One of the best things you can teach your kids is how to put pieces together. Not jigsaw puzzle pieces (though that may be a helpful skill as well), but intellectual pieces. If kids can't put information together in order to come to conclusions, they'll flounder through their entire education and even their entire lives.

The Mind Benders series from the Critical Thinking Co. focuses specifically on this kind of logical thinking, known formally as deductive reasoning. Each book presents a number of logic grid puzzles designed to help kids reach logically supported conclusions based on available evidence.

A logic grid puzzle consists of a matrix with primary information and a list of clues. Students check boxes on the grid as they establish relationships and preclude others, eventually revealing the correct answers to the puzzle and solving each problem through deductive logic (which moves from premises to conclusions).

For younger kids, the first two books (grades PreK-2) offer image-based grid puzzles that are simple and easy to solve; a third transition volume offers verbal-only, non-grid deductive logic problems for grades K-2 that they can solve and answer aloud. All subsequent books feature text-based grid puzzles.

The early books start with 3x3 grids, while the later books include very complex grids that could take even older students quite a while to solve. Each book is consumable (students mark the grids in-text, but the pages are reproducible), and are self-contained; answers and explanations for all puzzles are included in the back of each volume.

These aren't illustrated or visually exciting books, but they are excellent for building kids' deductive reasoning skills. And while there isn't a visual element, kids will likely have fun solving puzzles that don't seem much like homework at all. The books offer work for grades PreK-12 (even adults can benefit from these), and will go a long way to establishing good reasoning skills.

NOTE: In 2012, the publishers thoroughly revised the Mind Benders series. The dramatic but excellent change involved reformatting the clues and puzzles onto single facing pages, and then combining most of the puzzles from two books into one (thus reducing the overall price and the number of books by a lot!). Here's the new arrangement:

• Beginning Book 1 is currently unchanged
• Book 2 is simply a new look and a new name for Beginning Book 2
• Verbal (or "Warm-Up") remains unchanged
• Book 3 contains most of A1 &A2
• Book 4 contains most of A3 &A4
• Book 5 contains most of B1 & B2
• Book 6 contains most of B3 & B4
• Book 7 contains most of C1 and part of C2
• Book 8 contains the rest of C2 & C3
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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