When the abstractness of the content of curriculum is differentiated, the content focuses on abstract concepts, themes, generalizations and theories – ideas that have a wide range of applicability or potential for transfer both within and across disciplines or fields of study. Concrete information and factual data are used as illustrations or examples of the abstract ideas rather than the major focus.

School curriculum content, often too simple, should be more abstract for highly able students. This type of differentiation makes simple, concrete content more abstract. The continuum from simple content, becoming increasingly abstract looks like this:

When asked about their learning preferences, many highly able learners indicated they enjoy understanding complicated ideas and problems, and how and why things happen.[14] Challenging material is fun, easy material is boring.[15]



Table 1 provides examples of concrete topics from core curriculum and variations of the same content that are more abstract.

Table 1. Examples of concrete and abstract content

Concrete Content would focus on: More Abstract Content would focus on:
Definitions of individual punctuation marks The purpose of punctuation at the end of a sentence.
How does punctuation at the end of a sentence affect the meaning of a sentence?
Individual events on a timeline The development of tensions between that eventually resulted in a war. What really happened and how did each of these events contribute to the tensions?
Individual math single digit math facts that result in a sum of “7”6 + 1 = ?
3 + 4 = ?
The different combinations of numbers less than ten that might generate “7” as a result___ + ___ = 7

Click here to see a list of teaching materials that involve abstract content.