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The Thinking Toolbox

The Thinking Toolbox
Price: $22.00

This book is like a toolbox, full of different kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks. Just as you use the wrench to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems.

We wrote this book for children and adults who want to learn logic and critical thinking skills. The Thinking Toolbox follows the same style as The Fallacy Detective with lessons and exercises and an answer key in the back. Parents and teachers, as well as anybody who wants to learn logic, will find The Thinking Toolbox easy to use and practical.


  • Fun to use – not dry like a math textbook
  • Can be used after or before The Fallacy Detective
  • Introductory – teaches skills you can use right away
  • Self-teaching format
  • For ages twelve and older
  • Over 60 cartoon illustrations by Richard LaPierre

Table of Contents

How to Use This Book
Tools for Thinking
A Thinking Tool
A Discussion, a Disagreement, an Argument, and a Fight
When It Is Dumb to Argue
Fact, Inference, or Opinion
Finding the Premises and Conclusion
How to List Reasons Why You Believe Something
How to Defeat Your Own Argument
When Not to Use Logic
Tools for Opposing Viewpoints
Using the Opposing Viewpoints Chart
Opposing Viewpoints Are Everywhere
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Evidence
You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear
Are You Primary or Secondary?
Who Has a Reason to Lie?
Corroborating Evidence
Mystery of the Stolen Manoot
Stir Plot until Thickened
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Does a Possibly Make a Probably?
Circumstantial Evidence
Puzzling Developments
Tools for Science
Mole the Scientist
Tools that Help Scientists Do Their Job
How to Be a Keen Observer
Hypothesis Is a Huge Word
How to Prove You Are Wrong
A Good Experiment
How to Analyze Data
Listen and Learn
A Little Project
“Herbal the Verbal Gerbil” Game
The Mystery of the Large Letter Library
Answer Key

Customer Reviews

Review of The Thinking Toolbox by Martha Robinson at homeschoolchristian.com

. . . It is said that you cannot teach common sense, but Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn are making great inroads towards that goal with their thinking skills volumes. Students get a large dose of sensible "tools" for solid thinking in this book. With the appealing characters and exercises, The Thinking Toolbox is bound to be a hit with teens. Its ability to move teens on to more mature thinking will make it highly popular with parents.


Review of The Thinking Toolbox by Cathy Duffy at cathyduffyreviews.com

The Bluedorn brothers authored The Fallacy Detective, one of my 100 Top Picks. The Thinking Toolbox is really a next step up from that book. Suggested for ages twelve and up, it still focuses on informal logic, just presenting more complex examples, applications, and questions....

See the rest of this review at Cathy Duffy's web site



Review of The Thinking Toolbox by Matthew Lewis at homeschoolenrichment.com

Critical thinking is one very important topic that, all too often, is neglected or even overlooked during a child's education. While a parent may recognize the importance of teaching critical thinking, the tools available to teach it may often seem less than inspiring. All that changes with the release of The Thinking Toolbox, written by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. In thirty-five easy lessons, the authors lead the reader on a journey through all the most important areas of critical thinking. In a conversational tone and with abundant examples, quizzes, and even a few "whodunit's," Hans and Nathaniel explain such topics as evidence, primary and secondary sources, circumstantial evidence, analyzing data, finding premises and conclusions, and much more.

One of the main strengths of this book is how understandable it is. The authors break down even complex concepts into simple terms, making everything clear through examples and illustrations. Humor and mystery help keep interest up; one of my favorite portions of the book was "The Case of the Stolen Manoot," in which your job is to use the critical thinking skills taught in the book to find out who stole the, er, famous (?!) Manoot painting from Mrs. McLeary's home.

The authors wrote The Thinking Toolbox for age thirteen and up. While I believe this is a good general guideline, I have also known homeschooled students who would have gotten a lot out of this book as early as age seven or eight. This book has the rare ability to capture and hold the interest of nearly any age, meaning there is no reason why parents-or grandparents-can't go through this book with a school-age student and get just as much out of it.

I believe that The Thinking Toolbox belongs in every homeschool library. The principles it teaches so admirably will go a long way toward helping your children understand and apply the proper use logic and critical thinking in their daily lives. Highly recommended!


Review of The Thinking Toolbox by Kathy Davis at homeschoolbuzz.com

Logic, fun? Oh, yes, when it’s The Bluedorn Brothers teaching it.

Their fantastic, and colorful book The Thinking Toolbox is one of the most inviting, entertaining and useful books on logic I’ve yet to find. Similar to The Fallacy Detective in format, The Thinking Toolbox takes you even further into the exciting world of logic. Building upon introductory logic, it can be used independent of, or as a companion to, their previous book The Fallacy Detective.

The book is a toolbox, with thirty-five lessons and exercises acting as “teaching tools” to help in thinking tasks. These invaluable lessons cover things like when is it dumb to argue, the five rules of brainstorming, analyzing opposing viewpoints, and how to list reasons why you believe something. The book is versatile, and would work well in a classroom or homeschool setting. Our family has enjoyed doing the exercises together, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I personally learned about logic and reasoning. Everything in The Thinking Toolbox is useful, vital knowledge, and necessary for preparing your children for life on their own. Give your children a blessing; use The Thinking Toolbox and teach them how to think.

Education means developing the mind, not stuffing the memory, ~Anonymous


Reviews of The Thinking Toolbox by parents

I have been using your book "The Fallacy Detective" with my 13 year-old son. I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying it (and so is my son). Although he is reluctant to admit that he is enjoying it, I hear him sharing bits and pieces of it to his Father and brothers. Your vision to inspire others to study logic is so needed in today's world. You've inspired me! That's how I found this website. I was wondering what to do after we finish your book. Lo and behold, the answer is here on your website!

