Teaching Deductive Reasoning: Activities and Ideas
There are several kinds of thinking skills. Sometimes you may ask students to brainstorm and come up with a list of creative possibilities. Other times you may ask students to study both sides of an issue and form an opinion. Then there are times when the students need to find all the clues, perhaps use past knowledge and come up with one correct answer. This is deductive reasoning.
Using deductive reasoning activities with young children will teach them that sometimes they need to wait to see all of the “clues” before they come to a final answer. This kind of activity can be fun and challenging for children.
Begin with a Story
When teaching deductive reasoning you may choose to first tell a story. Here's an example:
Jimmy has cookie crumbs and chocolate smeared on his face. Mom sees him and says, “Go to your room, Jimmy! I told you not to have any chocolate chip cookies because they are for the school bake sale.” Jimmy tries to explain but Mom won’t listen.
It turns out that the neighbor brought Jimmy a cookie to taste because she used a new recipe. Her cookies had chocolate frosting. If mom had noticed the other clues, she would have seen that part of the frosted cookie was still laying on the flowered plate that the neighbor left for Jimmy. This is an example of jumping to conclusions. The neighbor stops by to get the plate. Next time Mom will use deductive reasoning!
Practice Activity Examples
Practicing deductive reasoning is fun, takes only a few minutes and you can use most anything to create a practice activity. At first, you should talk through the activity while you are presenting it. Here are some examples:
Two students are taller and are both girls.
One tall girl student has blonde hair and one has dark hair.
The two other students are a boy and a girl.
Now make these statements and, after each one, ask the students if they are sure of the answer.
1. The student I am thinking of is a girl. (Can you be sure of the answer since three of them are girls? You can eliminate the only boy.)
2. The student I am thinking of is tall. (Now you can eliminate the shorter girl but still don’t know the final answer.)
3. The student I am thinking of has blonde hair. (Now you can use all of the clues to give the correct answer.)
Place a quarter, nickel, dime and penny in the center of a circle of students.
Make these statements.
1. The coin I am thinking of is silver in color.
2. The coin I am thinking of is not the largest in size.
3. The coin I am thinking of is bigger than a dime in size.
Answer: The nickel
Choose the number that would be next in the pattern:
2,4,6,____,10,12 Choices: 7, 3, 14, 8
First notice that the numbers are getting bigger. That means that number 3 cannot be the right answer. Then notice that the numbers are even. So 7 cannot be the answer. Then notice that the number has to come between 6 and 10. That means 14 is not the answer. 8 is the answer. The students used clues and prior knowledge to find the correct answer.
A Fun Book for Teaching Deductive Reasoning
To have even more practice use the book Not all Animals are Blue by Beatrice Boutignon. Each pair of pages has questions on the left side and a picture puzzle to solve with deductive reasoning on the right side.
A Great Series for Teaching Thinking Skills
Primary Education Thinking Skills is a series of manuals used to develop every kind of thinking skill. It is presented in a fun way with animal characters, provides printable worksheets and easy to follow directions. Pieces of Learning Company publishes the books and other educational products.
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