How to Improve Reasoning Ability?
Reasoning ability means using reason or logic in thinking out a problem in accordance with the principles of logic or reason. Reasoning ability also implies using rational thinking and not getting affected by emotions. Rational thinking would imply having a scientific temper of inquiry and reliance on empirical evidence rather than blind faith in accepted social and religious norms.
Popular belief is that reasoning ability is largely genetically determined. This is not true. Genetics determine reasoning ability to some extent. Reasoning ability, like practically all human endowments, can be improved. In this blog we will discuss how to improve reasoning ability?
Understanding the Reasoning Process
Unless we know how someone arrived at a conclusion, we can critique only the answer or conclusion. If we break the process of thinking into individual steps, we are better able to critique both our own thinking process and that of others. Math teachers often advise their students to show their work. If all that counts is the answer, the work (or process) is irrelevant. Showing the work allows teachers (and students) to know just where the students may have gone wrong. Did they totally miss a concept or did they make a simple transposition error? This helps in future guidance and improving reasoning ability.
Step by Step Process helps Comprehension
An example of learning a new skill is a Tennis serve, A coach breaks down the process into a series of steps that address elements such as positioning the feet, tossing the ball, and moving the racket. Each of these skills can be examined and practiced independently and then in combination. When each element is correctly applied in concert with the others, the process of serving a tennis ball is complete. The same process holds true for rational thinking. As in learning a skill, we can break problem solving into individual steps that we practice. We can thus improve our rational thinking—and help others improve theirs.
Approach to solving Math Problems to Improve Reasoning Ability
Math is the subject best suited to improve logical thinking. Unfortunately the over emphasis on getting the right answer takes us away from the process of reasoning. The reasoning muscles are getting trained when the problem is in the process of being solved. If the child gets the answer straight away then the mind has not received the requisite training. This unfortunately is happening today through impatient parents and tutors. It would be good if just hints are given and the student is encouraged to continue effort to solve the problem. The same analogy applies to other subjects as well.
Consider Reasoning Ability as a Muscle
By training we can improve all our natural endowments. Consider reasoning ability as a muscle. It can be improved by systematic training. The mind-body connects can be understood by reading my earlier blog:
Meditation/Visualisation to Improve Reasoning Ability
Meditation involves focusing the mind and removing distractions. It is a good exercise to improve reasoning ability.
Visualising is another great mental exercise. You can create a mental image in your mind about anything of concern; hold that image with clarity to improve logical thought process.
Regular Writing to Improve Reasoning Ability
We often think that we understand a particular thing or concept. We are surprised when we try writing it down and realise that we lacked clarity and had not understood the concept in totality. Writing helps us gain clarity of understanding and improve reasoning ability.
Teaching to Improve Reasoning Ability
When we have to teach someone it is a great mental exercise. My experience shows that students who have been teaching regularly gain greater clarity of concepts compared with others. This is another way to improve reasoning ability.
Diverse Interests, Sports and Games Improve Reasoning Ability
Chess and cross word puzzles are popular games for mental exercise. Various other games, both mental and physical provide scope for improving the mental muscles. The more we get out of our comfort zones the better challenge we provide to our mind to grow.
The above discussion would have clarified that reasoning ability can be improved. There are a large number of ways in which this can be achieved. Some important methods have been discussed above. Please understand that training of mental muscles is just like the physical muscles. Parents must allow the children to exert their minds to solve problems and not provide immediate solutions, thus depriving the young minds of vital exercise. Grown up adults, when confronted with complex problems must break them down into simpler and smaller steps and solve them. As we solve more, diverse and challenging problems in life our problem solving skills are consistently improving and thus our reasoning ability.