Students also need to practice identifying relationships between concepts, ideas, processes, and more. For example, subtraction and addition make more sense when viewed in the context of the two functions together. When a student can, through abstract reasoning, understand that addition and subtraction are inverse functions, both functions may make more sense. Analogies, proportions, ratios, and fractions all require identifying relationships between ideas or numbers. Learning to "see" relationships and then apply that understanding to solve problems is a key milestone in many subject areas, especially mathematics.
A type of abstract reasoning that is extremely common in an English or Language Arts setting is making predictions. As early as Kindergarten, students are asked to make predictions about what they think will happen next, or ultimately, in a text or story. While this may seem like a simple process, it takes significant abstract reasoning skills to make successful predictions. The student must analyze and evaluate the characters and situation, and combine the results of that analysis and evaluation with knowledge of real life and human nature into a valid prediction for how the situation will resolve or how the story will end. Many students with special needs have tremendous difficulty with this type of abstract reasoning, since it combines so many processes.
Students with special needs also often need to practice synthesis. This type of abstract reasoning is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like. The student must learn to combine what he or she knows about separate and sometimes very different things to create a new and complex idea. For example, in a junior high science class, a student might need to synthesize his or her knowledge about how ice melts with knowledge about the effect that salt has on water to make a prediction about what effect salting ice would have on making ice cream.
Discerning Author's Purpose and Tone
This type of abstract reasoning can be very vexing for students with special needs, perhaps because it requires what many call "reading between the lines." When reading a text, students who have difficulty with abstract reasoning are generally focused on the concrete: the details of what happens, the things the author states directly, and so on. One way to understand authorial purpose is to use context: what was the socioeconomic or historical situation that produced the text? Another way is to analyze the author's attitude towards the subject matter being written about, through word choices and sentence structures, or in other words, through analysis of tone. The ability to step back from a text and analyze the difference and distance between what is literally being said and what is actually meant is key for this type of abstract reasoning on the best custom writing service. Understanding metaphor, irony, sarcasm, and other literary devices and techniques requires solid skills in this area.
The most important of all abstract reasoning skills for special education students may be inference. Inference, simply put, is the act of deriving or deducing logically valid conclusions from what is known. Inference, as such, is an abstract leap. It requires that the student be paying close attention to the text or situation, and then combine knowledge of that situation and context clues with a broad range of other knowledge in order to draw a conclusion about a character or situation. For example, a reader may need to combine the description of a character's facial expression with the circumstances of the situation the character is in, human nature, and knowledge of "real life" situations that may be similar in some way, in order to infer how the character feels. Inference can be key for making predictions, and many other abstract reasoning skills.
Ultimately, abstract reasoning is what divides higher-level thinking and schoolwork from lower-level thinking and work. If a student cannot make the leap into the world of the abstract, he or she will be locked into the concrete, and only understand the subject matter on the surface. Things are not always as they seem, in the real world and in narratives. The ability to reason abstractly adds immeasurable depth to a student's understanding of the world, and can reveal a hidden world of nuanced understanding. Understanding and enjoying poetry, for example, depends almost entirely upon abstract reasoning skills. These skills are essential for success in any core academic subject, and are very much worth becoming acquainted with, and very much worth practicing with your school-aged children, whether they have special needs or not.