The Concrete Operational Stage

Concrete operational stage

Piaget classified children between the ages of 7-11 years as belonging to the concrete operational stage. 

  • A child can perform mental operations on concrete objects.  
  • A child can solve conservation tasks and other tasks where they use logical and well-organised strategies to manipulate symbols that are related to concrete objects.  

Overall, the child can now see things from other people’s point of views and they are less egocentric. The young child has a sense and awareness of who they are.

Inductive Logic
A child can think logically but has difficulties understanding abstract and hypothetical ideas. Inductive logic is when you draw conclusion from specific experience to a general principal. Piaget suggested that children are good at this during this stage. 

But a child has problem with using a general principle to decide what is going to happen – deductive logic.


Actions can be reversed

An important understanding that is developing during this stage is that a child understands reversibility.

  • A child can understand that the order of relationship between mental categories can be reversed.
Conserve Number
A classic test is to ask a child to conserve number. You can put two rows of counters, each containing the same number of counter, arranged so that each is paired up with another counter in the other row. 

Then you ask the child to compare the rows after you have spread out the space between each counter in one of the rows – making one row longer.  A child who according to Piaget has not developed the ability to conserve number will insist that the longer row has more counter. 

The child will even after having counted the number say that there are more counters in one row.  

  • A child that has reached the concrete operational stage will say that there are an equal number of counters into rows. 
  • The child can conserve number, mass, and volume.
Balls and Snakes
The child realises that a ball of play-doh that is formed into a snake does have the same amount of play-doh as an identical ball. A child classified as belonging to the preoperational stage will insist that there is more play-doh in the snake. 

  • Piaget suggested that the visual change means a quantitative change for a child before she reaches the concrete operational stage. 
  • Reversibility is the ability to see a physical change in an object or event and then be able to reverse the transformation and see that nothing has changed. 
  • The child has to understand and learn that there are changes that are relevant and irrelevant. 

Plus and Minus

A relevant change occurs when you add or subtract things. The addition or subtraction changes the quantity, but changing the shape of a ball of play-doh is an irrelevant change since only the shape and not the quantity.
  • Abstract problem solving is possible at this stage, and a child can solve equations, but they rely on a number to solve the task.
Sorting objects
  • A child that is classified as being in this stage can arrange object in order according to size, shape, colour etc. 
  • The child can see logical relationship between things that are arranged in a serial order – If Sam is taller than Lisa, and Lisa is taller than Ben, then Sam must be taller than Ben.
Educational Tips 
Piaget suggested that a child who belongs to the concrete operational stage needs a concrete object to support the thinking.
  • Providing a child with opportunities to explore and discover the world is vital for their development. 
  • Piaget encouraged children to experiment and this is a way for a child to gain new knowledge and understanding about how the world functions. 

As a parent and teacher, you can provide a child with:

  • Concrete examples and visual models. 
  • Use familiar examples to explain an idea, for example a maths problem. 

Photo:Happy Girl With Night Lights by Rosen Georgiev

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