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Cognitive Friday: Raising “Reasoning” Kids

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Kids are great at coming up with reasons for things. One of the first questions that children begin to ask is “why?” and what they are looking for are the reasons which will help them understand the world around them. This does not slow down that much as children grow up, teenagers very much want to know why things happen, and again, this is them searching for reason. Luckily, one of the goals of educators is to teach students how to developing reasoning skills.

There are types of reasoning that are more math-oriented and others which are more verbally based. The processes are not entirely the same, and each follows its own patterns of thought. Each have basic ways that parents can model reasoning for their kids, and the more that kids are offered examples of reason, the more able they will be to develop it.

Inductive and deductive reasoning are forms of logical reasoning that stem from mathematical thought. These are reasons arrived at based on data or information from which a conclusion can be drawn. Deductive reasoning is thinking that occurs from the point of understanding data to the point of reaching a conclusion. When a math teacher says, “write it out,” what they are trying to do is get students to use this reasoning process. A key to cementing the knowledge is to review the notes made when “writing it out.” Inductive reasoning works in the opposite direction. Inductive reasoning is when students have data from which they need to extrapolate probabilities. The processes they take applying probabilities to events build inductive reasoning skills. In a subject like economics, this is a commonly used form of thinking.

Verbal reasoning is developed through reading, writing and thinking in and about the language. Many thoughts are image-based, but when a person is mulling over something someone said, or a written message they have seen, they are doing basic verbal reasoning. When a person reads and re-reads, the words take on a stronger meaning because students have a context within which to grapple with the words on the page.

If reading is ‘key,’ then re-reading is the process that unlocks the door. Any recursive process, one that brings the reader back to the words and ideas on the page, helps to instill strong verbal reasoning skills. From there, making connections to the real world serves to deepen the process even more. Having a dinner-time conversation about a current event very frequently is remembered by a student the next day, or the next way, in a classroom discussion. These are opportunities to extend a discussion, which helps students in a class develop their verbal reasoning skills.

At school, the curriculum is designed to help students achieve reasoning as one of the higher-order thinking skills which students should develop. At home, the best supports towards this goal are the conversations which parents have with their children.

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