On the air, I was applauding the $2.1 million federal grant UMass Dartmouth will use to train local elementary school teachers in "computational thinking," problem-solving computer programming skills for math and science classes.

But let's go beyond math and science and enter real, everyday life.

Earlier in the morning, I was mentioning that if we really want to help our kids build a foundation that will serve them throughout their lives, we have to have our schools and parents teach them how to become problem solvers or critical thinkers. In today's rapidly changing world, children need to be able to do much more than repeat a list of facts. They need to learn how to be critical thinkers who can make sense of putting their knowledge to good use.

When our grandson Greg and I read together, I help him develop critical thinking skills by asking him the right questions that go beyond "what," and ask "how" and "explain why." As a talk show host, I learned that I can ask my guests questions that are either log cabin-level or like a commanding skyscraper. I apply the same thinking with Greg, who is in the fifth grade.

There could be an illustration in the book we're reading that shows a car travelling down a city street. So I'll say something like, "Hey, someone just threw a bag of fast food garbage out the car window!" Instead of asking him what is littering, my question is, "how will that bag of garbage affect where you live?" or "why should your neighborhood worry about littering, Greg?"

It gets him to think for himself, and that's something at which both children and adults need to do a better job.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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