I am so excited to learn more and am eagerly anticipating your sequel. I often find in homeschooling circles a fear to listen to opposing views (as well as condemnation for those who hold opposing views). This is not influential on a culture that needs Christ. Your comments on child-rearing (freedom for children to disagree) are also so needed. I admire and thank you and your parents for a job well-done.

– Carol


Reviews of The Thinking Toolbox on blogs

Written by Christian young men, this fun logic course is practically indispensable for those wishing to understand the cultural assault on the Christian faith! ......

This book needs to be taught in America's classrooms. Desperately. If I was still teaching full time, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Now that the gushing is out of the way, let me expand on that. Critical thinking is an important skill that everyone needs to acquire. Unfortunately, critical thinking doesn't show up on standardized tests, so schools aren't as concerned about teaching it. And it shows.

This book makes it easy to teach your kids how to think critically. It goes into enough depth that it's valuable for kids of all ages, but it can easily be taught to smaller kids. You can use this book at home, too -- no special skills are required, as long as you can read and think.

Two years ago, when I taught computer applications, I spent several weeks teaching my students about the internet, and how to evaluate the information they find there. I pointed out a site -- www.dhmo.org. The site provides valuable information about the effects of a substance called dihydrogen monoxide, and its use in everyday life. Read the site, and you get outraged.

Then, the punchline. DHMO is ....................................... water. Dihydrogen (H2) monoxide (O). But everything the site says about water is true. The problem is in how it's presented. It's all about thinking critically -- taking facts and evaluating what they actually are saying.

That's what this book teaches. That is what kids need to learn. Just don't wait for the schools to do it -- get this book and do it yourself.

{And, yes, I got this book from Mind and Media for free. Nobody paid me to write the review -- if I thought the book was bad, you'd know it. The book is not just good -- it's important.}

By Mark Radulich

Wanna learn better reasoning skills? Of COURSE you do.

I wasnt sure what to expect when opted to read and review, The Thinking Toolbox: 35 lessons that will build your Reasoning Skills, by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. I had taken and enjoyed Logic 101 when I was in college so I thought reading a book that was designed to improve my reasoning skills, would be an interesting venture. Even though the book is really intended for children ages 13 and over, I still found it entertaining, even if a bit rudimentary.

The book is broken up into 35 lessons that feature and introduction, some examples and then some activities relative to the preceding lesson. There is also an entire section dedicated to further puzzles and games dedicated to improving ones reasoning skills. Appropriate pictures that further illustrate the main point of each lesson pleasantly accompany each lesson. Ostensibly this is a fun and interesting childrens textbook dedicated to the art of clear and thoughtful analysis.

One of the features of the guide is that it presents a Christian view of logic. I was somewhat skeptical of this at first because I wasnt sure what the authors definition of a Christian view of logic, exactly was and how that would affect the narrative of book. As it turns out, if the back cover didnt explicitly alert the reader to this idea, it wouldnt occur to you at all that you were being exposed to said, Christian view of logic. The authors make it patently clear how one should conduct themselves within the confines of civil discourse and debate. The themes of the lessons are patience, an emphasis on good communication and tolerance of ulterior points of view. These are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and just make good common sense.

I do not have children at this time but I do work with disadvantaged and abused children on a daily basis as a family therapist. I believed strongly enough in the books overall message that I decided to bring to a session with a family that has found strength and solidarity in the Christian church. The family, who tend to be open to new ideas and willing to put forth the effort to make positive changes in their family dynamic, were very interested in the book and accepted it as a gift from me. It ended up being the impetus to a wonderful session that centered on how the husband and wife could better improve their communication and find a better sense of understanding of each other. In this sense, it served a very practical purpose. I would submit that, The Thinking Toolbox, could be used in a classroom or among family members as a way of exercising better communication skills and also generating positive discussion, as had happened during my session.

The children of the home found it especially appealing as well. While I as an educated adult found many of the lessons to be common sense, the children who took a gander at the book while in session began to acquire and framework for the art of discourse and communication that had previously escaped them. On of the children were simply mesmerized by the lessons and excitedly quoted from the book as he found new words to label thoughts that often went garbled in previous family or school discussions.

Though this guide came from a Christian publishing house, theres nothing particularly or overtly religious about it. It is as I explained above, simply a guide to building better reasoning skills based on the premise of tolerance and clarity. I believe those themes are universal enough to warrant readership by the religious and secular alike.

If you have children or work with them and they are savvy and patient enough for you to do interesting activities with, I would highly recommend, The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills, by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn.

Until I read The Thinking Toolbox, I had never read a book out loud. I don’t mean a page or two, or a chapter, but an entire book.

I made the mistake of starting this book while I was lying in bed, while my wife was watching an old movie. Why do I say this was a mistake? Because, she got so tired of hearing me chuckle she stopped her movie and asked me what I was reading. I read the first chapter to her and she was hooked.

Each chapter is its own lesson in logic, and the examples presented by the authors make you realize just how much we should be using basic logic on a daily basis. By the time we hit chapter 3, “When It Is Dumb to Argue”, we were arguing about reading any more of the book out loud. So the timing was perfect. Of course, by chapter 7, “How to Defeat Your Own Argument”, I realized it was a lost cause and I continued to read the book aloud.

We stopped at the end of each lesson to do the exercises and quickly realized that this book could help our children as well. Of course, at this point I did not want to start over, so we will re-read it with them at a later date.

The book covers a lot of ground and provides “all kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks.” Tools for thinking, tools for opposing viewpoints, and of course, my personal favorite, tools for science. Yes. I. Am. A. Geek.

