When one of my kids was younger, we got stuck in math because it was impossible, in their mind, to borrow across the place value digits to add and subtract. This just didn’t compute in their brain and our math was derailed for several days. I was reminded exactly how differently our brains are wired as a neurodivergent family.
Most of the time it isn’t a big deal and we find ways to adapt and support one another. But some situations do require creative thinking. When we want to rearrange furniture or make room for a new toy we have to be flexible about where we put other things to make room, for instance. It is important to teach our kids to be flexible so they grow to be successful adults.
The Challenge Of Rigid Thinking For Neurodivergent Students
When we think about homeschooling to raise successful adults, we teach our kids to face hard problems. They will face problems that their brain doesn’t want to solve in the future. It’s our job to give them problem-solving skills to succeed in life.
It is not an IF their life will have challenges, but WHEN, and sadly the statistics say there will be extra challenges for them as a neurodivergent person. As a homeschool teacher, it’s up to me to help my child build these critical and creative thinking skills to help overcome these extra challenges.
This year we are using Evan Moor’s Creative and Critical Thinking Activities for 6th grade in our homeschool to practice different problem-solving strategies and puzzles each week. We are not making it part of our math or reading lessons: we are making it a stand-alone subject so we can focus on building these critical life skills while having fun solving puzzles together.
The Value Of Teaching Creative Thinking
One of the social struggles of an autistic person is thinking about what other people think of you, or theory of mind. It is difficult for us autistics to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and see a situation from other perspectives. It’s an important life skill, but it is one that takes extra effort to build for differently wired brains.
I watch as my child get mad because the first strategy they tried to solve the puzzle didn’t work. They have a hard time understanding that there could be many ways to solve the puzzle. There can be value to a wrong answer, if we allow it to lead us towards the correct answer.
As we work through our Critical and Creative Thinking book, I watch my students grow each week. The first time they saw a logic matrix they found it impossible and had no idea how in the world we could figure out everyone’s choices with the clues given but as we worked through it and crossed things out, it became clear. The next time they had a logic matrix in their creative thinking assignment they found it challenging but not impossible and could complete it without help. I like to watch the growth. They are learning the strategies and watching themself be successful. That is a double win in my book!
How To Teach Students To Problem-Solve
As I mentioned before, we are doing this extra activity book to work on problem-solving and creative thinking. With a differently wired brain, the most frustrating chapter of the math book is the one with the problem-solving strategies. In one chapter, we learn lots of different strategies at once without really enough time to practice and apply the strategies, which makes it important to revisit these skills on their own away from our core academic work.
In the 6th-grade book we are using, each lesson is three pages long and has a variety of activities around the same theme. Some lessons are on a history theme and sometimes it is an animal theme. The puzzles use all different kinds of strategies. Some are math word problems, some are secret codes or riddles to read, and some are logic puzzles. Most puzzles occur multiple times throughout the book so students will get more than one chance to solve each style.
Using Evan Moor’s Creative and Critical Thinking Activities in our Homeschool
Having a resource that helped me target these missing skills for my students has been valuable to me. I have been looking for a while and I’m glad I found this one from Evan Moor. We use it once or twice a week throughout the year for skill review and critical thinking practice. It is included in the 6th Grade Packages from Timberdoodle or you can purchase it separately.
My student by age would be in a grade or two above the listed grade level for this book but because they are a challenging skill set for my student, this was the right level for them to use this year. If these are skills your student struggles with, I would encourage you to look for previews of the different levels before purchasing to find the one to meet your child’s abilities.
Practicing Critical Thinking Skills builds Flexibility
We are halfway through the Creative and Critical Thinking Activities and I can see a difference in my students. They are more confident when they solve the puzzles and when we ask them to help us problem-solve real-life situations they can come up with multiple solutions as well. Recently the one who was stuck on borrowing and carrying across place value is confidently working their way through Pre-Algebra this year!