Skip to main content

Thinking outside the block: Two alumni launch toy to foster abstract thinking in kids and adults alike

Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. '07, a visiting fellow at Cornell, focused his doctoral dissertation on a toy he invented called ThinkBlocks (patent pending), a tactile manipulative educational toy intended to teach abstract thinking skills in children and adults.

The toy, which was a focus of the graduate education course, Systems Thinking, this past spring, will debut at the Chicago International Toy Fair in November.

The mission of ThinkWorks, is "to develop deep analytical, creative and self-reflective thinking skills in every child so that they can thrive no matter what life throws at them," says Cabrera, CEO of ThinkWorks, a company launched with Laura Colosi, B.S. '92, M.P.A. '93, Ph.D. '07, an extension associate in Cornell's Department of Policy Analysis and Management.

ThinkBlocks are designed to teach four thinking skills: contrasting between similarities and opposites (distinction making); understanding part-whole structures (systems thinking); recognizing interactions, associations and cause and effect (relational thinking); and learning to see things from different points of view (perspective taking).

"Making an abstract idea into something concrete fosters learning, thinking and memorization," says Colosi. "The unique design of ThinkBlocks turns abstract concepts into physical things that students can touch and play with to build conceptual structures. ThinkBlocks are like a construction set for building knowledge."

For more information, see

Media Contact

Media Relations Office