The authors, Nathaniel & Hans Bluedorn, present examples of logical thinking in a way no textbook could ever come close to doing. Each lesson is just long enough to deliver its message, and yet short enough that you don’t lose interest in that message. The book cover says it is a self-teaching book, but we found it much more enjoyable with one person reading it to the other. Discussing each lesson was almost as fun as reading the lesson itself.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. Parents and children alike. While I know that opposing viewpoints are everywhere, it does not take a lot of brainstorming to realize that The Thinking Toolbox is a great resource every family should have in their library.

Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3

We live in the time of the dialectic. Constructed by Hegel and turned on its head by Marx, the time-tested tools of finding truth, thesis and antithesis, have been corrupted by the dialectic corruption of "synthesis". Thus, we descend into moral relativism. As Francis Schaeffer said in How Should We Then Live:

Instead of antithesis (that some things are true and their opposite untrue), truth and moral rightness will be found in the flow of history, a synthesis of them. This concept has not only won on the other side of the Iron Curtain (me: this book was written in 1976); it has won on this side as well. Today, not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people had always thought of truth, has died.

How do you combat and turn back this kind of thinking? Arm yourself and your children with the tools of reasoning so that you can see through moral, philosophic and scientific compromise that passes as truth.

The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lesson That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn will provide invaluable to that cause. The book provides Tools for Thinking to determine what is fact versus inference and opinion. This is invaluable in a world rife with propaganda emanating from the media, college professors and scientists.

Speaking of scientists, the book discusses Tools for Science such as peer review. This was of particular interest to me after reading Wesley J. Smith's book, Consumer's Guide to A Brave New World, wherein he laments the decline of the use of peer review in bio-tech research in favor of immediately obtaining patents--leading, in part to such travesties as the dogmatic attachment of the media elites and others to embryonic stem cell research despite unproven and wholly inferred "benefits" in the face of the real and concrete benefits coming from research and use of adult stem cells. (as documented by Smith in his book)

The book is chock full of exercises where one can apply its lessons. This makes the book a perfect addition to the lesson plans for homeschoolers--or for adults making up for an education deficient in formal logic. These tools will enable you to effectively separate the wheat from the chaff.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." Most students today, public schoolers and homeschoolers alike, are often taught merely to parrot facts. Little emphasis is placed on teaching children to think and reason for themselves. "The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills" by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn attends to this neglected part of education.

With a light-hearted touch, the Bluedorns have written an easy to understand guide to logic and critical thinking with a Christian worldview. The softcover, 234 page book is not in the least intimidating. Each of the thirty-five lessons is short (typically 2-4 pages) and ends with exercises enabling the reader to practice the lesson in various scenarios. Thankfully for those of us who have received very little education in logic, the answers to the exercises are included in the back of the book.

The Bluedorns have wisely made each lesson short and concise; thus, the reader is never overwhelmed. Due to the brevity of each lesson, "The Thinking Toolbox" would make the perfect logic and reasoning text for followers of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. The book is also useful for adults who would like to improve their own reasoning skills. While the book was written for ages 13 through adult, I found it to be easily understood by my seven and nine year old children. In fact, they begged daily to read the next lesson and most of the exercises led to giggles of delight.

While I have yet to read the Bluedorn's "The Fallacy Detective," my enjoyable experience with "The Thinking Toolbox" leads me to believe their other logic text would be a great addition to our family library. If you're looking for an easy and fun way to learn to think logically and critically, I highly recommend "The Thinking Toolbox."

The Thinking Toolbox, by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, subtitled, "Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills," is what I've been assigned by Mind and Media to review. May I just say that I love this book and can't wait to use it with my own children?

Witty and engaging (and let's not forget the hilarious cartoon drawings), this book takes the often dull and tedious study of Formal Logic and makes it enjoyable. Of course, if you've ever read the Bluedorn's before, you automatically know you're in for a treat!

Personally, I love the self-teaching format, and the ease with which you can go through each of the thirty-five lessons. The exercises (for the mind) at the end of each lesson are challenging and fun.

In working with youth, my husband has become more and more convinced of the need for basic Logic courses. In a society constantly bombarding its subjects with logical fallacies (especially the much worshiped Youth Generation), we can hardly blame today's teen-aged population for being so duped. What hope have they...unless our young people are trained to recognize the lies and counter them with truth. It's simply a case of providing them with armor and ammunition, as opposed to leaving them out to be sitting ducks.

For example, Lesson 10 is titled, "Opposing Viewpoints are Everywhere." This means that when the National Geographic movie goes on and on about evolution in the middle of a documentary about the Sahara, we don't need to assume that National Geographic's viewpoint is the truth. This means that when your young person is confronted with a violently feminist professor in her first year of community college, she will have already been trained to hear the lecture as "a viewpoint," instead of gospel truth. This means that when I say that The Thinking Toolbox is really an excellent primer on reasoning skills, you may think you know of a better one. But it also means that I don't have to agree with you.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to review this book. I do remember thinking the art on the cover made it look like something that might be fun to read.

Have you ever read a book that makes you laugh out loud and then your wife looks at you like your crazy? Well, if that makes you uncomfortable then this book is not for you.

Having read some…ok more like attempted to read some logic books in high school with the results being I was either out like a light or so confused I forgot my own name. This book is a refreshing look at reasoning and logic. It is not only written in a very light hearted way, but it still asks questions that can really get the gears in your head turning, and that requires you to use the skills you’ve just learned from reading the chapter

The back cover says it is written for ages 13 through adult. Other reviews I’ve read have said that this book is good for homeschoolers. I would agree with that, but I also see it being used in a much broader sense, for example I believe this is essential for Christian children that are in the secular school system, so they can begin to learn the basics of defending their faith. I also see this as being helpful to those Christians who want to share their faith with others, but are afraid of “being shot down” because they may not have an answer to someone’s question on why they believe so strongly in something, that other people may not understand.

