What is conceptual understanding in mathematics?
Conceptual understanding is one of three aspects of rigor outlined by the Common Core. It calls for instruction that:
- introduces mathematical concepts,
- emphasizes sense-making over answer-getting, and
- builds and refines students’ mathematical schema.
Teaching conceptual understanding
Different standards target different aspects of rigor—conceptual, procedural, application—and that means our teaching needs to adapt to meet those demands. Here are tools you can use to make sure your instruction is meeting the mark:
Not sure what we mean by “rigor”? What exactly is “rigor” is and why does it matter? (Hint: “rigor” doesn’t just mean “harder.”)
How do I make sure I’m targeting the right aspects of rigor? These tools will help you adjust your instructional approach based on the aspect of rigor.
What does teaching conceptual understanding look like? Watch classroom videos on building procedural skill and fluency from conceptual understanding when multiplying decimals.
Struggling to help students master the concepts? Get ideas on how to move them forward.