The Power of Critical Thinking

And why doing some quick “back-of-the-napkin” math is still valuable today

James Crawford
4 min readMar 28, 2020


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It’s amazing to think just how many people refuse to believe in a concept simply because they can take a few minutes to do some basic fact-checking and math. Why? Simply because it’s easier to simply say “that’s not possible” versus taking out your smartphone and doing some quick Google searches. Most likely your phone is somewhere near and/or in your hands (you might even be reading this article from one). This quickly disproves the “that’s not possible” logic rather quickly when you have a plethora of knowledge you can pull from in a matter of seconds.

So, why don’t most of the populous use this method?

One area of which you can proudly point your finger is the education system. We push the concepts of basic math to our kids. History. Science. Arts. All good things. However, we could brush up on how we teach problem-solving. Right now, we give them these problems:

If Anna has a cart full of watermelons with a net value of $100 and there was a sale of 3 watermelons for $5, how many watermelons are in the cart?

Okay. Not too hard as this does cover basic math. $100 net value divided by the $5 sale is 20. There are 20 groups of 3 watermelons so that means there are 60 watermelons in the cart (20 groups x 3 watermelons).

This is great and all, but we pretty much gave away the answer in this question if you know basic arithmetic. Also, this probably isn’t a very interesting topic for the grade school student because we’re talking about a shopping cart filled to the brim with watermelons. Unless, of course, you’re obsessed with these amazing fruit items and jump at the opportunity to discuss your love for them. Don’t worry, nobody is judging you (at least I’m not).

Now, let’s throw some problem solving into this mix. Instead of giving the rather specific scenario to the student while prompting them for an answer, let’s make them get all the facts so they arrive at a solution based on their calculations. Where do we start? Simply throw a problem at them to solve:

Calculate the cost for Canada to switch to 100% renewable energy



James Crawford

Just a simple Christian/IT/techie/gamer that also loves to jam away on his guitar. Oh, and I sometimes write stuff here.