And math – I was going to say, our science and math curriculum definitely. Fewer, you know – those two are, you know, more problem-based type of curriculum. Almost, our math to the point where we get criticized for it.Well, my daughter’s junior high math textbook, part of Holt’s Mathematics series, does regularly include questions purporting to develop critical thinking. Here are a few, picked pretty much at random:
I don’t object to these as math questions, but in what sense do they conceivably involve “critical thinking”? Does “critical thinking” now mean “any thinking whatsoever”? Or “anything beyond straightforward computation”? If “critical thinking” is to mean anything at all, shouldn’t it at least involve critiquing something?
The book does sometimes ask questions labeled “What’s the error?” Here’s an example:
This at least involves critiquing someone else’s reasoning. But since the book tells the students in advance that there’s an error, it isn’t much different from simply asking the students to solve the problem themselves.
It takes a big leap of faith to think that any amount of questions like these will help kids develop the skill—and inclination—to question received notions and critique the world around them. Real critical thinking always involves challenging someone’s authority—not an easy skill to teach when you’re otherwise busy sending the constant message of “do as we say and don’t talk back.”