Logic Books for Kids

My son is 13 years old. He’s a pretty smart kid despite his art class grade. :smiley:

Every so often we have a discussion where it becomes very apparent that he has no idea how to formulate an argument. Straw men, red herrings and ad hocs all over the place.

I found a book that should be available at amazon soon called An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. It seems like a pretty good book to introduce my son to formal logic, but it seems a bit light.

There are other books on that page that customers also looked at/bought but most of them seem to be either university level books or seem to have a large religious home school bent to them*.

You all are very well read bunch of people. Can anyone point me in the direction of a book(s) that would work for my son?

*Does it seem odd that religious authors are writing logic books? By that, I mean that the books supposedly have a religious angle to them. It leads me to think that either the authors are being sneaky or they’re not doing the logic right.

A lot of homeschoolers are led to it for religious reasons, and of those most follow a plan called the Trivium, inspired by the Dorothy Sayers essay The Lost Tools of Learning. The Trivium features the study of logic Since people homeschooling for religious reasons make up the biggest marketshare, they get pandered to a lot, and a lot of the publishers have a religious agenda anyway.

I myself did some mathematical logic in high school, but I didn’t get interested in informal logic until I read the section on fallacies in my college composition handbook, by chance. It’s hard to remember what I could or could not get through my head at 13, but you might have a look at Weston’s ARulebook for Arguments. It’s pretty standard in college classrooms, but a 13-year-old could probably wrap his head around it.

How about a 13 page short story, available in full by pdf online?

Love is a Fallacy, by Max Shulman

You’ll have to tell him wtf a raccoon coat is, but after that, it’s off to the races.

This piece may be the only thing I remember from 3 semesters worth of philosophy classes as an undergrad.

You might find Jay Heinrich’s books helpful.

ENugent, that is more of a parenting book. I was looking to possibly make a Christmas gift* of the book to my son.


Holy Toledo, there are some very outdated references there. :smiley: I enjoyed that a lot, but it is even lighter than the book in my OP.

For a better reference, you can read the whole book at the author’s website, but I was looking for a physical object to put under the tree.

*While I am an atheist and my wife an agnostic, we still celebrate the more secular traditions of Christmas such as gift giving, tree trimming and spending time with family - all of whom are Christian - because it’s fun.

You might take a look at the Wff’n’Proof family of games. They’re…thoughtful.

“The Propaganda Game” was their approach to the discussion of logical fallacies and rhetorical tricks.

“Wff’n’Proof” was their formal logic entry.

They have others. (By the way, if anyone knows the answer to “Kwik Sane,” I’d sure like to learn it!)

The problem is that these aren’t really “games” in the sense that they are trying to be. They really aren’t “playable.” (In my experience.) But they’re incredibly thoughtful and informative and educational. I went through the Wff’n’Proof book of logical proofs, and, well, I got pretty good at it. (Led to my A grade in college Logic courses.) They really are better “books” than games.

The article I linked to is a parenting article, but the book is decidedly not. My main reservation in giving it to a 13-year-old would not be that it was directed at parents, but that it might be written at too difficult a level. Take a “Look Inside” at Amazon and see what you think.

Straight and Crooked Thinking
Robert Thouless

A classic of the genre. Originally published in 1930, so some of the examples contain dated references, but the logical principles are timeless.

Yeah, these all look like great books, but a bit over the head of a 13 year old. Maybe 13 is too young to introduce such ideas?

But I must find some time to read a bunch of these myself.

That’s about the same age I read the Thouless book.

This may be a bit of a tangent. But I was thinking a book about “logical thinking” might be useful. When I was young I ate up these “2 Minute Mystery” books by Donald Sobol. They’re more “detective” stories, but are a good intro to reasoning and deduction. And they’re fun (and they give you the explanation if you get stumped).

A few years ago, my son read every single one of those that the library had. Then we bought some more. Then we went to another library. He had a lot of fun with those. He’s very good at reasoning, but has trouble seeing where his arguments fall apart.

I thought of Wff 'n Proof as soon as I saw the thread title; consider the recommendation seconded.

I disagree with one point, though. I think Wff 'n Proof is a fun game. Don’t be intimidated by the looks of the rule book. Just take it one page at a time and it all makes perfect sense.

It’s not a logic book, but I wonder how well he’d do with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It never explicitly teaches argument techniques, but it does teach some rational thinking concepts. And the author has said that he deliberately follows the pattern of “if A and B, therefore C.” If he’s read the real Harry Potter series, it would be even more helpful, since he can actually learn to reason and determine much of what’s going to happen.

It definitely wouldn’t hurt for him to read it.