The Abstract Sequential Learning Style

This is one blog I am going to thoroughly enjoy writing. I have a child who is dominantly abstract sequential and have enjoyed and admired her for 32 years now! I have to admit that for years there were aspects of my daughter’s makeup that I didn’t know how to interpret, but after reading The Way They Learn when she was in 9th grade, a lot of the pieces suddenly fell into place. It was amazing! 

There are always personal traits that can be misunderstood when in reality what is going on is positive. For example, the abstract sequential child may seem to be aloof at times, may seem opinionated, may even seem argumentative on occasion, and when rushed, may come to a complete stand-still. But if we take the time to delve beneath the surface with the goal of mining the gold in the child, the rewards will be great. Best of all we will be equipped with the knowledge we need to relate beautifully to them.

What Abstract Sequentials Need

To AS learners, gathering facts from recognized experts in their field is critical, so if you express an opinion, be prepared to back it up with some verifiable data. This is one child you don’t want to say, “Because I said so,” to! One of the little areas where my daughter and I butted heads frequently was over my relying heavily on my instincts but my daughter needing to see tangible proof of the facts. “How do you know that?” is a question an AS might vocalize on a regular basis. 

While dominant AS people can imagine and create, they are firmly based in fact, logic, and expediency. What they create will likely be a system that will be useful and solve problems. They are less likely to create simply for enjoyment, making things up out of thin air. Their creation will meet a need and solve a problem. 

They do not trust emotion and feelings unless they have had time to evaluate whether or not those feelings and emotions are completely justified. At times it will take the AS child some time to even figure out WHAT they are feeling. 

Abstract sequential children have an inborn sense of how much time will be required to complete tasks they are asked to do and complete them thoroughly. If they sense that they have too much to complete in the amount of time they have, they can become very distressed to the point of shutting down and refusing to do the work. While their more random counterparts might not worry about rushing a job just to call it done. AS children would rather not do the work at all than to do it in a haphazard manner.

Sources of Stress

Sources of stress in the classroom for AS dominant children  

  • include hearing an annoyed rant from the teacher which should be directed to a small number of children in the classroom but is instead verbalized to the whole group.
  • busy work for homework
  • too many assignments for the time allotted
  • timed tests or quizzes in which they are to complete as many answers as they can in a given amount of time (but are not allowed to complete ALL the questions)
  • unclear questions or directions  

All these create stress and upset for this type of learner. 

The abstract sequential child does poorly with tests that are true/false or multiple choice where the best answer is one that is true most of the time, and excels on tests that allow for variables in the answers. 

If the question allows any room for situations in which that particular thing might not be true, AS learners will not know how to answer. 

My daughter performed outstandingly in classes in which she was able to share her reasoning, but did less well in classes that were more concrete in their approach. The only thing I knew to tell her was to answer the questions anyway, but use asterisks and write her comments by the questions that to her seemed to present more than one answer. (Then I prayed the teacher would read and consider her comments!)

What They Are Good At

Abstract sequential learners are wonderful at evaluating situations or needs and creating systems or procedures that are efficient and which meet those needs. 

I learned early in my relationship with my daughter that she would not have to find out the hard way how to make good choices. She was constantly observing and evaluating the behaviors of her peers. She would be dumbfounded at times with the choices her more random counterparts made that ended badly for them, especially when they repeated their poor choices multiple times. 

She was also frustrated when she had to work within a disorganized system of any kind. By the time she was in 10th grade, we had a little conversation about her future. I said, “You are gifted in creating systems and procedures. My advice to you is that you prepare yourself for a career in a field in which you can create systems and not have to work for someone who is not as good as you at creating them.” 

It was less important WHAT she did, but it was critical that she be able to have the freedom to come up with procedures on her own because no matter what emergency situation she found herself in, she calmly and quickly evaluated the problem and arrived at a workable solution. Her sense of what will work well and what will not work well is heightened and she chafes at having to follow directions that to her seem illogical or meandering.

The Bullet Points

For those of us who love lists and bullet points, here they are:

Who They Are & What They Do

  • Analyze a situation before acting
  • See the big picture and imagine a solution
  • Are admired for their intellect
  • Are exact and precise and logical
  • Are factual and can back up what they do or think
  • Solve problems efficiently
  • Are logical and structured in their thinking
  • Like to discuss and debate controversial topics
  • Need a quiet environment in which to think and work
  • Admire intellect and ideas
  • Tend to ask amazing questions
  • Remember details and can relate them back to you

What They Prefer

  • Listening to lectures or lessons and reading
  • Following logical, accepted procedures
  • Data to back up statements
  • Teachers who are experts in their field
  • Seeing a project through to the end

What Is Hard for Them

  • Being rushed
  • Not having their questions answered
  • Being asked to express their emotions
  • Being governed by someone who is governed by sentiment
  • Working inside a system that is not efficient or effective
  • Illogic
  • Lack of clarity as to the task or question

If you have a child who is abstract sequential and they are upset, rather than making them verbalize what is bothering them, play 20 questions like this.

“Was it something that happened at school?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Was it something in class?”


“On the playground?”


If you are lucky enough to finally guess correctly, your child will likely smile with relief and say, “Thanks! I feel a lot better!”

Abstract sequential learners are in the great minority. If you are the parent or teacher of an AS, any time you invest in becoming attuned with them will pay off in huge dividends to both of you. I will never forget pulling my upset 3rd grader into my lap one Sunday morning after she told me she’d had a nightmare. Turns out she had been having them for a solid year, but was just then able to verbalize to me what her fears were. I felt pretty awful for not picking up on it sooner. The best piece of advice I can offer is to take the time to notice the little things. Don’t become too busy to be in tune with them. Notice body language, pay attention to their frustrations, and listen to them talk. The AS child will usually not demand the acceptance and support they need.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published