Marcel Danesi Ph.D.

7 Puzzles to Challenge Your Critical Thinking

Can you spot the connections and sort these items.

Posted March 5, 2015 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

Forster Forest/Shutterstock

The theme of this post is critical thinking—and the kinds of puzzles that can be constructed around it. This term is used frequently in psychology and education . There are various definitions, but the one that best suits our purpose and which is, in the end, perhaps the best, is the ability to comprehend the logical connections among ideas, words, phrases, and concepts . In the relevant scientific literature, of course, the term is used much more broadly as a framework for understanding human cognition . But in my opinion, the best way to understand things is to construct puzzles to illustrate their basic essence.

Critical thinking involves skill at recognizing a pattern in given information and especially recognizing how the information is connected to the real world. Here are a couple of very simple examples. First, consider the five words below:

  • Cruise ship
  • Walking on foot
  • Automobile (not a race car)

Now, put them in order from the slowest to the fastest, when they are going at maximum speed. The solution, of course, is: 4-2-5-1-3.

As with all such puzzles, there might be slightly different solutions—one could claim that some automobiles go faster than cruise ships. This “indeterminacy” characterizes this kind of thinking. However, some puzzles are straightforward. For instance, what do the following five things have in common?

The answer? These are all words referring to shades of blue.

The seven puzzles below are to the ones above, though hopefully more challenging. Some involve knowledge of facts, but critical thinking is still involved in such cases because the organization of the facts according to some principle is always involved—for example, a puzzle may ask you to put five items in order of their dates of invention.

The following tongue-in-cheek definition of critical thinking by Richard W. Paul, a leading expert on critical thinking theory, says it all: “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.”

I. What do the following 5 things have in common?

  • Orange juice

II. Put the following buildings or structures in order of height, from the shortest to the tallest.

  • Typical camping tent

III. What do the following animals have in common?

IV. Put the following inventions in order from earliest to most recent.

V. What feature do the following words have in common?

  • Imagination

VI. Put these bodies of water in order in terms of volume, from smallest to largest .

VII. What do the following landmasses have in common?

I. They are all drinkable liquids. II. 5-1-4-3-2 III. They all have a tail. They are also all quadrupeds. IV. To the best of my knowledge: 5-4-3-1-2 V. They start with a vowel: a, e, i, o, u VI. 4-2-1-5-3 VII. They are all peninsulas.

Marcel Danesi Ph.D.

Marcel Danesi, Ph.D. , is a professor of semiotics and anthropology at Victoria College, University of Toronto. His books include The Puzzle Instinct and The Total Brain Workout .

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  • Feb 7, 2020

11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class

Updated: Oct 24

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a 21st-century skill that enables a person to think rationally and logically in order to reach a plausible conclusion. A critical thinker assesses facts and figures and data objectively and determines what to believe and what not to believe. Critical thinking skills empower a person to decipher complex problems and make impartial and better decisions based on effective information.

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Critical thinking skills cultivate habits of mind such as strategic thinking, skepticism, discerning fallacy from the facts, asking good questions and probing deep into the issues to find the truth.

Importance of Acquiring Critical Thinking Skills

Acquiring critical thinking skills was never as valuable as it is today because of the prevalence of the modern knowledge economy. Today, information and technology are the driving forces behind the global economy. To keep pace with ever-changing technology and new inventions, one has to be flexible enough to embrace changes swiftly.

Read our article: How to Foster Critical Thinking Skills in Students? Creative Strategies and Real-World Examples

Today critical thinking skills are one of the most sought-after skills by the companies. In fact, critical thinking skills are paramount not only for active learning and academic achievement but also for the professional career of the students. The lack of critical thinking skills catalyzes memorization of the topics without a deeper insight, egocentrism, closed-mindedness, reduced student interest in the classroom and not being able to make timely and better decisions.

Benefits of Critical Thinking Skills in Education

Certain strategies are more eloquent than others in teaching students how to think critically. Encouraging critical thinking in the class is indispensable for the learning and growth of the students. In this way, we can raise a generation of innovators and thinkers rather than followers. Some of the benefits offered by thinking critically in the classroom are given below:

It allows a student to decipher problems and think through the situations in a disciplined and systematic manner

Through a critical thinking ability, a student can comprehend the logical correlation between distinct ideas

The student is able to rethink and re-justify his beliefs and ideas based on facts and figures

Critical thinking skills make the students curious about things around them

A student who is a critical thinker is creative and always strives to come up with out of the box solutions to intricate problems

Critical thinking skills assist in the enhanced student learning experience in the classroom and prepares the students for lifelong learning and success

The critical thinking process is the foundation of new discoveries and inventions in the world of science and technology

The ability to think critically allows the students to think intellectually and enhances their presentation skills, hence they can convey their ideas and thoughts in a logical and convincing manner

Critical thinking skills make students a terrific communicator because they have logical reasons behind their ideas

11 Activities that Promote Critical Thinking in the Class

We have compiled a list of 11 activities that will facilitate you to promote critical thinking abilities in the students.

