Concrete Reasoning is Understanding Real Life Problems

Concrete reasoning is the foundation for learning.

Classroom Students
Classroom Students. Robert Benson / Stringer / Getty Images

There are two basic forms of reasoning: abstract and concrete. Both are critically important for day to day life, but most people are better at one than at the other. Children with learning disabilities may find it more difficult than typical children to reason through a problem to find a solution.

Abstract Versus Concrete Reasoning

Abstract reasoning involves thinking about  and managing ideas and concepts.

Abstract concepts can be surprisingly important for day to day life.  For example, these very important skills require abstract reasoning:

  • Time management
  • Understanding basic geography (the concepts of a town, state, country, etc. are all abstract)
  • Completing arithmetic problems without hands-on manipulatives (numbers are abstract when not associated with objects)
  • Discussing ideas (story plots, politics, religion, and concepts such as truth, fairness, and collaboration are all abstract)

Concrete reasoning involves the ability to analyze information and solve problems on a literal ("concrete") level. We use concrete reasoning when we think through and solve hands-on problems. Concrete reasoning tasks involve skills such as:

  • Basic knowledge of names of objects, places, and people;
  • Understanding of basic cause and effect relationships;
  • Solving problems that do not involve theory, metaphor, or complex analogy.

    When a child is able to solve a jigsaw puzzle he is exercising concrete reasoning. Other examples include:

    • The ability to predict the likely outcome of a physical event ("what will happen if I drop this ball from a height of ten feet?")
    • The ability to read a map and understand the points of the compass
    • The ability to read, understand, and act on factual texts (reading and following instructions, reading and building from a diagram or blueprint, etc.)
    • The ability to count and do math using objects or pictures

    The Importance of Concrete Reasoning

    Concrete reasoning is important because it is the basis of all knowledge. Students need a firm understanding of basic educational concepts and problem solving. This enables them to learn new ideas. It helps with later learning because it gives students the ability to link new ideas to previously learned ideas. This promotes stronger long-term memory of concepts.

    Concrete reasoning is also the basic tool for navigating the world. With concrete reasoning, we can anticipate outcomes (if I step in front of that bicycle at this moment, chances are it will hit me). We can also solve technical problems that arise on a daily basis (fitting foods into a grocery bag, planning a route to your next destination, using an umbrella when it rains).

    How Concrete Reasoning Is Measured

    Concrete reasoning is typically measured in a full assessment of intellectual ability, or IQ.

    Most extended intelligence tests assess several types of problem-solving abilities, including concrete reasoning. Most brief intelligence tests do not.

    Students with difficulty in concrete reasoning may benefit from using hands-on materials and multi-sensory teaching methods, adaptations for students with language deficits, games to improve memory, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy.

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