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Concrete Operational Thinking

Concrete operational thinking is the third stage in French psychologist Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Children typically reach this stage, which is characterized by logical reasoning about real situations without being influenced by changes in appearances, at the age of seven or eight. Whereas three-year-olds believe a ball of dough becomes larger if it is flattened, eight-year-olds understand that flattening the ball does not change the total amount of dough. Older children generally are able to understand three concepts that help them to realize that the amount of dough is unchanged. First, an item's appearance can change without changing its identity; the total amount of the dough does not change when it changes shape. Second, the effects of actions can be reversed; flattened dough can be rolled again. Third, a change in one dimension can be compensated for by an opposite change in another dimension; flattened dough covers a wider area but is also thinner than rolled dough.


Furth, Hans. Piaget for Teachers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

Piaget, Jean, and Bärbel Inhelder. The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books, 1969.

Karen E. Singer-Freeman

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