ponens, modus tollens) and use these labels with your children when they demonstrate their own ability to make such moves. This should reinforce their awareness of the significance of their mental powers, and affirm them in the use of their powers.
  5. Encourage your children to think about the implications of something they have said or heard. You’ll have to be alert to opportunities for this. But once you’ve been at it for awhile, you’ll get into a natural groove. It will eventually become a part of your routine interaction with your kids. How to do this? I’ll save that for another post sometime.
  6. Get your children reading at their grade level (or above!) books that exemplify and encourage critical thinking. Mystery and suspense novels, carefully selected for their sophistication and interest, can be useful. I read the Hardy Boys as a kid. I also liked the stories of the Sugar Creek Gang.
  7. If you’re home schooling (or not), you can include in the curriculum some materials that teach critical thinking. The Fallacy Detective is a good source for this. (See below.)

Recommendations:

So, here are a few of the many resources available. I’m recommending those that provide a good place to start. Each title is linked to its Amazon page.

Books that inspire parents and other educators to teach children these skills:

Books for self-education in logic and critical thinking:

With adequate preparation in the early years, children in junior high and high school may be ready to work through these books themselves. They don’t provide a complete education in logic, but they are satisfactory for pre-college preparation. For more rigorous study in high school, I recommend using one of two textbooks:

Like most textbooks, Copi and Hurley are pricey. So you may want to settle for a second-hand copy. The illustrations and exposition of old editions will be dated, but the logic will be the same! I shop for second-hand books at AbeBooks.com.

For grade school and up:

Fiction classics for youth:

This post is cross-referenced in an interesting post here.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking.

14 Responses to Teaching Logic & Critical Thinking to Your Kids

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  2. chris says:

    Madeleine, is it possible to obtain what your husband put together? Blessings

  3. Pingback: Why You Need to Teach Your Child to Think Harder | Learn With Rachael

  4. Angie says:

    Can someone point me in the right direction. I am trying to find the book that Madeleine was referencing below that she bought by someone named Matt. I am teaching struggling math students a basic chapter on logic. I don’t want to overwhelm them or go in too much depth, but I want to expose them to it. Any other suggestions would be appreciated as well!

  5. Angela Aka AngelaFace says:

    I just so happend to stumble across this website and everyone is talking about logic and thinking….I can tell u now that I’m not educated and I’m from a very low income area in Virgina so I don’t have money to buy any books but I would love if someone could send me a link so that I could read some of Dr Doug Geivett stuff so that I could understand this world a little bit more because I’m felling a bit lost right now felling very confused have a blessed day

  6. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Bill,

    Let me know if your hear from any of my readers to take you up on your invite. And if you’re a reader who has contacted Bill in response to his invite, feel free to leave a comment about it here.

    -Doug

  7. I have invented an eleectrifying word game that (I hope) will be used to introduce young students to logic as soon as they can understand fractions. The unique thing about the game is it makes thinking visible. Now, parents and educators can show children what induction and deduction looks like, and can use the apprenticeship model to begin the study of logical thinking.

    The game is fun to play, and the initial introduction indicates that most students will take it and run with it! I would like to get you opinion of it – if you are interested. A demonstration will take about ten minutes (by phone), and at the end of the demonstration, I think you can make an informed decision about it.

    If you are interested, please e-mail a reply to set up a telephone call to further the discussion.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this note. I look forward to speaking with you.

    Bill Whittenburg

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  9. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Madeleine,

    I’m happy to have this evaluation from you about the kids’ book The Fallacy Detective. Thanks for taking the time to report your own findings. Readers here will appreciate it, too.

    My recommendation of kid-level mystery fiction is general. Kids vary in their specific tastes, so one series of books may engross one kid but leave another gagging. So, know your kids. Or maybe let them shop with you and pick what looks good to them.

    -Doug

  10. Madeleine says:

    Doug I bought a copy of the Fallacy Detective and tried to work through it with my kids. I found the definitions imprecise in places and ambiguous and some of the examples which were supposed to help clarify things seemed confused. I showed it to Matt to check it was not just me and he said “it is not you and that’s why I told you not to buy it.” I kept trying to persevere with it but I abandoned it – my daughter and I were getting too confused. (Matt has now written a fallacy series for me to use in its place which is a lot clearer.)

    Anyway that put me off the Bluedorns books but I am still keen to try to find some more resources for our teens so I will look out for some of your other suggestions starting with Being Logical.

    I love your suggestions for what you can do for your younger kids and the mystery books are a great idea – will definitely get working on gathering some copies of those series into our household library.

    Thanks heaps for writing this – I really enjoyed your clear presentation of modus ponens and modus tollens as well.

  11. This is a great way for uni students to put critical thinking skills they are learning into practice at home with the kids.

  12. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi J. W.,

    I’m glad you’re already thinking this way about your nephew. Uncles can be a great force in the life of a boy. I know that because of my uncles.

    -Doug

  13. J.W. Wartick says:

    Doug, thanks a lot for this post. I’m a Godfather to my nephew, who isn’t old enough to get into this stuff yet (he’s one and a half), but I can’t wait to start sharing apologetics with him! In the meantime, affirming that Jesus loves him is where I’m at.

  14. Brian says:

    Excellent!
    Being Logical (the book pictured) is great.

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