Trivium Pursuit

Teaching Logic

I am preparing to teach an introduction to logic course to my seventh graders this fall, and all four of them are excited about it. I have never taught logic, and all that I have learned came from Martin Cothran’s Traditional Logic. I’m trying to go through Introductory Logic by Nance and Wilson, but it’s not as clear to me as Mr. Cothran’s book. Which course should I use among those listed? Thank you. Headmaster of a Classical School

The Cothran and Nance formal logic courses are excellent for teaching logic — to older students. Unfortunately, the snob in us — and we classical educators must own up to being such on occasion — would like to think that OUR child can certainly take on a difficult logic course at even age 12. Indeed it does seem that some bright young whippersnappers can get through those courses by memorizing all the proper procedures, but, I wonder if those young ones really internalize the information. Perhaps a better use of their time would be to study a little less abstract form of logic — such as informal logic. You don’t learn to swim by jumping in the deep end first, and it is my opinion that children benefit from a progressive study of logic such as this:

Pre-logic for Ages 10 through 12

Students ages ten through twelve can benefit from working through some pre-logic workbooks. These are optional and not necessary to begin studying real logic, but they can be useful. Here is the sequence we suggest:

Building Thinking Skills Book 2 (teachers manual not needed) ­ age 10
Building Thinking Skills Book 3 Figural (teachers manual needed) ­ age 11
Building Thinking Skills Book 3 Verbal (teachers manual needed) ­ age 12

Logic for Ages 13 and Up

It is at about age thirteen that the student seems ready for a real course in logic. We suggest beginning with informal logic and then progressing to formal logic.

The Fallacy Detective – age 13
The Thinking Toolbox – age 13
Critical Thinking Book 2 (teachers manual needed) ­ age 14-15
Introductory Logic Video Course by James Nance (formal logic) age 15-16
The Art of Reasoning by David Kelley (formal logic) ­ age 16-17

I have included the ages here, but it is not so much an age requirement for each book as it is a progression. We suggest you progress from Building Thinking Skills to The Fallacy Detective to The Thinking Toolbox to Critical Thinking to Introductory Logic to The Art of Reasoning. There are other books which could replace The Art of Reasoning (Intermediate Logic by James Nance, Traditional Logic by Martin Cothran, Material Logic by Martin Cothran, Introduction to Logic by Irving Copi, A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston, or With Good Reason by S. Morris Engel) as you see fit. You won’t be able to do them all, though. There’s only so much time in the day.

3 Responses to “Teaching Logic”

  1. Angelee Sailer Anderson Says:

    Martin Cothran is a personal friend of mine (albeit long distance for many years), and speaking as a former homeschooling mother, you cannot do any better than Memoria Press publications. I wish more of them had been available when my son was younger. You need to find a balance — students need to go beyond comfort to learn, but if you are completely over their heads they’ll tune out. I would err on the challenging side, unless you are pressuring them (via grades, etc.) to learn at a certain pace. They are way smarter than we think.

  2. Veronica Nash Says:

    It is so true that our children are often capable of more than we think. How often have my children surprised me with by completing a task or assignment I wouldn’t have given them if it were up to me?!

    We must also remember that God made the human body to develop in an orderly fashion. We may be able to do something but not necessarily benefit to the fullest if not emotionally or physically ready.

    Regarding the classroom mentioned in the question, maybe it would be a good idea to combine the pre-logic and logic if the students haven’t had any exposure. A building thinking skills with some Fallacy Detective chapters ending each class might be a nice transition to logic for a future class. I will pray for you and your four students specifically as I pray for all the teachers starting up their schools for the year.

    Thank you all for the question, answer and response.

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