thinking skills and intellectual abilities

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Children are born with a curious mind. As soon as they start talking, they learn that asking questions is the best way of fulfilling their curiosity. They experience new things every day and build their own opinions and knowledge around them.  When someone comes up with a question to them, they think and try to recall those previous experiences and knowledge to make every possible relation and bring out the best possible answer.

I often wonder, why the children’s curiosity disappears as they grow. Why they always seek a certain predefined procedure for solving a problem? Why an educator wants them to follow a system, which now they are becoming accustomed to? This inhibits their thinking, reasoning and intellectual skills. Also, these facts or procedures can be forgotten but not their cognitive skills.

Studies have shown that the ability of reading and writing is improving in kids, but their thinking and intellectual skills are taking a back seat. Some kids are lucky enough to get a nurturing environment where they are involved in lots of thinking and imaginative activities, all thanks to their parents. However, good teaching methods can help every kid to develop these skills. In the coming decade, the teachers should focus on boosting the thinking and intellectual skills than just the basic skills of students.

How thinking and intellectual abilities are related?


Thinking is a free flow of thoughts in an unconscious state of mind. We often think unconsciously, and sometimes we do it to solve a problem or to decide something. However, conscious thinking is our main concern here, which means processing prior information or facts to make it useful.

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” And thus, we need intellectual skills to deal with comprehension, evaluation, analysis and making use of the knowledge for appropriate decision making.

Why thinking and intellectual skills are the most sought after requirements of the decade?

Education has become more of a transmission of facts or procedures rather than focusing on finding those facts and deciding when to question them. Facts are important but are also subject to change. Thus, thinking and intellectual skills should be encouraged. There is no denying the fact that the coming decade will have more complex problems and to develop problem-solving skills, thinking and intellectual skills are required.

Can thinking and intellectual skills be developed?


Can we develop intellectual and thinking abilities in a day or two? Or do these skills develop with time as the age increases? Knowledge and experience grow with time, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee to develop these skills. For example, a student with good grades in a college degree doesn’t guarantee the possession of these skills. These skills need to be developed using the opportunities for growth and embracing the challenges that come along.

The inquisitiveness or curiosity of kids encourages them to think or to try. We should always try to develop this problem-solving attitude in them.

For example, students,  even before attempting the word problem, find it difficult to solve. To teach the problem-solving attitude in students, educators should always try to encourage them to strive for new problems. This involves the usage of thinking and intellectual abilities. In the long term, this attitude helps in developing these skills gradually.

We have also come across cases where students can solve a particular word problem with the correct logic involved, but if the scenario is changed, they get confused without knowing the fact that the same Mathematical logic is required to solve the problem. Thus, educators should always work towards delivering in-depth knowledge to students. This knowledge further increases their familiarity with different problem scenarios.

Cueing is one of the best ways in aiding the direction of thinking. Students often find it difficult to solve word problems and are hesitant to attempt it. Instead of explaining them the procedure or solutions directly, educators can guide them towards finding their solutions.

For example, we can see two scenarios in the problem below:

Ram goes to a shop and buys a pair of shoes which costs Rs.2530. He uses his debit card to make the payment. He gets a message that the available balance in his account is Rs. 6,780. Find the amount of money he initially had in his account;

Scenario 1: Student without even reading and understanding the problem asks for help. Here the educator can encourage the student to at least try to read and understand it. When the student tried it, he/she was able to solve the problem. This little encouragement helps in developing a problem-solving attitude in students.

Scenario 2: The student has read the problem but still is not able to comprehend this problem. In this case, the educator can cue instead of giving the solution directly. For example, the educator can ask the student, suppose you go to a shop with Rs 100 and buy a can of juice worth Rs. 50, how much money will the shopkeeper return you? Student answers Rs 50. And, how much money were you initially with? He says Rs. 100, he answers the question by himself.

Now without questioning anymore, he will get back to his problem and solves it himself. You only cued him to find his answers. Curing helps kids to think and use their abilities to find their solutions. As the problems become more complex, their thinking and intellectual flexibility enhance.

Thus, we can say that thinking and intellectual skills do require not only knowledge and experience but also continuous efforts to develop it as a part of their personality.


In the coming years, when more complex and real-world problems are encountered, thinking and intellectual skills will be the most valuable and sought after skills. These skills will be crucial for any career options. In this era of rapidly changing technology and workplace dynamics, flexible thinking and intellectual skills help to process, analyze and combine all sources of information to select the most suitable solution and ability to modify the same if necessary. Educators’ efforts should be in the direction of developing these skills among their students as pronounced education seems incomplete without the possession of these skills.