My only criticism for this book is there are some parts that I wished they would have gone into a little more depth. But considering the author’s target audience it is easy to understand why they haven’t.

Being very interested in apologetics this book has helped me understand the basis with which to lay down a sound argument for or against an issue. The sections Tools for Thinking and Tools for Opposing Viewpoints are great for this. Until listening to an interview with the Bluedorn brothers, I didn’t think the book’s section on Tools for Science really applied to me. After all I had no plans of doing any science fair projects any time soon. But in the interview they explained the scientific process is something that gets used all time. I used it when I bought my guitar…ok, ok so that was more of an impulse buy. On the other hand, I did use it when it was time to buy an amp for my guitar. I did research on different brands, read peer reviews from people that had bought amps, and in the end I was able to make a good choice.

In conclusion I believe most people will find a good use for the lessons taught in this book.

When the package containing The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn arrived in the mail, I was excited -- primarily because this was the first book I had received to review as an official "Mind and Media Reviewer." After I read the following paragraphs in lesson one, I was thrilled:

"This book is like a toolbox. This book is full of different kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks. Just as you take a wrench out of a regular toolbox and use it to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems.

A thinking tool will often take the form of a question. "How do I know this person is trustworthy? Does he have a reason to lie? Are there two sides to this story? Which one should I believe?" Thinking tools are very useful in solving many kinds of problems -- from studying history, to finding out why the family cow is sick, to knowing whether to trust bearded guys in black vans....

Each lesson in this book will give you a thinking tool or teach you how to use a tool. By the time you finish this book, you will have many tools in your thinking toolbox -- tools such as: how to list reasons to believe something, how to analyze opposing viewpoints, examining evidence and sources, brainstorming, the scientific method."

This is a book designed to teach people how to think. The book is intended for anyone middle school-age to adult, and I know many people who could use a book like this -- including myself!

I don't know about other people's experiences growing up, but I was not taught how to think. Not by my parents (and I have wonderful, loving parents, so please don't think I'm casting blame), not by my teachers, and not by my pastors. Especially not by my teachers. We assumed that anything we were taught or read in textbooks must be true. We were not encouraged to question or discover for ourselves whether something was true or not. I remember in high school science class being baffled by the teachers' claims that the world was formed by a gaseous explosion in space millions of years ago. I knew this teaching contradicted the Bible, but I had no tools with which to support my belief.

That's what this book does. It gives you tools to think for yourself. Yes, I want my children to obey my husband and I and trust that we have their best interests at heart. But I also want them to know how to think. I don't want them to trust every claim made by the media, an author, or even a pastor without checking it out for themselves.

….I am so impressed by this book. The content is extremely valuable, and it is presented in a straight-forward, humorous way that teens will appreciate. Each chapter ends with plenty of exercises to allow you to use the tools you have gained.

I will definitely be using this book in our homeschool when our children are older. But I won't wait to begin teaching them some of these tools. I only wish I could afford to buy a copy to send to every person who forwards me an e-mail claiming that Bill Gates will make me rich if I just forward it to a gazillion people!

When a construction worker builds a house, he usually straps his tool belt to his waist so that the necessary tools are at his fingertips. Ready to use at a moments notice. It makes no sense to constantly run around looking for the necessary equipment and learning how to use them as he works. The best builders are those that have the tools ready and know how to use them.

The same is true in critical thinking. It is helpful to have the "thinking tools" available so that whether we are reading a book or listening to a sales pitch we can have the necessary tools in our mental tool box ready to guide our thinking and our choices.

However, the tools for thinking are obviously not hammers and saws. Instead, we rely on the rules of logic and reasoning skills to help develop our thinking. Most formal logic course are philosophical and offer few practical helps. But the Bluedorn brothers have come up with an introductory logic series that will provide most with the tools they need to help construct a logical argument and also to evaluate when to use them.

The book could be read and completed independently by an older child. I plan on using it in the fall with all my children as a read aloud before they begin their independent work. The discussion questions are excellent even for smaller children. Even if they don't grasp some of the logical concepts, they will enjoy the simple examples and learn right along with their older siblings. We worked through the Bluedorn's first book, The Fallacy Detective, in a similar fashion and it went very well.

I have had college level classes in formal logic and I found this book entertaining and informative. The reasoning skills learned from this book along with their companion book provide a great entry into the study of formal logic. But more importantly, these skills will give our children the tools necessary to think clearly in their daily lives.

The Thinking Toolbox is a 35-chapter book written by brothers Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. Its purpose is to help kids and adults develop reasoning and thinking skills.

The book is divided into three main sections: "Tools for Thinking," "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints," and "Tools for Science." Each chapter is a lesson, and the lessons build on each other in a logical (of course!) way, though each is self-contained.

The lessons are short. They are introduced with an example or problem to solve, then the concept is taught, and this is followed by a sum-up statement of what was learned. The lesson concludes with exercises, giving the reader practice in applying the concept to real life situations (answers and explanations are at the back of the book).

After the brief introductory "How To Use This Book" chapter, the first main section­"Tools for Thinking" (Lessons 1 - 8)­teaches concepts like what the difference is between a discussion, a disagreement, an argument and a fight; when it is appropriate to argue; what are fact, inference and opinion; and how one states a premise and comes to a conclusion.

I found Lesson 6 in this section, which taught about listing and sorting reasons, the weakest, in that the example used to illustrate how this was done was more confusing than helpful. But Lesson 7, "How to Defeat Your Own Argument," was excellent in the way it suggested anticipating objections to arguments. I also appreciated the way Lesson 8, "When Not to Use Logic," taught the importance of knowing when to hold one’s tongue:

But sometimes a different logic takes precedence; the logic of human relationships and emotions. When we realize we should not speak our thoughts we are not being illogical. We are being logical in silence.

