The Critical Thinking Company has a vast selection of materials to both teach and allow application of reasoning and thinking skills. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve used an array of their products over my past 10 years of homeschooling. I recently sampled their Crypto Mind Benders: Famous Quotations, a tool that specifically requires the use of deductive and mathematical reasoning skills. The workbook contains 30 activities where the student needs to break a math code and substitute numbers with letters to solve the cryptogram. 3 clues are provided, and using a chart, the student will use the signs + or – to eventually identify the correct letter/number match up. They then swap out the numbers to the correct letters and reveal the quotation.
The cover states the workbook is applicable to grades 3-12+. I had a representation of all those grades so I thought I’d let my boys and their friends loose on a few of the puzzles and see what they thought.
My 4th grader, though he says he enjoys math, took one look at the first cryptogram and said, “No thanks” and wouldn’t even attempt it. Yes he is smart, but he has no interest in using deductive skills; he likes his schoolwork straightforward and is not the kind of kid who wants to do math puzzles in his free time.
My second test group was 3 boys, ages 14,15,16. All these guys are advanced in math, computer whizzes, and huge video game fans. They worked as a team and solved four of the puzzles in about 15 minutes, including the last activity, which seemed the hardest. Here are their thoughts:
“Too easy for us.”
“Fun to do.”
“Tiresome to fill in all the letters.”
“Should put number under the letter blanks.”
“Good to do alone or with friends.”
I would conclude that the Crypto mind Benders is not a “one size fits all” kind of activity. You’ll need to look at each student’s personality and learning style and decide whether or not they are a good fit. I see those who are ages 11-14, enjoy math riddles, and have the patience to use some algebraic thinking as being the person most likely to enjoy using this series.