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‘Critical Thinking’ is critical for STAAR testing

Becky & Bob Barnes

Texas is transitioning from the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) to STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness), and the process is causing everyone a little bit of heartburn. The kids are faced with a new battery of tests that are not only timed, but more challenging due to the increased emphasis on critical thinking.

So… what is critical thinking?  There are many definitions, but the one that we like best is “Critical thinking clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.”  This kind of thinking is important in all areas of life, and math is no exception.  Children get an early taste of critical thinking in math at school with the dreaded “word problems.”    Problem solving tends to be difficult for most children and should be introduced at an early age.

Children become good problem solvers when they are asked to solve a broad range of problems at home and at school.  Beginning with easy questions, the level of difficulty should increase as the child’s ability grows.

Ask children questions like:

  • “I’m 38 years old, and you are 6.  How old will I be when you are 10?”
  • “If 3 pieces of candy cost 25 cents, how much do 6 pieces cost? …9 pieces …12 pieces?”
  • “How many pieces can you buy for a dollar?”
  • “How can 3 kids share 2 candy bars equally?”

Involving your children in the problems you solve each day can help them see the relevance of math in their lives.  Cooking, home repair, grocery shopping, and even yard work can provide opportunities to show the importance of math in everyday life.

If you are helping your children with their homework involving word problems, here are some basic steps to follow.  Help them…

  1. Identify the significant information in the problem
  2. Eliminate extraneous information, the unimportant words or numbers that have nothing to do with solving the problem
  3. Determine what the question is that they are being asked to answer
  4. Look for key words  (altogether, total, difference,  how much is left, etc.)
  5. Understand what they must do to find the answer (add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc.)
  6. Formulate a math sentence using the information extracted from the problem, and
  7. Check their answer by plugging it into the math sentence to see if it makes sense.

For more info on this topic, contact us and request our free booklet called Math Tips for Parents – Grades K-5.

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By Blue Ribbon News special contributors Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center, 919 E. Interstate 30, Suite 126 in Rockwall. Email  rockwall-heath@mathnasium.com or visit mathnasium.com/rockwall-heath.