Case Study 1
Already at a young age children can begin to gain perspective on how they reason. One good way to help them foster this metacognition is by pointing out the variety of different methods available for solving a particular problem. By, for example, seeing the multiple different methods available for solving a math problem, children can begin to think about their own thought processes and evaluate various cognitive strategies. This will gradually open up the world of reasoning to them. They will begin to pay more attention to how they solve problems or complete tasks involving reasoning, instead of focusing only on answering correctly or completing the task.
How do children calculate 6 x 3, for example?
There are several ways:
They could add 6 + 6 + 6;
They could recall that 6 x 2 = 12, then add six more to get 18;
They could simply memorize and recall the answer: 18;
They could draw a grid of 6 by 3 units and then count how many boxes are in the grid.
Or they could use one of various other techniques…
Our culture values accurate and precise results but tends to pay little attention to the route taken to arrive at those results. Yet, if children are aware of their train of thought, they will be in a better position to master the technique—to perfect it to the point where they may even decide to switch to another technique if they need to increase their speed, for example. That is why it is important to help children understand the method they are using to the point that they can explain it themselves.
In helping their children with schoolwork or other projects involving reasoning, parents should ask them to explain themselves, make explicit the steps they’re taking to solve a particular problem, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of their method and alternative methods. The result will be a much deeper understanding not only of the particular task at hand, but also of the practice of reasoning itself.