Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Parshat Shofetim, Justice, & Critical Thinking skills

"Justice, Justice shall you pursue..." (Deuteronomy 16;20). 
Watch the above video link for a cartoon summary of the five types of justice discussed in the parasha.

The parasha begins with the commandment to set up judges and police officers (loose translations) for the Tribes of Israel to maintain justice and make rulings in matters of controversy. 
 I discussed with my three year old the duty of a judge. We went through real life examples where we have to make judgements and rulings. For example, when mommy has to decide who gets the toy when two children say they both want it. We focused on the importance of doing "strong thinking" to help make these tough decisions. 

I then presented her scenarios with her stuffed animals and asked her what questions she would ask in order to decide who was right or wrong in the case. (She needed my guidance, but we definitely got the wheels turning).
For older kids this can be expanded into a mock trial with family members acting as different players in the court scene.

 I then connected the idea of "strong thinking" used by judges to the same kind of thinking we need to understand math concepts. 

I told her to use her "strong thinking" when completing exercises from this book:
Anno's Math Games
Photo Source
 This is a great Pre-Math book. There are actually no number problems in the book, but rather fun stories and activities that teach the critical thinking skills necessary to understand math. 

Photo Source

There are three books in this series. We currently only have the first book. 
The chapter titles in book one are: What is Different, Putting Together and Taking Apart, Numbers in Order, and Who's the Tallest? Again no numbers are used. So the book is really focused on the conceptual nature of math.

The math of today's classrooms looks very different from the math we were exposed to. Many of us are from the generation where math class was rote recall and memorization of facts and formulas. Today's math classes focus much more on the procedure than the outcome. Kids are asked questions like "what did you use to get to that answer" and "how else could we have figured that out." 

This disparity might explain why so many of us (myself included) are convinced that we are just not good at math. Maybe if we were taught math in a more natural and conceptual way, we would not cringe when trying to figure out how much that dress in Macy's will cost when it's 30% off regular price and we have an additional 20% off coupon. Clearly, I've been there.

Here is a great list of kids' books that center around math concepts: http://mathmamawrites.blogspot.com/p/math-books.html

A friend of mine also recommended: http://lifeoffredmath.com/

I would love to hear from others about ways they incorporate critical thinking and mathematical concepts into their day with their kids. Looking forward to your comments!


  1. I have considered using Life of Fred. I have been told by other ( non-Jewish) homeschoolers that it has Christian references. I also find that with the "understanding" approach, there are gaps in basic math skills. For example, my 3rd grader really gets all the concepts, but he never memorized addition facts, so that is handicapping him as he is progressing. Now I am forced to go back to basics and work on drilling those facts.
    I am trying out Math Mammoth this year, I like how systematic it is, and how everything is sequential, building on previous skills.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments! I will definitely look into Math Mammoth.

  3. This year, we will be using Teaching Textbooks for my oldest (3rd) and Mathematical Reasoning from the Critical Thinking company for my next oldest (K this year).

    We also do lots of math games and reasoning as it comes up in daily life. For example, ds5 asked today why he couldn't have a whole vitamin, and we looked up how much he needed and then he worked out how much half the tablet was. He saw that was enough. But I didn't label it division, we just call it life. ;)

  4. Thanks for the resources Amital. I loved this line "But I didn't label it division, we just call it life." Forgive me, if I steal that one.


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