Learning to Solve Problems Outside of the Box

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

At the end of April, our family had the opportunity to review a product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ Always happy to help my daughters develop their critical thinking skills, I perused the options with them. My math-minded twin teens were both a bit interested in Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving. I was excited when we received the ebook and eagerly downloaded it to take a peek.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ emailed me a link to download the file. A few clicks later, I was scrolling through the pages. Skimming the table of contents, I noticed that the book is organized topically. Most of the chapters deal with topics typically taught in middle school math.

The teacher pages recommend starting with exercises from the first two chapters. After that, it’s fine to jump around. Selecting the first couple of worksheets, I effortlessly printed them.

The twins snatched the pages from our printer and started solving a simple logic exercise about animals crossing a river.

Although the teacher notes recommend having students work in groups, my daughters opted to work alone. Initially, the girls were baffled, but eventually, they both solved it.

“It’s a good exercise to make me think outside the box.” Rose

After checking their solutions with the answer key, they happily high-fived.

As the twins continued through the book, they began tackling classic brain teasers. Relaxing on the sofa, they enjoyed working through visual problems.

Tackling Tough Problems

Some exercises were quite perplexing. A problem involving a census taker and a lady mathematician puzzled the girls at first. Did they really have enough information to solve it? After putting twin heads together and thinking it through, they discovered the solution.

But the girls didn’t always tackle the tough ones together. One afternoon, the older twin was working on “Sum of 26.” How tough could it be to arrange digits one through nine in an X shape so that each diagonal and the four corners add up to 26? After making multiple calculations for an hour, she was no closer to a solution than when she had started. Tears threatened to fall. I encouraged her to set it aside and try again later. The next morning, she and I sat down and discovered a solution together.

“At some points, it really frustrated me, and I just needed to take a break to refresh my mind so I could solve it. I felt relieved and amazed when I finally got it”

Surprisingly, the girls never hesitated to attempt the challenging exercises in the book. Although I occasionally had to remind them to complete a page, they persistently worked out each problem.

“The problems really challenged my brain.”

Favorite Pages

Critical thinking exercises present a fun challenge for the twins. Often, the ones which required more effort became their favorites. By trial and error, the girls solved tough problems like “The Eight Digits.” Thankfully, they had good erasers.

“I really loved ‘The Eight Digits’ because it’s purely logic.”

Visual exercises like “The Twenty-Five Dots” were often pleasantly puzzling. Could they connect the 25 dots with 9 lines without lifting the pencil or retracing their path? Eventually, they did!

“It was the most frustrating, but also the most rewarding.”

Worth the Time and Money

Available as a physical book or an ebook, Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving is a practical and inexpensive supplement for middle school math. It’s a fantastic way to introduce critical thinking in this subject area.

During our five-week review period, the girls completed problems from three of the book’s ten chapters. Since there are about 120 pages of exercises, completing the entire book in a school year would be a reasonable goal. I love the way it is helping the twins think outside the box and find creative solutions.

Review Crew families could choose one of several different products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ While many families selected math-related products for varying age ranges, some evaluated a product that assists students with their college applications. Visit the Homeschool Crew Review blog to read more reviews.