Kids have a logic all their own, and it can often be difficult to convince them it needs revision. With Dr. DooRiddles and Dr. Funster you might not have to—these logic puzzle books are so much fun your children will want to do them, and the intuitive instruction will eradicate faulty reasoning before it even begins.
Not that these are argument-building programs: instead, they guide kids in developing their logic muscles through visual and verbal exercises that seem more like games than like homework. Unlike many courses for elementary students, none of these books are colorful or visually stimulating, but they will increase your children's reasoning skills. The focus is on deductive reasoning, in which students reach conclusions based on established principles.
How Do These Work?
The Dr. DooRiddles books cover grades PreK-7 and follow a single format: each one presents numerous four-line riddles for students to ponder and solve. All answers are included in the front of the book, along with teaching suggestions. Because the answers to the riddles are always a single word, these make a great choice for group learning, with the instructor reading the riddle and each student writing down their own answer (or the group arriving at the answer together).
Some of the riddles are pretty easy, but they become increasingly difficult as kids presumably increase in their ability to solve the word problems. One of the benefits of teaching kids to solve riddles is that they'll be learning essential problem solving skills while having a good time; you don't even need to tell them that they're learning or doing schoolwork. Dr. DooRiddles exercises will teach kids to think things through, and to understand that words have apprehendable meanings.
The Dr. Funster books are more varied. The Think-A-Minutes books each present a variety of visual and verbal logic puzzles; the Visual Mind Benders series focuses on visual shape-based logic puzzles; and the Word Benders books present acrostic puzzles in ascending difficulty levels. Together, these books cover grades 2-12, though with some help younger students could use the earlier texts, and many college students and even adults could benefit from the later books.
Dr. Funster's Think-A-Minutes include fill-in-the-blank problems, true/false problems, picture puzzles, acrostics, matching games, short answer problems, pattern sequence puzzles, number problems, etc. Each puzzle can be completed quickly, each one is fun and engaging, and together they help kids learn to solve a variety of problems and to think critically. Because there's so much variety, students are unlikely to get bored quickly, if at all. All answers are included.
For a more solidly visual approach, Dr. Funster's Visual Mind Benders present series of shape pattern puzzles in which kids note patterns and then fill in the final sequence. These are more solidly logic-based (not just critical thinking) because they deal with symbols rather than words or numbers. Kids might need a little more help with these books initially, but once they've caught on they should be able to work on their own. Answers and teaching hints are included.
Because sound reasoning is ultimately about good communication, Dr. Funster's Word Benders are word-based puzzles that show the relationship between clear thinking and language. Each text contains a number of acrostics (puzzles in which words are changed by altering one or more letters at a time) built around specific themes: similarities, opposites, words and phrases, etc. Once the acrostic is completed, a secret message or story is revealed. All answers are included at the back of each text.
Each text is slim and fully consumable. Once younger students have been given instructions, they'll be able to complete each exercise on their own; older students will be able to work on their own without help. These aren't logic courses; rather, they're intended to supplement the broader curriculum and to offer reinforcement of key critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and basic logic concepts and skills.
Our Honest Opinion
Because these books are slim, easy to use, fun, and inexpensive, we think they make excellent supplements to a more rigorous logic program, introductions to critical thinking, or simply fun ways to expand your kids' thinking abilities while giving them a break from more standard school fare.
The Critical Thinking Co. isn't a Christian organization, but you won't find anything objectionable here. These are designed for students of all levels, and while the exercises certainly increase in difficulty, they don't get more "mature" in content. If you're looking for something flashy, don't look here; if you want critical thinking resources that are effective, look no further.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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