By Vivian Owens
At what age do children begin the process of understanding how to use inference? Of course, that is debatable. Some parents would tell you how their two-year-old decided he liked mashed sweet potato because it looked very much like mashed butternut squash, a vegetable he loves. The child inferred that all mashed yellow vegetables tasted good. Along a similar vein, fourteen-year-old Karen refused to take a class in videography, because her prior attempts to use her grandfather’s camera failed. Karen inferred that the two activities required the same skill set; thus, she inferred that if she couldn’t do one, she could not do the other.
“To infer” simply means that you will arrive at a conclusion based upon a set of facts or evidence without your having read or having heard an explicit statement. Inference is deductive reasoning gathered from information that you obtained in a number of ways.
In school, children are tested at every grade level. In everyday life, children face numerous situations on a daily basis which require them to make inferences.
Following are a couple of simple tricks to aid you as you teach inference skills to your child of any age level.
INFERENCE TRICK #1
Look for contextual clues. Whether on a test or reading for pleasure, scan text for words or associated descriptions that tell you something about the situation. Regardless of age, inferential reasoning develops through simple means more often than through complex means.
**Both the two-year-old and the fourteen-year-old used Trick #1.
Predict a probable event based on known information. If something is true all the time, it will probably be true for a subset of that specific time.
For example, consider the case of Chrissy and Billy.
Chrissy and Billy wanted to figure out the patterns of lunch meals for their kindergarten class. Their father had asked them to determine whether School served salad for lunch on the first Wednesday of every month. Chrissy and Billy knew that School served salad every day; therefore, they reasoned that since Wednesday is a day of the week, salad would be served on the first Wednesday of every month.
Teaching young children how to predict probable events is a skill or mindset that can take place regularly, as with family social patterns, pet habits, bus schedules, or grocery store sales. The good news is that this ability to infer rolls over into geometry problem solving, when children are older.
Inference Tricks 1 and 2 can be used and taught to children of any age. You are the parent, and you are the primary caretaker of your child’s learning development. All of the fairy tales that you read to the baby, toddler, and elementary school-aged child help to teach inference. All of the games and puzzles available to children carry the potential to develop inference skills. The ability to infer will lay in the foundation for math and science, as well as other disciplines.
Do consider simple tricks to teach inference.
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