The second main section, "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints" (Lessons 9 - 21), includes lessons on recognizing opposing viewpoints, evaluating the quality of evidence, defining primary and secondary sources, and recognizing and analyzing circumstantial evidence

In this section I found myself arguing with the sum-up statement of Chapter 12, the rule for analyzing sources: "If you don’t know how a source obtained his information­ -- how he knows what he knows -- ­then the source should be considered unreliable." Come now, gentlemen, do you even follow that advice yourself? In this day of information glut, is such a thing even possible? Some tips here on the hierarchy of, say, web and print sources might have been helpful in explaining how to realistically put this principle into practice. On the plus side, a highlight chapter in this section was Chapter 18, which uses as its example the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday story from American history.

…The book’s target age range is 13 to adult, although I think younger kids could read and benefit from at least parts of it. It is written in a light-hearted, friendly style with lots of humor, and the text is broken up with Richard LaPierre’s cartoon illustrations. I can see this book being a welcome resource not only for home school kids and their parents, but for any kid or adult who is bombarded by 21st century media and its "Believe me!" messages.

Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn are brothers who live in Illinois and The Thinking Toolbox is a follow-up to their first book, The Fallacy Detective. These books are primarily intended for use as homeschooling textbooks, and the Bluedorns’ interest in this area stems largely from their education at home growing up.

In an interview, Nathaniel gets at the intention behind the book: to make logic accessible and enjoyable for students. “Logic books are notorious for being very difficult, very austere,” he says. Instead, logic should be “a very enjoyable thing that everybody can do.” Hans affirms that the first step is to get kids to “think at all, and then the next step is to get them to think correctly.”

The book is a course of 35 lessons, with illustrations, applications, and exercises forming distinct little units. Colorful illustrations abound in the book, courtesy of Richard LaPierre. The book starts with the most basic building blocks of critical thinking, inculcating rules like “Just because somebody tells you something, that doesn’t mean it is true,” and moving on to examine things like the different kinds of discourse, and recognizing the difference between facts, opinions, and inferences.

The writing is easy and entertaining, placing the reader in imaginative and interesting situations to illustrate the relevant principle. This fits well with the intended audience, as the book is written for ages 13 and up, although it may not be too difficult for worthy children of a somewhat more tender age. Of course, this clear and simple style can at times be a drawback for a more mature audience, as the repetition and exercises can sometimes be pedestrian. But again, this is an artifact of the intended audience rather than a shortcoming of the book itself.

Various exercises will keep the attention of the child and get them to use the various tools they learn about in the book. There are a number of fictional mysteries thrown in, with relevant (and sometimes irrelevant) clues given to tease the imagination. Not all of the problems are fictitious; however, as fans of Westerns will be pleased to know that the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral appears in the book as an informative exercise in historical investigation.

A key part of the book is its identification of the purpose and role of logic in life. For example, Lesson 3 gives some guidelines for knowing “When it is Dumb to Argue.” In this way, some rhetorical concerns, such as audience, types and appropriateness of conversation, are woven into the book.

One criticism of the book, however, is that it does not delineate clearly or explicitly enough the role of logic in relation to Christian apologetics. This comes up especially in Lessons 6-8, in which beliefs are challenged and the book leads the reader through ways to examine, articulate, understand, and defend a particular belief.

So in Lesson 6 we read, “To understand a belief, we need to understand the reasons that point to it. We keep track of our reasons in our heads, even though we may not be aware we’re doing this.”

Lesson 7 leads us beyond stating positive reasons for a belief to examining what in epistemology are called “defeaters.” The book states, “It is not good enough to have convincing reasons for the things you believe. If you want to have a strong position, then you need to anticipate opposing arguments and prepare counter arguments.” Strictly within the realm of logical argumentation, this is certainly true. But is it more broadly applicable?

Indeed, it could lead someone to believe that it is not possible to know something or it is inappropriate to believe something unless we have explicit and expressed (and sufficiently good) reasons for doing so. This would be something akin to epistemological evidentialism or foundationalism, views the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has done much to combat in his series on warrant and Christian belief.

If this were the sort of role that the Bluedorns were advocating for logic and reason in the Christian life it would be very problematic. The book leaves the verdict somewhat ambiguous in my opinion, but their comments elsewhere clear up any mysteries.

“Just because someone is very intelligent and is very logical, it doesn’t mean that they have the truth,” says Hans in an interview. This gets at an appropriately circumscribed Christian view of logic and reasoning, as articulated by G.K. Chesterton.

Chesterton states, “Logic and truth, as a matter of fact, have very little to do with each other. Logic is concerned merely with the fidelity and accuracy with which a certain process is performed, a process which can be performed with any materials, with any assumption. You can be as logical about griffins and basilisks as about sheep and pigs.” Indeed, “Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic – for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.”

The book would do better to more clearly illustrate the role of logic in its traditional Christian role as “handmaiden” to Christian belief, or theology. But given the intended audience, and the overall tone of the book, this is a rather small criticism. After all, logic is identified in the title and throughout the book as a tool, and very important one, but a tool nonetheless.

The Bluedorns have certainly achieved their goal of creating a logic textbook that is neither boring nor distant, but rather informative, approachable, enjoyable, and valuable. This little book could admirably play a large and important role in the education of any child.

What do you think of my hypothesis? "The Thinking Toolbox" by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, with illustrations by Richard LaPierre, is the best book ever published on logic because it is as accessible for high-schoolers as it is for ink-stained wretches who have been on the job for more than three decades.

How would you decide whether to accept or reject my hypothesis? You could simply dismiss it as the product of self-interested bias because you suspect that I am being paid to say nice things about the book since an ad for it appears on this blog.

