Critical thinking is arguably the most important skills for kids to cultivate along the road to :adult success. It’s about more than just achieving academic success in school: kids who are able to think critically are able to make informed, logical decisions that impact the trajectory of their lives as well as their overall happiness and satisfaction. To live their best, most successful lives, kids must learn to grow into strong critical thinkers who make conscious choices.
A Most Essential Skill
The term critical thinking is tossed around frequently within academic and educational circles, and the definition is quite simple. Critical thinking, simply put, is thinking about thinking. More specifically, it is the process of analyzing facts in order to make a judgment.
Critical thinking is universal… it can be applied to any subject in school, any career domain, and any decision in life. The more kids are able to practice and apply their critical thinking skills, the stronger those skills will become! Just like the hopeful Olympic athlete who knows that the daily strengthening of her muscles and practicing of her sport will continue to increase her chances of success, the critical thinking student improves her chances of success, too.
The Big 5
The practice of critical thinking is thousands of years old, beginning with the Greek philosopher Socrates, and is an honored skill set that comes with benefits. The evolution of critical thinking enabled our ancestors to make decisions that kept them alive, and their lineage enduring from generation to generation to today, where critical thinking has led to the innovation of unbelievable products and the solving of seemingly impossible problems. Among the plethora of reasons kids today must master critical thinking, below are the top five.
- Help kids evaluate information
Kids who become successful adults are able to analyze the world around them by asking where or from whom information is coming, and why it is or isn’t important. Critical thinkers are constantly asking questions. What’s happening? Who is affected by this? Where did this come from? What else should I consider? And most importantly – WHY, WHY, WHY?! Effective critical thinkers never stop questioning anything until they are certain they have seen the problems from all angles.
- Foster kids’ interests
Kids are naturally curious, and critical thinkers are especially so. Children who explore, ask questions about, and test theories on different ways to solve problems are naturally applying their critical thinking and creativity skills. Eventually, understanding and applying principles and facts leads to analyzing and evaluating, and ultimately, creating something new. By encouraging this healthy curiosity, kids may be able to find their niche, and who knows, maybe a young critical thinker of today is on the verge of developing something that will change our world for the better tomorrow.
- Help kids with emotion management
Critical thinkers are able to understand that not everyone who disagrees with them is wrong and they are able to separate their emotions from their ability to reason. As we all know, a calm head leads to more effective problem-solving, and critical thinkers have a healthy control of their emotions to do just that.
- Learn to apply abstract reasoning
Solving logical problems can form a strong foundation for making important decisions, generate creative ideas, and set goals. Sometimes the answer to a problem is much more complex than a simple step or two, so applying creative abstract reasoning to come up with a way to reach the end-goal in non-conventional ways is an extremely valuable skill to have.
- Think critically
Students who employ critical thinking skills are better able to understand themselves and their goals and make decisions accordingly. These decisions inevitably will lead to personal growth and overall happiness! As critically thinking kids ask questions about everything, they discover their own opinions and beliefs, and continually get to know their true selves. These self-secure kids are cognizant of their choices and are in control of the direction of their lives.
Think Critically, Be SMART
Understanding that critical thinking is a vital skill to teach kids is one thing. Actually teaching them these skills is another! While critical thinking is largely an act of metacognition, studies have shown that students become better problem solvers when they are taught to analyze analogies, test hypotheses, create categories, classify items, argue with validity, and identify evidence.
98th Percentile SMART is an international mathematical Olympiad competition that is designed to be a launching pad for critical thinking skills. Math Olympiad and verbal reasoning tests heavily call upon critical thinking skills to find the answers, and SMART focuses on just that. Utilizing the strategies listed above, SMART’s carefully crafted questions transform student learning from the fragmented memorization of facts to critical and creative problem solving that can be applied to life outside the classroom.
The Future is Critical! As educators and parents, our ultimate goal is to produce responsible, smart, reasonable members of the next generation. Engaging in any opportunity, such as 98th Percentile SMART, to flex critical thinking skills offer invaluable benefits to future generations today!