Building Critical Thinking Skills With Math

1068 words - 4 pages

Upon a persons' first interaction with higher forms of math, such as algebra, one's initial reaction would most likely be in some way wondering or even complaining how such mathematics could ever be used in 'the real world.' Beyond the rudimentary math skills of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division most persons would see little to no use for greater planes of math in their daily lives. Because of this style of thinking a great reluctance bordering on fear for higher order math exists in the minds of a large number of the population. However, one very valid and useful skill can be gained through the learning process by which we gain an understanding of algebra, and is a trait we can find use for in many occasions in life, the critical thinking process.A columnist for About.com by the name of D. Peterson wrote of the experiences of a woman named Sarah Clark in her attempts to learn algebra. She was a non-traditional student and as such, she was just beginning an introduction to algebra at the age of thirty-two. The article describes the student declaring that she had never had any event in her life in which it was needed to have an understanding of algebra in all her years in which a person would normally have learned algebra in a traditional school up to her own age. She basically called math teachers, or anyone who said that such math is needed in daily life, liars. Yet, however good or valid Sarah's points are, there was something very crucial to her story that she either was ignorant of, or neglected to mention, and one that the author of the column picked up right away, that of how algebra is a path toward learning critical thinking. Peterson brings up a very good point that we need future leaders who are capable of thinking critically. There are of course many differing ways in which one would gain this ability, however algebra is one way in which an individual might acquire this skill so swiftly one would hardly be aware that the change occurred.An article found at the criticalthinking.com website mentions that math is an excellent way in which students begin the steps needed to develop their thought processes. It begins by saying "If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless." (The Critical Thinking Co. Staff, 2005) It further goes on to say one of the biggest problems with our educational system today is that is too focused on memorization of facts instead of engendering the ability to think analytically. It mentions math an excellent means of guidance on the path toward developing higher thinking skills. "Higher level math requires several thinking skills including deductive reasoning, classification, identifying sequences, and inferential reasoning." (The Critical Thinking Co. Staff, 2005) Incorporating such critical thinking into student's lessons gives people a means to transfer these critical thinking skills into other facets of...

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