Or you might conclude my hypothesis couldn't possibly be true because you checked my credentials and discovered that I failed Philosophy 101 during my sophomore year in college.

Maybe you reject my hypothesis because, after consulting Amazon.com's top sellers list and finding it ranked at number 73,227, you decide the odds are good that another book on thinking has probably sold far more copies and is therefore better.

Possibly, you consider yourself an expert thinker now and so dismiss "The Thinking Toolbox" as not worth your time because it is unlikely to teach you something you haven't already known for a long time.

On the other hand, perhaps you go the opposite direction and immediately accept my hypothesis as true simply because you are a long-time reader of Tapscott's Copy Desk and you always agree with what I write here, so I must be right about "The Thinking Toolbox."

Or you don't know me from atom and you've only just discovered my blog today, but you are impressed with how utterly confident I sound in propounding my hypothesis, so you figure I must be right and you start telling everybody you meet that they should read "The Thinking Toolbox" because it is the best book ever written on the subject.

Common though they are, every one of these conclusions is an example of a particular flaw in thinking. These are common in everyday life because we all at one time or another rely on such thinking in evaluating news we hear or read, choosing among products we are considering purchasing, deciding our opinion of somebody we've just met, or in a thousand other situations. Life is like that, right?

That's true, but wouldn't it be cool to be able to sharpen our wits - if only to silence that irritating know-it-all liberal (or conservative) blowhard at the office - without having to go back to school and sit through that unbelievably arrogant graduate teaching assistant's mind-numbingly boring lectures in Philosophy 101? That's the value of "The Thinking Toolbox."

This is not to suggest that this book is an easy read or that it won't make you work for the benefits it offers. There are 35 chapters, each two or three pages long and focusing on a particular aspect of effective thinking. There are lots of exercises at the end of each chapter, many of which do require a modest commitment of time and brain power.

The chapters are divided into four divisions, including Tools for Thinking, Tools for Opposing Viewpoints, Tools for Science and Projects. Every chapter is accompanied by pleasant illustrations and a photo here and there. This is not a "Thinking Smart for Dummies" kind of book.

If you seek a college-level textbook stuffed to the gills with historical descriptions of the development of various approaches to philosophy or complicated explications of the different schools of thought about controversies over things like the relationship - if any - between language and meaning, then this book is not what you want.

"The Thinking Toolbox" is indeed equally accessible for folks who are just beginning to learn how to think as well as those who think they have been thinking well for decades precisely because it is crisp, to the point and devoted to describing the basics of logic, deductive and inductive reasoning, ferreting out hidden premises and much else.

The exercises at the end of each chapter make "The Thinking Toolbox" especially useful for home-schooling parents and high school teachers, but the book would work equally well as a refresher for a newsroom full of jaded journalists who think they've seen it all, heard it all and done it all. They probably have, incidentally, they just really don't know what to make of it all.

I note that Amazon's customers give "The Thinking Toolbox" four and a half stars. That's just about right for me, too. By the way, if you are curious about which flaws are represented by each of the above responses to my hypothesis, the first one is ...

Hey, wait a minute. You almost got me! You'll learn more if you buy the book and figure it out for yourself.

Having read The Fallacy Detective, written by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn, I turned immediately to the second title in the Christian Logic series. The Thinking Toolbox is "like a toolbox - full of all kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks" (from the back cover). Like its predecessor, it is self-teaching and is written to appeal to both teenagers and adults.

While the format of this book is much the same as The Fallacy Detective, it is in many ways better-written and better-formatted. While the format of the book is much the same, featuring thirty-five lessons, each followed by questions of application, the illustrations were superior and more appealing. It continued to feature the humorous touches that made the previous book such a joy to read, even though it dealt with weighty subject matter.

The Thinking Toolbox teaches reasoning skills. It begins with introducing the differences between a discussion, a disagreement, an argument and a fight and guides the reader to understand how to discern premises and conclusions. It progresses to providing tools to understand and deal with opposing viewpoints, before wrapping up with tools for science. These include observation, brainstorming, hypothesizing, analysis and so on. There are even a few projects and games added to the end of the book to provide further opportunities for application.

The only complaint I might have about this book is that the questions following each lesson did not repeat as often or as deliberately as they did in The Fallacy Detective, which provides fewer opportunities for review.

This is another helpful title that will no-doubt be helpful in guiding students to use and improve their God-given reasoning abilities. I would suggest that this title has less-appeal to adults than its predecessor, but equal appeal to teenagers. It would be a very useful tool for summer-reading or as part of a homeschooling curriculum. I unreservedly recommend it.

When it came in the mail I read the first chapter and immediately knew that I had to get this book into the hands of my mother who organizes our Church's free tutoring/mentoring program. We've been working with neighborhood kids in need of educational help for over ten years and she has been the person that puts together teaching aids, encourages tutors, and places children with the volunteer tutor best suited to that child's need.

So I asked her if she would be willing to do the review. She accepted and the following is her review of this wonderful book.

The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn is a must use book for anyone teaching children ages 13 and up. The sub-title informs us that this book has 35 lessons focused on "building reasoning skills". The authors accomplish this goal with short lessons written in a very readable language which is dotted with humor.

The book is divided into three skill teaching sections: skills for "Thinking", "Opposing Viewpoints" and "Science". In each section there are short lesson chapters which are interesting and very clear. I found that when the authors used actual historic events to teach a point, that they wrote about the event in such a way that a reader might be gently spurred on to find out more information. Cartoon drawings are eye catching and help to draw the reader's focus to specific points. Each chapter concludes with a bold type succinct summary followed by a number of "Exercises" for practicing the lesson's "tool". Answers for the exercises are found at the end of the book and are nicely arranged. The last section of the book consists of projects and games for putting the skills taught into practice.

