Critical thinking is defined as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” It can also mean ‘thinking that has a purpose’ or ‘reflective judgement.’ Preschool (between the ages of 3 and half to 8 years) is considered one of the most vital stages in a child’s cognitive development. Most of the learning that takes place during this stage is incidental and informal. Hence, children are susceptible to succumb to math phobia if not trained to think critically.
One of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills amongst preschoolers is by providing them with opportunities to play because it is only during play that they recognise a cause and effect relationship between most actions. For instance, think of the game Jenga, where one learns to balance wooden blocks without toppling the entire structure. By developing critical thinking skills, children become less dependent on teachers and textbooks, are able to achieve better marks, and start evaluating, challenging, and changing the structures in society, thereby leading to social progress.
Moreover, critical thinkers are able to apply intellectual standards (such as clarity, accuracy, relevance and fairness) to the elements of reasoning (which include purposes, questions, points of views, implications, and assumptions) to develop intellectual traits or virtues such as intellectual humility, autonomy, integrity, courage, empathy, perseverance, confidence in reason and fair-mindedness. Thus, they are able to formulate questions precisely and assess them so as to arrive at an effective solution after an analysis or evaluation of all the available alternatives, thereby making the best choice for each specific problem. They are also able to communicate effectively to others after figuring out solutions to complex problems.
In academics, critical thinking is applied to the domains of reading and writing. Critical reading is essential for providing evidence or justification for your opinion, to evaluate the validity and relevance of a particular text, and to also develop reflective thinking and forbearance for ambiguities. Strategies for this include asking questions regarding your purpose of reading, the context and structure of text, the arguments made and the evidences and language used in the text. Similarly, critical writing is vital for evaluating literary texts, research articles, and arguments and interpretations of a text. The evaluation of texts can be expressed explicitly or implicitly. The explicit ones are called critical reviews while the implicit ones include persuasive or opinion essays for assignments related to coursework. All these will require arguments, validation through other sources, and your personal comment and evaluation so as to arrive at an accurate conclusion.
Now comes the important question of how to develop these skills. In order to display critical thinking, students must develop skills regarding interpretation, analysis, reasoning, and evaluation. Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing skills are vital aspects of academic writing. Thus, this process that challenges a student to use reflective, reasoning skills to collect, interpret, and evaluate facts and information in order to derive a judgement is vital for the cognitive development of students.
The i-Maths program designed by Chrysaalis for children between the ages of 3 and half to 8 years is one of the most influential courses in mathematics which aims to develop and hone the thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, and analyzing skills of young learners. Apart from imparting basic mathematical concepts to children, the program incorporates thinking skills through its focus on classification, correspondence, and the concept and function of numbers in everyday life. Studies show that a child retains 80 per cent of knowledge when it is gained from doing something as against to just reading and writing. Thus, i-Maths, with its focus on teaching abstract concepts through concrete activities to reinforce mathematical concepts in young learners can pave the way to the emergence of potential leaders for tomorrow.