Critical thinking exercises are used in education in order to teach students various ways of solving problems and considering all the facts before making a decision. These types of exercises are good for people of all ages, though, because they help to keep the brain sharp and just improve thinking skills overall. There are a number of different types of critical thinking exercises, but usually they involve encouraging an individual to make the conscious effort to alter his or her perspective, take a step back, and think about different ways than usual to solve a problem or figure something out. One common exercise is the presentation of a number of different stories, and then encouraging students to determine which ones are true or false, or fact or fiction, and then explain how they came to their conclusions.
These true or false critical thinking exercises are a good way to get students to think. In the end, it does not matter as much whether or not they arrived at the correct conclusion, but if they can describe their thought process, and explain how they arrived at their conclusions. This will allow the teacher to see whether the students are settling on the most obvious response, or if they are actually considering all the facts they are given and all possible outcomes.
Other critical thinking exercises involve getting students to describe something as if they are seeing it for the first time. For instance, a question might be posed to the student to describe how to get around his or her town in a way that would be helpful for a newcomer. This takes students outside their set thinking patterns, and gives them a new perspective, which is a key aspect of problem solving.
Many teachers will also develop critical thinking exercises to teach students to figure out what they still need to learn, and how to go about doing that. In math problems, for instance, students might be taught to list the facts and figures they have, as well as what they need to know to answer a problem. For a research paper or other similar tasks, students will be asked to develop questions and simultaneously try to figure out which sources will allow them to determine their research question. Rather than simple instruction and memorization, critical thinking exercises give students skills and toolsets to solve any problem.