S.T.E.A.M. Day

The science of critical thinking skills

What is critical thinking? 

The concept of critical thinking dates back over 2500 years. The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking established a lengthy definition for critical thinking. In short, they defined critical thinking through two main components:

  1. How we generate knowledge and establish beliefs (science, beliefs, reasoning, observations, communication, experiences, etc.) 
  2. In what ways does our existing knowledge and beliefs guide/influence future habits, behaviors, and acquisition of new knowledge


Critical thinking is important because…

Critical thinkers are rational, logical, and empathetic

High-level critical thinking requires objectivity. Training critical thinking allows your child to be less susceptible to social influence, biases, prejudice, and human irrationality, while also being reasonable and empathetic. 


Critical thinking can improve IQ and creativity

In a study conducted on 400 students, researchers explicitly taught students about critical thinking skills and processes. After the intervention, the children scored higher for language comprehension, IQ, and creativity. 


Critical thinkers are problem-solvers

Evaluating the reliability of different sources not only allows children to be objective and empathetic, but also increases problem solving capacity. In another study, where students were taught science related critical thinking skills, researchers found that the students had better analytics and problem solving skills. 


Teaching critical thinking to children

Make the ideas, principles, and concept explicit 

Critical thinking is an abstract topic that we need to communicate concretely. According to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, children below 11 cannot think in abstract terms. Researchers have found that explicit instruction- teaching children specific ways to analyze and problem solve – is the most effective. 


Start early on 

Young children might not be ready to learn how to reason and analyze, but they can try to come up with explanations for different things. Build on and explore your child’s interests while encouraging them to ask “why” questions and challenge existing notions to improve critical thinking. 


Tutor Time  

Logic and Reasoning is one of the core skills in Tutor Time’s LifeSmart Curriculum. Children learn how to sequence, solve problems, and develop symbolic and critical thinking skills. The focus is on developing high order thinking skills like ‘why’ and ‘how’ rather than lower order thinking skills like ‘what’. 

Tutor Time provides the time and space for children to play. Building blocks, engaging in pretend play, and playing complex puzzles all help develop critical thinking skills. 

For instance, Tutor Time’s Math Center features colored pipe cleaners and beads, where the children string the colored beads onto the matching colored pipe cleaner. This  provides rationale for sorting objects into specific groups and also works fine motor skills at the same time!