1. Worst Case Scenario

Divide students into teams and introduce each team with a hypothetical challenging scenario. Allocate minimum resources and time to each team and ask them to reach a viable conclusion using those resources. The scenarios can include situations like stranded on an island or stuck in a forest. Students will come up with creative solutions to come out from the imaginary problematic situation they are encountering. Besides encouraging students to think critically, this activity will enhance teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills of the students.

Read our article: 10 Innovative Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

2. If You Build It

It is a very flexible game that allows students to think creatively. To start this activity, divide students into groups. Give each group a limited amount of resources such as pipe cleaners, blocks, and marshmallows etc. Every group is supposed to use these resources and construct a certain item such as building, tower or a bridge in a limited time. You can use a variety of materials in the classroom to challenge the students. This activity is helpful in promoting teamwork and creative skills among the students.

It is also one of the classics which can be used in the classroom to encourage critical thinking. Print pictures of objects, animals or concepts and start by telling a unique story about the printed picture. The next student is supposed to continue the story and pass the picture to the other student and so on.

4. Keeping it Real

In this activity, you can ask students to identify a real-world problem in their schools, community or city. After the problem is recognized, students should work in teams to come up with the best possible outcome of that problem.

5. Save the Egg

Make groups of three or four in the class. Ask them to drop an egg from a certain height and think of creative ideas to save the egg from breaking. Students can come up with diverse ideas to conserve the egg like a soft-landing material or any other device. Remember that this activity can get chaotic, so select the area in the school that can be cleaned easily afterward and where there are no chances of damaging the school property.

6. Start a Debate

In this activity, the teacher can act as a facilitator and spark an interesting conversation in the class on any given topic. Give a small introductory speech on an open-ended topic. The topic can be related to current affairs, technological development or a new discovery in the field of science. Encourage students to participate in the debate by expressing their views and ideas on the topic. Conclude the debate with a viable solution or fresh ideas generated during the activity through brainstorming.

7. Create and Invent

This project-based learning activity is best for teaching in the engineering class. Divide students into groups. Present a problem to the students and ask them to build a model or simulate a product using computer animations or graphics that will solve the problem. After students are done with building models, each group is supposed to explain their proposed product to the rest of the class. The primary objective of this activity is to promote creative thinking and problem-solving skills among the students.

8. Select from Alternatives

This activity can be used in computer science, engineering or any of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) classes. Introduce a variety of alternatives such as different formulas for solving the same problem, different computer codes, product designs or distinct explanations of the same topic.

Form groups in the class and ask them to select the best alternative. Each group will then explain its chosen alternative to the rest of the class with reasonable justification of its preference. During the process, the rest of the class can participate by asking questions from the group. This activity is very helpful in nurturing logical thinking and analytical skills among the students.

9. Reading and Critiquing

Present an article from a journal related to any topic that you are teaching. Ask the students to read the article critically and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in the article. Students can write about what they think about the article, any misleading statement or biases of the author and critique it by using their own judgments.

In this way, students can challenge the fallacies and rationality of judgments in the article. Hence, they can use their own thinking to come up with novel ideas pertaining to the topic.

10. Think Pair Share

In this activity, students will come up with their own questions. Make pairs or groups in the class and ask the students to discuss the questions together. The activity will be useful if the teacher gives students a topic on which the question should be based.

For example, if the teacher is teaching biology, the questions of the students can be based on reverse osmosis, human heart, respiratory system and so on. This activity drives student engagement and supports higher-order thinking skills among students.

11. Big Paper – Silent Conversation

Silence is a great way to slow down thinking and promote deep reflection on any subject. Present a driving question to the students and divide them into groups. The students will discuss the question with their teammates and brainstorm their ideas on a big paper. After reflection and discussion, students can write their findings in silence. This is a great learning activity for students who are introverts and love to ruminate silently rather than thinking aloud.

Read our next article: 10 Innovative Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

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Students in the Criminal Justice Program complete a course of study that includes the examination of crime, criminals, courts, policing, corrections, and victims. The program is concerned with both theory and practice.

The Criminal Justice, B.S. requires 42 Liberal Studies hours, 48 major hours, and 30 elective hours. The curriculum also offers an internship (CJ/EMGT 483), a unique way to gain work experience while earning a maximum of 12 hours of academic credit.

Criminal Justice Major Requirements

Eight-Semester Degree Plan

Minor in Criminal Justice

Students pursuing a degree in another discipline may choose to include a minor in Criminal Justice. The minor requires 21 hours, including CJ 250 and CJ 355 plus 15 hours of CJ electives approved by the department head.

