A Journal Entry from My Education Class

A Review of The Book of Think (or How to Solve a Problem Twice Your Size) by Marilyn Burns

The Book of Think by Marilyn Burns is a Brown Paper School Book published by Little, Brown and Company, and is still in print. The copy I reviewed was published in 1976, and is part of our home school library. As I reread the book, I mentioned some of the “brain teasers” to my younger children, ages 9, 12, and 13 (who had not yet read the book). They became engrossed in the problems, and immediately set about to solve them. It seems to me that the young teen audience is the one being addressed by the author. The book is an easy, entertaining read, but the concept being addressed – problem solving – is dealt with in a thorough manner.

Throughout The Book of Think, the young reader is encouraged to become responsible for recognizing problems, developing the skills necessary to deal with problems, and exercising good judgment to know who to ask for assistance, when necessary. This reminded me of the emphasis on the “Significant Seven Perceptions and Skills” mentioned in Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. Particularly, The Book of Think would aid a young person to develop:

• Strong perceptions of personal capabilities (“I am capable.”) (Perception 1)
• Strong perceptions of personal power or influence over life (“I can influence what happens to me.”) (Perception 3)
• Strong intrapersonal skills (the ability to understand personal emotions and to use that understanding to develop self-discipline and self-control) (Perception 4)
• Strong interpersonal skills (the ability to work with others and develop friendships through communicating, cooperating, negotiating, sharing, empathizing, and listening) (Perception 5)
• Strong systemic skills (the ability to respond to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility, and integrity) (Perception 6)
• Strong judgmental skills (the ability to use wisdom and to evaluate situations according to appropriate values) (Perception 7)(from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, page 6)

In The Book of Think, the young person is encouraged to be more self-observant. For example, he or she is told to explore personal sensory needs: What causes sensory overload for him/her? What is conducive to his/her concentration and creativity? This is an intrapersonal skill, one of the Significant Seven Skills. The young reader is also encouraged to wisely observe the behavior of friends and family to decide who would be a likely problem-solving helper. This is another of the Significant Seven Skills, an interpersonal skill.

The importance of using the strengths of both sides of one’s brain is also explored in The Book of Think. The author explains that the “left brain” is logical and orderly, and has much to do with speech and hearing. The “right brain” handles feelings, experiences, appreciation of art and music, and is inventive. This is reminiscent of the Chapter “A Path to the Future: Hemispheres, Learning Styles, Handedness, and Gender Differences” in Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane Healy. Some of the exercises described in Your Child’s Growing Mind for helping the two hemispheres of the brain work together are also recommended in The Book of Think:

• Games that combine visual and verbal cues
• Visualizing pictures from listening or reading
• Describing actions with words
• Verbalizing intuitive discoveries
• Describing problem-solving experiences

The Book of Think concludes with “It’s not easy to know when you’re right. Thinking about thinking can help you get a head start.” “Thinking about thinking” is metacognition, described in Your Child’s Growing Mind as “clarifying one’s understanding of a topic, experimenting with ideas, or simply enjoying the landscape of one’s own mind.” (page 292) Also, on page 252 of Your Child’s Growing Mind, the author states that metacognition “means being able to stand back and view one’s own learning strategies and mental operations.” In The Book of Think, on page 73, the reader is encouraged to “Look at how you think, and how you get stuck. When you’ve got a solution, try to figure how it can help you next time.” This is another reference to metacognition.

I would highly recommend The Book of Think to any young person who wants to become more aware of his world and more creative in solving intellectual and life problems. The principles behind the book can be found in both of our class texts, Positive Discipline and Your Child’s Growing Mind.

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