This probably is not a book that a kid would pick up on his or her own to read. But with someone to make it required reading I think most kids would find themselves enjoying the book. The book is suitable for group or individual study. I am the director of our Church's volunteer tutoring/mentoring program and plan to encourage a number of our tutors to use it. Our sessions with children are short and the chapters of this book would lend themselves very easily to our needs. Most of the kids we work with do not have confidence in their own ability to succeed and lack the skills they need in order to succeed. I believe that learning the skills in this book would definitely enhance their confidence and serve to help increase their motivation for learning.

As a side note, I think that if a Church Youth Director could find a way to weave the teaching of these skills into Bible studies they would be useful in helping teens think through the choices with which they are faced with daily.

Wow! What a great resource! This self-published book written by two young men who were homeschooled and “live in the middle of a cornfield” doesn’t look or read like an amateur job at all. These guys give learners a professional, but reader-friendly, introduction to logic and debate in thirty-five lessons. Of course, the school teacher in me immediately sees thirty-five chapters as one lesson for each week of the school year, and that’s probably exactly how we’ll be using this book this next year.

“This book is like a toolbox. This book is full of different kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks. Just as you take a wrench out of a regular toolbox and use it to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems.

This book would be a good introduction to logic or to science since it covers rules of debate and argument, evaluating evidence, and using the scientific method to test observations and come to a conclusion. In the final section of the book, the authors encourage learners to do a project using the information learned in the first part of the book. The purpose of the project is to use the thinking tools that students have been reading about so that the information will become more than just isolated facts about circumstantial evidence and brainstorming and the analysis of data. Thinking tools that are used to do a project that interests the student become useful thinking tools that can be pulled out and applied to other tasks and projects.

Not only do I plan to use this book in my homeschool this year with my third grader and my fifth grader, I also will suggest that we use the book in our homeschool co-op to teach middle school and/or high school students the reasoning skills that the Bluedorns so skillfully explicate. The outside cover of the book itself says that it is “written for ages 13 through adult;” however, I gave it to my eight year old, and he was fascinated by the information, the cartoon pictures, and especially the exercises at the end of each lesson. I would say that the book could be used with students in the upper elementary grades with the help of a parent or teacher and as a self-teaching tool for any student over the age of twelve.

The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn with illustrated by Richard LaPierre is a 35 lesson book on reasoning skills. Each short chapter concludes with exercises to help readers master the content and then can be self-checked against the answers at the end of the book. The chapters cover the big idea of each concept with a simple narrative that illustrates the principle or a context to which it applies. For example when a detective story scenario is developed and you use a skill to solve the mystery. With respect to what thinking/reasoning skills are developed, three areas are covered:

1) “Tools for Thinking” is the section where the elements of reasoning are explained. For example, the contexts for reasoning are illustrated with the distinctions that characterize the difference between a discussion and a disagreement as well as an argument from a fight. The subsequent chapter helps develop discernment with respect the appropriate times to use your reasoning skills (“When It IS Dumb to Argue”). Also the parts of an argument are explained so you can identify what is “doing the work” of an argument or how to construct one. Then tips for building and refining arguments are given.

2) “Tools for Opposing Viewpoints” helps one make decisions, realize that there is always another view, and evaluate the quality of the evidence and its source. Further, this section provides a good beginning to help you discern a motive and various types of evidence.

3) “Tools for Science” introduces basic scientific method. This section demonstrates the need for observation provides some tips and skills. Specifically, the formation of a hypothesis, conducting good experiments, and analyzing the data are each covered well.

Structurally the book is organized and easy to follow, the exercises are good, and the narrative delivery of the content make it an easy to read book.

Why read this book? Naturally his book will greatly enhance ones abilities for any type of learning (reading, listening, and anything else that requires thought). Beyond this, in a postmodern, ambiguous, most-everything-is-gray-world we live in, we could all use a little clarity of thought. The thinking toolbox (TTB) is a wonderful start in this direction of clarity. The TTB is especially helpful for young people who are currently in school. Its self-directed learning and youth friendly illustrations and exercises bare the touches of the one who knows well the self-teaching format. It is a very accessible book even for adults who might be put off by a college level logic or critical thinking text.

Further, the “real world” applications of good thinking skills are very good. For example in the beginning of the book a man is featured in an illustration that looks suspicious and is trying to pick up a kid. The kid uses the logical thinking skills from the book to figure out that this guy is lying. Although the illustration then takes an unexpected twist, any parent can immediately appreciate this tools provided in TTB. Certainly most adults need to deal with many scams each day. The National Fraud Information Center has enough reported scams going on to merit plenty of critical thinking.

Why might you want to read something else? If you are an adult or a high school student with natural reasoning skills seeking to move to the “next level,” then you might begin with a more advanced text. Some high school students (and adults) will be put off by the kid-styled illustrations and lack of textual sophistication.

What is my overall opinion of the book? Great book for kids or if you are looking to build a foundation for good reasoning skills. I think it is a great resource for kids who want to get ahead, learn better or are “home-scholars.” However, if you have attained some sophistication to your reasoning abilities, then get into a logic text or a critical reasoning text.

The greatest raison d'etre behind this site is to promote critical thinking. There is a tremendous lack of this skill in our society and the world today. And it is a skill. It's not an inherent trait, though I do think that some are predisposed to being logical and reasoned. It is a learned ability, the ability to critically think and assess various situations. This is most certainly a skill not taught in our schools today, at least not in the public sectors, and I can't say it is highly emphasized in most of the private schools I've encountered. This could probably be explained through several reasons, but I think two primary reasons are 1. The teachers themselves don't critically think about issues, and 2. Educators don't feel it is that necessary (it's also quite difficult to teach).

