Before we dive into a discussion about Mind Benders, I’d like to define the term “critical thinking” then briefly describe the purpose of Mind Benders according to Critical Thinking Co™, the company that creates them. Since there are many definitions of “critical thinking,” I‘ll pick one that makes the most sense to me. According to Robert H. Ennis, author of The Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, critical thinking is “reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe and do.” According to the Critical Thinking Co™, Mind Benders help develop “reading comprehension, logic, and problem solving.” In other words, Mind Benders are designed to develop critical thinking skills.
I am fairly certain that I first encountered Mind Benders a year or so after my brain surgery. The puzzles I was given were designed for a third-grader, but I couldn’t solve them and I was in my 30s. Even though more than a year passed since my surgery, I still had difficulty understanding, thinking, and writing. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just work on other issues such as walking, talking, balancing, eating, and living.” Yet, every few days the therapists encouraged me to try Mind Benders again. When I finally solved one of the puzzles, I quickly started on the next puzzle. I recall telling a therapist that I couldn’t attend physical, occupational, vision, or speech therapy because I was too busy solving another Mind Bender. Days later, I declined to eat my favorite residential therapy meal, macaroni and cheese, because I was in the middle of a puzzle. Thankfully, the cook saved some mac and cheese for my dinner.
Several years later, while attending a two-year cognitive therapy program, I noticed that there were several Mind Benders on the computer. I remembered how much I enjoyed the puzzles years earlier, but I could not remember specific puzzles, tips, or solutions. I knew I didn’t have the time to solve a puzzle during the computer class, so I printed the puzzle and took it home. I could hardly wait until the next day so I could check my answers at the computer lab. Shortly thereafter, I began printing multiple puzzles so I would have enough Mind Benders for weekends and other spare time.
The two-year therapy program owned a license for electronic versions of every Mind Bender created by the Critical Thinking Co ™, but the program did not use or refer to Mind Benders during my first year in the program. Before my second year in the program began, I had solved every Mind Bender I could find. I helped other students understand and solve the puzzles. At one point, I even created a few puzzles for others to solve.
When I first encountered Mind Benders, I definitely considered them a torture. Now that I understand them and have used them, I think they are a fantastic tool for strengthening critical thinking. I highly recommend Mind Benders regardless of whether or not you have a brain injury. Caution: You may enjoy learning.
What do you recommend for the ideal critical thinking solution? If you have tried to solve Mind Benders, do you think the puzzles are torturous or do they have an educational value? Regardless of whether or not you have a brain injury, what are you doing to exercise your brain?
Click here to read another Beyond Injury post in the Torture or Teacher series.
Thanks to the Critical Thinking Co ™ for providing the pictures that are used in this post and creating the Mind Benders that helped me regain the critical thinking skills that I lost after brain surgery.