In the know - This is a logic for life

21st November 2008 at 00:00

This is about the Big Idea - providing children with the strategies to work things out for themselves.

Reasoning is a process based on logical inference. It is this thought process that takes children from the known and understood to the unknown and not understood, which they can test with their own common sense. Children do this naturally but, as too often their reasoning is flawed, we need to show them how to arrive at more probable logical inferences.

In simplistic terms it can follow the following form: If all boys with red hair are called Alan, then that boy with red hair must be called Alan.

However, with the exception of some maths and science, the logic of propositional certainty is rare. But that reasoning process does provide a reasonable Problem Resolution Procedure (PRP) which can give children the ability to predict probabilities based on evidence and logical inference.

We need to teach a way of thinking and reasoning and put less emphasis on solving individual problems. Teach the general not the specific so children understand how to approach all problems.

PRP - Problem Resolution Procedure

- What do we know? Establish the facts from evidence and previous knowledge.

For example: Three little pigs, houses, bricks, wood, straw, wolf, enemy.

- What is the problem and what do we want to find out?

Who did it? Why did only one house survive? How can we survive in the future?

- Look for patterns and make inferences. It is about playing detective and children love doing that. Arrive at possibilities.

- Test the possibilities. Look for the best fit and the most probable based on common sense judgement.

Brick strongest; wolf wicked; one pig made sounder judgements than the others.

PRP is about arriving at judgements based on logical inference, a process that will serve a child for life

Alan Haigh is the author of The Art of Teaching: Big Ideas, Simple Rules (Pearson).

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