A brief glance at the state of our education system today could easily leave one feeling pessimistic and depressed. So it is more than a delight and reason to hope when books like The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn come along. This book is phenomenal. It should be required reading for every living being.

The Brothers Bluedorn set out to teach students (13-18 years of age) the basics of logic, argumentation, critique, research and the scientific method. I have never seen a book that so clearly and concisely delivers on this endeavor. The book contains "35 lessons that will build your reasoning skills." Each lesson is no more than 4 pages, with 2-3 pages of exercises at the conclusion to help solidify what was just learned.

I have about 8 private students that I am tutoring this summer and every one of them, fourth graders to high schoolers, is going through this book with me. And the best part of it is: they love it. That is the real litmus test here. Not only do I love this book but the students get it and they ask to do it every time we're together. My fourth graders can now tell you the difference between a discussion, a disagreement, an argument and a fight, as well as tell you the definition of a fact, inference and opinion.

There are lessons in this book that are too advanced for smaller children, such as those on corroborating evidence, but students in junior high and high school take to it like a fish to water. I have always believed that the reason why students often do poorly in school is because no one believes in them and challenges them enough. This book proves that theory. The students find themselves quite challenged by the lessons and exercises. I can almost hear the wheels in their head turning while they try to connect the dots in the mysteries or arguments with which they are presented.

The book breaks down into four sections. The first is called "Tools for Thinking," and covers such topics as facts, inferences, or opinions; finding premises and conclusions and how to defeat your own argument. The second section, entitled "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints," deals with primary and secondary sources, corroborating and circumstantial evidence and has a few lessons that are mysteries the student is to figure out based on previous lessons learned. The third is "Tools for Science," or the scientific method and teaches students the importance of observation, experimentation, the difference between science and pseudoscience and guides them through many projects. Finally, the last section is solely dedicated to projects that put all the student's newly acquired information to work. Projects are based on preference and learning style. Toolbox is also brilliantly illustrated by Richard LaPierre.

While this book was primarily written as a guide to budding scholars, it has been nothing short of delightful to read. I have learned these things many times over, but it re-enforces my knowledge as well as teaches me new methods to approach the subjects. I have loved reading this book. I think every student of critical thought should make it a priority to read this book and share it with others. If you homeschool your children, please buy this book. Buy several copies.

I am excited and hopeful to see the difference this book makes in the world of home education. The Thinking Toolbox has my highest recommendation.

My initial reaction to book:

I can't wait to read it. Both front and back covers are appealing. A quick skim of the book makes me want to jump into it. It is well formatted and well illustrated. Because I've never taken a logic class, I'm looking forward to the book, especially since it teaches a Christian view of logic.

One of my primary goals for my children is that they learn to think, not just learn facts. At first glance, The Thinking Toolbox promises to help me reach that goal.

My sons' initial reaction to the book:

According to the back cover the book is "self-teaching" for ages 13 through adult. Though my son is only 8, I wanted his input on it after I read the first page of "Lesson 1: A Thinking Tool". I wondered if it would grab his attention like it did mine. It did. He read through "Lesson 3: When It Is Dumb to Argue" for a total of 15 pages.

Not only did he read, he reacted. A few times he read things of interest out loud to me and a few times he laughed, so much that my 6 year old daughter asked if he was reading a joke book. I think this one will earn a "Must Buy" rating.

Stay tuned for the complete review. In the meantime, check out the ChristianLogic.com site, full of information and activities. One article, "Contests and the Brain", made me think of Marla.

The Thinking Toolbox is a book I wish I had owned as a teenager. Through creative examples and simple, thorough explanations, Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn have provided young people and their parents with an engaging and easily read book on critical thinking.

The book is divided into four sections: Tools for Thinking, Tools for Opposing Viewpoints, Tools for Science, and Projects. Each section is well-organized and informative, with every lesson building upon the last. The scenarios are entertaining and appropriate for the intended middle-school reader, and the authors refrain from lowering themselves to the sarcastic, knowing tone so common in writing for this age group. The junior high humor occasionally made it difficult for me to follow the line of thinking in the question and answer section, but I have a feeling my preteen sons would have no trouble understanding it.

The Bluedorns are clearly writing with a Christian worldview in mind, yet I was particularly pleased that they did not shy away from challenging the student to think critically about EVERY subject, including creation and evolution, and the study of logic itself. Each subject matter is treated tactfully and avoids common catch phrases and rhetoric.

I would be glad to recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their reasoning skills, but I think it is particularly appropriate for preteens to young teens. We will be eagerly adding this book to our own homeschool curriculum next year.

The Thinking Toolbox is a wonderful and refreshing book. It touts itself as a resource for ages 13 and up on logic and is a companion to The Fallacy Detective (which I haven't read.) This books takes you step by step through the logic process in a series of chapters followed by exercises. While this book easily could have become mundane, the chapters are short and the exercises engaging.

Overall, the book would be a great tool for a parent to work on thinking with a child. It may even be useful for children under age 13 (who actually may have a greater interest in this line of thinking.) The examples and exercises were fun and suspenseful. The book is also full of great illustrations that represent the material well. Also remember that the authors are Christians. The occasional Biblical reference is not overbearing, but a refreshing reminder of how things should be in a learning book.

Sal's Final Word

A really fun book - a far cry from the last two books I've reviewed. I look forward to hanging onto this one and using it with my son when he's old enough.

One small negative point, there are a lot of time-dated references throughout the book, thing relevant to this place in time. Since it will be a few years until I use it with my children, I will be anxious to see how some of these references hold up.

I have to admit that when I saw the book I wasn't all that impressed. I was expecting some colorful, yet childish attempt at restating the obvious or even worse, some feeble attempt at promoting the authors persona

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