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Admission requirements for undergraduate students can be found at  WCU Admissions .

Transfer students must meet the application requirements of the University (above) and:

  • Have an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree or an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree from an accredited community college
  • Have an Associate’s of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree from an accredited community college or
  • Have substantial progress toward the “44 General Core” courses that satisfy the General Education/Liberal Studies requirement for a North Carolina community college

Special Opportunities for Criminal Justice Students

Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help boost understanding of your chosen field and give you the chance to collaborate, socialize, and network with your peers. Browse below for opportunities awaiting you.

Student Association of Criminal Justice Affairs (SACJA)

SACJA is a student-run club open to all students who are majoring or minoring in criminal justice at WCU. Dedicated to promoting criminal justice, both as an academic discipline and as a career choice, SACJA is active in community volunteerism, criminal justice-related student activities, and promoting a higher standard of education.

To learn more, call 828.227.2172.

Alpha Phi Sigma - National Criminal Justice Honor Society

Alpha Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma promotes critical thinking, academic excellence, service, leadership, and unity in the field of criminal justice. Contact Dr. Tasha Youtsin .

Criminal Justice Internship

The criminal justice curriculum offers an internship (CJ/EMGT 483) as a way to gain work experience while earning a maximum of 12 hours of academic credit. For more information, contact Internship Coordinator Dr. Andy Hansen .

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  1. Chapter 1: Critical Thinking WCU Flashcards

    A belief about a matter of taste. opinion. Reasoning. The process of drawing conclusions from evidence. Objective. Existing independent of human thought or belief. Subjective. Existing in the human mind. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Claim, Argument, "Argument" and more.

  2. Critical Thinking WCU Ch.2 Quiz Flashcards

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Which of the following is NOT one of the elements of the definition of a declarative sentence? A. used to express a claim or proposition B. a series of sounds (if spoken) or marks (if written) C. employed to declare a stance or position D. relative to a particular group of people that speak the same language, Which of the ...

  3. phil341

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  5. Week 7 Critical thinking Flashcards

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    -Critical thinking involves the EVALUATION of SOURCES such as data, facts, observable phenomenon and research findings-using these EXTERNAL sources, internal biases can be eliminated Raises vital questions and problems, formulate them clearly-use abstract ideas to interpret it properly-test against relevant criteria and standards-think open ...

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  9. C168 Critical Thinking and Logic

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  10. WGU-C168: Critical Thinking and Logic Flashcards

    The 8 Elements: *Assumptions*Concepts*Implications*Inferences*Information*Points of View*Purposes*Questions The 8 Intellectual Traits (Of the Critical Thinker):

  11. PHIL 341 : critical thinking

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    The North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) requires undergraduate degree-seeking teacher candidates to satisfactorily complete the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Tests, referred to as Praxis Core, which measure critical thinking and academic skills in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

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  16. 7 Puzzles to Challenge Your Critical Thinking

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  18. Week 7 Critical Thinking Assignment

    Week 7 Critical Thinking Assignment/MGT4710XA Tammie Swann 1 Week 7 Critical Thinking Assignment Discussion Questions 1. According to Delbecq and Gill (2001), physicians value majority rule in circumstances in which opposing views are presented. Morale can be improved in an organization through the use of due process, and by treating clinical staff as involved constituents.

  19. PDF How to Use Three Critical Points for Remediation with Focused Review 2.0

    Identify three critical points for the topic in the grey box (Pressure Injury, Wounds, and Wound Management). To do this, click on the link next to #1. It will take you to the topic within the eBook related to the concept. To see the full text, click on the Focused Review button. Read the information and identify the most three critical

  20. Mission, Values, Objectives, & Outcomes

    Critical Thinking: Implement intellectual and practical problem-solving strategies through assessment and critical thinking. Quantitative Reasoning: Apply appropriate mathematical and analytical methods to guide informed decision making.

  21. 11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class

    Feb 7, 2020 6 min read 11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class Updated: Oct 24 What is Critical Thinking? Critical thinking is a 21st-century skill that enables a person to think rationally and logically in order to reach a plausible conclusion.

  22. Western Carolina University

    SACJA is a student-run club open to all students who are majoring or minoring in criminal justice at WCU. Dedicated to promoting criminal justice, both as an academic discipline and as a career choice, SACJA is active in community volunteerism, criminal justice-related student activities, and promoting a higher standard of education.

  23. Сritical Thinking Skills

    The critical thinking process typically includes steps such as collecting information and data, asking thoughtful questions and analyzing possible solutions. For example, if you're working in human resources and need to resolve a conflict between two employees, you will use critical thinking to understand the nature of the conflict and what ...