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Critical Thinking Press ~ A Timberdoodle Review

I've heard rave reviews about Critical Thinking products, so when I had the opportunity to review a few of their products for Timberdoodle, I jumped at the chance! 

First up is Building Thinking Skills, by Critical Thinking Press. These books are touted as "The #1 selling thinking skills program in the world!" Indeed, they are chock-full of reasoning activities designed to improve vocabulary, reading, writing, math, logic, figural-spatial skills and visual and auditory processing, and are definitely worth digging into!

The activities are sequenced developmentally. Your child is gently led to analyze relationships between objects, between words, and then between objects and words as they:
  • Observe, recognize, and describe characteristics.
  • Distinguish similarities and differences.
  • Identify and complete sequences, classifications, and analogies.
Timberdoodle Price: $29.99 each


I reviewed Building Thinking Skills 2 with Dylan, who is 10. Designed for ages 9-11, or grades 4th-6th, this book is a perfect fit for him! At 408 pages, the size of the book was a little intimidating to him at first; however, it is proving to be a wonderful addition to his daily independent work.

In Dylan's words:
  • It takes you through step by step. 
  • I like the picture descriptions. {Describing Shapes activities}
  • It gets you thinking. 
  • It's not too hard, so I enjoy doing the activities. 


Check out the samples to see more.

I love that he enjoys the activities, but I mostly love that he is challenged to think!


I reviewed Building Thinking Skills 3 with Nathan, who is 12. Designed for ages 12 and up, or grades 7 and up, this level is proving to be a great fit for Nathan.

At 378 pages, the size of the book was a little intimidating to him, too. The first question he asked was, "How many pages do I have to do?" Since the first section on antonyms and synonyms involved using a dictionary and thesaurus and took extra time, I only had him do one page a day. He willingly did them, but didn't enjoy these activities. However, when he got to the pages on Sequences, he was hooked!

He said, "I could do this all day."


In Nathan's words:
  • Every activity has directions that are easy to follow. 
  • You have to slow down and follow those directions to complete the activities. 
  • They are challenging, but fun and engaging which makes you want to do more. 
  • Can I do this instead of {enter daily grammar curriculum}?
The scope of this book is broad and includes activities on Reading, Writing, Math, and Science. So, no, he is not getting out of his Grammar lessons. :-)

This book is also meant to be used verbally, not just with pencil and paper. The nice thing about that is that the activities are easy to discuss! I enjoyed sitting down with him as he worked and talked with him about how he solved the problems. It is fun to watch him think them through. 


The samples are a great way to see what is in this book, but they don't do the book justice. They are developmentally sequential as each activity prepares the child for the next one. I love this step by step introduction to analytical thinking! It truly "builds" on itself and gives the child confidence to proceed. 

It is not often that I add a review item to our curricula, but I'm happy to add Building Thinking Skills to our regularly scheduled programming!

******************

As much as I loved the above books, I really wanted to love this next book.


I was hoping to use this for our 1st grade math curriculum.

Mathematical Reasoning B Grade 1, also published by The Critical Thinking Co., is a 264 page, full color, consumable workbook designed to be a core math curriculum or a supplemental resource for grade 1 students. The focus of the book, as the name suggests, is to build math reasoning skills through problem solving and computation.

Timberdoodle price: $32.99

I reviewed this with Malachi, who is almost 6. The book is full color and visually interesting. The pages on money immediately caught his eye and he asked to work on those pages first. He then wanted to skip ahead to work on more money pages. This meant that he had to skip multiple pages at a time. I didn't like this part. I like to work through a curriculum sequentially, page by page. I don't mind skipping pages, but it is harder to tell where he is at in his workbook this way.


He had to skip ahead because concepts are presented in a "spiral" method - introduced briefly, then covered again later giving the child some "time to develop and mature before dealing with more complex aspects of the concept." I didn't care for this method and didn't think enough instruction was given when a concept was first introduced or enough practice was given before moving on. I much prefer a sequential program that lays a solid foundation and builds on a concept before moving on, and then continues to reinforce and build on that concept as new concepts are introduced. Note: The samples offered are a good indication of the scope of math problems you will see in this book, but not the sequence of the book. 



What I liked:
  • The visual effect of full color pages and interesting graphics.
  • The use of accurate vocabulary and notation (numbers vs. numerals and line segment vs. line for example).
  • The story problems, Mind Bender and Thinker Doodle activities that challenge your child to think. 
What I didn't like:
  • The concepts as presented in a "spiral" method as mentioned above.  
  • It seemed more of a drill and practice with some reasoning skills thrown in, rather than a polished tool to develop math reasoning and thinking skills.
  • It lacked a natural progression from semi-concrete (pictures of objects) to semi-abstract (tally marks to represent objects) to abstract (use of numerals only). Note: concrete activities using the manipulation of objects are not included in the book. 
  • The pages are semi-glossy and difficult to write on and erase.
  • An answer guide is not included with this book, but there were only a couple times that I would have liked to see the authors answer and reasoning for a problem {or how to solve a problem!}.
I still cannot figure out the following problem:


It says "Start & Finish here. Connect to the nearest answer." (note arrow) How do you solve this? The numbers do not go in sequential order. ??

I would consider this for a supplemental resource, but not for a main math curriculum. However, Malachi seems to like it. He has asked to work in it whenever we do math, so I am sure we will get some great use out of it! 


Disclosure: As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

2 comments

Michelle Cook said...

My daughter uses Timberdoodle curriculum and we love it! As for you picture of the bear dot-to-dot, I believe there are math problems on the opposite page that you are supposed to use the answers for going from left to right to connect the dots... if I'm remembering correctly! I do remember it was confusing for her when she was in first grade 3 years ago! Thanks for your kids' perspectives on these books!

Michelle said...

Oh, that's interesting! Thank you! And yes, they have some great products. I really enjoyed reviewing for them!