Learning Options for Your Child’s Thinking Style

By Amanda Morin

Expert reviewed by Mark J. Griffin, PhD

At a glance

  • The way your child thinks can influence how he prefers to learn.

  • Some types of thinkers need to understand the “whys” and “hows” in order to learn.

  • Some types of thinkers are good at seeing the whole picture and can reach solutions quickly.

You may already understand the different learning strengths. But do you know your child’s thinking style? The type of thinker your child is influences how he prefers to learn. Here’s an overview of learning options for your child’s thinking style.

Thinking Style What It Means Will Benefit From
Reflective thinkers

They understand best when they have time to think about what they’ve seen, heard and read. They:

  • Think things over before acting
  • Tend to be quiet and thoughtful
  • Learning by asking questions
  • Starting with the big picture and narrowing it down to details (deductive reasoning)
  • Reviewing skills and talking about how they connect to new ones—for example, the connection between addition and subtraction
  • Writing summaries of class notes and/or readings
  • Journaling
Intuitive thinkers

They understand best when they’re able to explore the “whys” of ideas and the relationships between things. They:

  • Look at the big picture and then break it down into the details
  • Tend to dislike memorizing facts and information
  • Enjoy thinking about theories and “what ifs”
  • Splitting homework into short sessions with breaks in between
  • Finding ways to apply theories to the facts, such as seeing how the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees (A + B + C = 180°)
  • Reading all the directions before answering questions or doing work
  • Checking over work to look for careless errors
Sequential thinkers

They understand best when they can see the steps and logic behind ideas. They:

  • Watch the details add up to the bigger picture
  • Prefer to do things in a logical order or sequence (one step at a time)
  • Hearing the reasons behind ideas and requests
  • Showing their work
  • Asking teachers to walk through math problems and/or directions step-by-step
  • Learning information in small chunks and seeing how it builds on what they already know
  • Taking notes in outline form
Global thinkers

Understand best when they can see the whole picture at once. They:

  • See the bigger picture and the details at the same time
  • Make decisions and reach solutions quickly
  • Have “Aha!” moments in which everything suddenly comes together and makes sense
  • Don’t think in logical steps
  • Working with study buddies or study groups
  • Playing hands-on games, activities and projects
  • Getting frequent feedback and communication from teachers and caregivers
  • Knowing the end goal of an activity or set of directions
  • Skimming an entire chapter or unit before studying each section

Knowing your child’s learning strengths and thinking style can help at home as well as at school. That information can help you and your child find the best ways to study and prevent or reduce homework battles.

Key takeaways

  • Sequential thinkers learn by hearing the logic behind things, while reflective thinkers learn by asking questions.

  • Intuitive thinkers and global thinkers both look at the big picture first.

  • Your child may have more than one thinking style and could benefit from multiple ways of learning.

About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Mark J. Griffin, PhD has been a professional in the field of learning disabilities for over 45 years. He was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School.