A child who has developed good abstract reasoning skills easily uses symbols instead of concrete objects when learning new information. The beginning learner usually needs concrete aids. To represent the number "five, " for example, the teacher or child might put out five blocks. A child who has made the shift to abstract reasoning, however, understands the concept of "quantity" without relying on objects. So in mathematics, abstract reasoning enables the child to understand that the abstract character "5" might stand for five of any specific object—or just the numerical idea of five.
In reading, abstract characters (letters) are grouped in specific patterns to represent the concrete world. Abstract reasoning allows the child to use phonics to sound out words (e.g., "rock"); form a mental image of a rock; and use that information to understand what is being read. While children can always be taught concretely, the leap to abstract reasoning results in more rapid, efficient learning.
See also:THEORY OF MIND
Cegelka, Patricia Thomas, and William H. Berdine. Effective Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.