I. Introduction Nikita is six year old, and she is at Piaget??™s preoperational stage. According to Piaget??™s description of the preoperational stage children, they cannot understand his conservation tasks. This preoperational stage, ???children can use representations (mental images, drawings, words, gestures) rather than just motor actions to think about objects and events. Thinking now is faster, more flexible and efficient, and more socially shared. Thinking is limited by egocentrism, a focus on perceptual states, reliance on appearances rather than underlying realities, and rigidity (lack of reversibility)??? . The young children do not have abilities to have ???operations mental actions that obey logical rules. Instead, their thinking is rigid, limited to one aspect of a situation at a time, and strongly influenced by the way things appear at the moment??? .
According to Piagetian conservation tasks, preoperational stage: 2-7 years old children lacked the knowledge to conserve. Conservation means, ??? the understanding that certain physical characteristics of objects remain the same, even when their outward appearance changes??? . Piaget??™s test for conservation of number is described as two rows with same number of things (examples: coins, fruits, and candies that are equally spaced. Initially, young children knew these two rows had same number. If one row is shortened, children failed to notice that the two rows are the same. Piaget said young children did not realize these two rows are still the same number because they confused and did not see what adults see that help them to understand the task. Piaget said the ability to understand this task is ??? in the face of a perceptual change,??? and the ???young child tends to be fooled by the misleading perceptual appearance??? . On the Piaget??™s task for conservation of length, he described this task as showing young children the two pencils, two pens, or two sticks with the equal length and children knew they were the same length. If showed them by moving one stick longer than the other one, they failed to know they were the same. Then Piaget??™s task for conservation for liquid, he described this task as showing young children the same amount of water or juice in the two identical glasses and very fast they knew the two glasses of water or juice were the same. If poured one glass into a longer and thinner glass, children could not identify this glass had contained the same amount of water or juice as the original two identical glasses.
According to Piaget??™s explanation, children??™s thinking is ???perception bound??? in preoperational stage and also they could not focus their attention on two aspects of the new glass, they were attentive only to one aspect which is that one glass is taller than the other two; they did not realize the taller glass had the same amount of liquid.
II. Subject and Method My subject is a six year-old girl named Nikita. She was born in California. She attends a public elementary school .She is an only child of Indian parents . I have known her since she was a baby. On this weekend,I invited her to come to my house, so I could talk to her . Since I knew she knew how to count and knew she had good memory, I decided to test Nikita on Piagets conservation tasks. Nikita was also very interested because she loved to play with me.
III. Procedures My modifications in Piaget??™s conservation tasks are as follow: first, I had Nikita??™s full attention to what I was doing at each step because when Piaget did his conservation tasks, he was not aware of whether the child??™s attention was focused on his directions and his explanations of the tasks . Second, to have Nikita??™s attention on what I was going to show her, I needed to make Nikita interested in the tasks. I believe young children like Nikita need to be given tangible rewards. I used these tasks as some types of rewards Nikita could take home with her after she did the tasks with me. Third, Nikita needed to have easy numerical concepts, so she could understand when I showed her the measurement of the tasks. And the last modification, I had Nikita experienced these tasks with me. I had her felt the tasks by touch and do the tasks with me. Thus, young children need hands on experience with these tasks, so they can think more logically as they follow the processes.
Conservation of Number: I followed Piaget??™s conservation of number task first with Nikita and without using my modifications, and of course Nikita gave a wrong answer. She did not pay attention to me at all and she was curious about why I showed her the task and her mind was wandering off somewhere. I could not get her to focus on the tasks at all. Referring to Piaget??™s experiment, I set two rows of five buttons each in visual one-to-one correspondence, with one of the two equal-length rows placed directly above the other and have Nikita agreed the two rows did have the equal-length. After that I moved the first row to look longer than the second row, Nikita did not notice I had moved the first row. She saw only the first row now longer than the second row therefore she concluded that the first row has more buttons than the second row. Piaget would explain Nikita in preoperational stage, ???tends to fooled by the misleading perceptual appearance, judging that the longer row now contains more??? and that is why Nikita failed the conservation of number .
Conservation of Liquid: In conservation of liquid, I also started with Piaget??™s experience, Nikita first agreed that two identical glasses contain the same amounts of water, and then I poured water from one glass into the taller and thinner glass, with Nikita watching, and then asked Nikita whether the two amounts of water are still the same, or whether one glass now contains more water than the other. In this experiment, Nikita said that the taller and thinner glass contains more water than the other one. According to Piaget, children at this preoperational stage could not understand conservation of liquid, they only see the taller and thinner glass ???looks like it has more, and accept things as they seem to be??? .
IV. Results To modify this conservation of number, I chose to use candy for this task because is more fun and interest for Nikita. She loves M&M candies. For this task, I had Nikita sit close to the table so she could see me set up two rows of M&M candies, and hear me count loudly each row that had seven pieces of candies on the table. When I first showed Nikita, I put both the numbers of candies and the lengths of the two rows equaled. I ask Nikita to tell me if the two rows had the same amount of candies, and she told me these two rows were the same. She showed me by counting each row correctly, like this, ???one, two, three, four, five, six, seven,??? and I told her to touch each candy as she counted, and she did the same to the second row. Then I mixed the candies and I ask her to imitate what I did last time. Nikita did the two rows with equal amount of the candies because she remembered each row had seven candies. Again I ask her to look at the candies in these two rows if they were the same, and again she told me they were the same. Then I set up another set of candies with the same amount that I did with the first set. I asked Nikita if I had the same two rows as her and she told me, ???yes!??? I showed her by moving the first row of candies further apart from each piece and ask her to do the same with the first row she had and told her to count the candies in each row. She had counted them correctly. After that, I ask her the same question again and her answer is ???they are the same.???
To modify this conservation of liquid, I had Nikita help me mix the colored fruit juice and pour into the two exactly alike glasses. Nikita was so happy that she learned to make juice, and she was very interest in the changed color of the water. Again I tried to have Nikita??™s interest, so she could focus on this task. I used a measuring cup to have Nikita identify the numbers two on the cup so the two glasses had the same amount of juice and pour into them. I asked her if these two glasses had same amount of color fruit juice and her answer was ???yes, there are the same.??? Then I asked her to help me pour the juice from one glass to the taller and thinner glass before that I had her measure the juice and it showed on number two. I ask her the question again, and she knew immediately the taller and thinner glass has the same amount of juice as the one that looked smaller
. V. Conclusion In conclusion, Piaget would still consider Nikita is young to successfully accomplish his conservation tasks. But in my modification, I show that we significantly improve on Nikita??™s ability to do the task correctly. Nikita??™s attention, understanding the concept of numbers and the hands on experiences on the tasks made her realize that the outside appearances changed did not mean the change of the tasks. Based on the experiments, young children like Nikita (preoperational stage) do conserve the number and do conserve the liquid very early in life contrary to the Piaget??™s theory of stages and his tasks.