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How Adults Can Support Abstract Reasoning


All Ages Strategy


Abstract Reasoning

How Adults Can Support Abstract Reasoning

If your student struggles with abstract or visual concepts

When It Matters

Abstract reasoning refers to how you draw inferences from objects, images, space or numbers when you aren't given a concrete explanation or can't see it firsthand. Students use abstract reasoning when they are working on logic puzzles, solving math or science problems and recognizing patterns with shapes or numbers. Supporting students with weak abstract reasoning can help them learn how to tackle complex problems involving images, words, or numbers, especially in subjects like math and science.

What To Keep In Mind When Supporting Your Student

  1. Students with weak abstract reasoning often do fine when concepts are concrete and sequential, but begin to feel lost when learning material becomes more complex and open-ended. Because of this change, they might not be used to or have developed the confidence to ask for help when concepts become difficult.
  2. Be sure to check in more frequently with these students, encourage questions and develop ways to check for understanding that do not single out any one student.

Top Go-to Strategies

  1. Teach students how to draw comparisons and connections to familiar objects or concepts. Offer prompts such as, "This reminds me of..." to help them get started.
  2. Encourage students to talk through what they see or imagine. Hearing it aloud will help clarify concepts for them, and give you clues into what the student is or is not understanding.
  3. Incorporate physical, hands-on materials to help students understand. Rather than describing 10 items, use 10 blocks to represent them.
  4. In math and science class, teach students to draw a picture when solving problems.
  5. Encourage students to ask questions in class. Just formulating the question can often help the student realize he already understands much of the concept.
  6. Have students explain learned concepts to each other. If they can explain something clearly, chances are they understand it well.
  7. Help develop automaticity with math facts and other foundational skills.
  8. Ultimately, it is most important that your student begins to recognize and adapt when a weaker skill is interfering in learning. Middle or High School students can use this checklist to become more self-aware of their abstract reasoning.
  9. Find additional ideas for a student who has an IEP or 504 Plan here.