Conceptual Understanding In Mathematics: How It Is Vital In Education

Math is integral to our lives, but what if we don’t understand it? Many students feel overwhelmed and frustrated when it comes to math, especially concepts such as fractions and decimals. We must help our children gain a solid conceptual understanding of mathematics to set them up for success in school and beyond. Keep reading to learn more about why conceptual understanding is so important and find tips on how you can help your child excel in math.

The “Why” Of Mathematics

Conceptual understanding is the notion that a student is not just taught how to do math but also the “why” behind it. This means that students are not just memorizing equations but actually understanding the concepts behind them. For example, a student who understands conceptual math can solve a problem in multiple ways. In contrast, a student who has only memorized an equation will only be able to solve it one way. 

Conceptual understanding is essential for students pursuing math beyond the classroom. Without a strong foundation of conceptual understanding, students will quickly become lost when encountering new material. However, conceptual understanding is not always easy to achieve. It requires a patient and diligent teacher who is willing to take the time to help each student fully grasp the concepts. Additionally, conceptual understanding cannot be achieved overnight–it takes time and practice for students to truly internalize the concepts. But for those who are willing to put in the effort, conceptual understanding can open up a whole new world of mathematical possibilities.

A Bigger Framework

Conceptual understanding means seeing the bigger framework that underlies all math topics. It also entails thinking fluidly to apply math skills to a wide variety of problems. There are many ways to help children understand conceptual understanding. Teachers like myself often refer to the “Conceptual Understanding Pentagon” as outlined by Jon Van de Walle to help our students. This involves pictures, written symbols, oral language, real-world situations, and manipulative models. 


Pictures can help those children who are visual learners as they can see the equation at hand. Written symbols also help these same visual learners as they can get a view of the numbers and problem itself (example, 6 x 8 = 48)

Oral language is great for students who are auditory learners. Speaking about the equation and working it through in their mind is another excellent way to help students with conceptual understanding. If they can’t rely on seeing math visually, they can talk through it and find another way to solve it. 

Real-world situations are a fantastic way to help students work through math problems. For example, a student may understand how to perform multiplication on paper but may not necessarily understand how it works in a real-world situation. For example, ask your child, “If six children were holding a bunch of balloons and there were eight balloons in each bunch, how many are there in total?”

Manipulative models work well for tactile students. These students need to feel and touch objects to help them understand math equations. By allowing students to work with models they can manipulate, they may gain a better conceptual understanding of mathematics. 

Reduce Math Anxiety

Developing conceptual understanding can lessen math anxiety and help children to become more confident in their math skills. When they realize that they can work math equations in various ways, they become more competent in their computational skills and boost their confidence leading to their ability to solve problems of increasing complexity. Students who have a strong conceptual understanding learn how to think and reason and may even start to enjoy math!

At Dropkick Math, we understand the need for students to develop conceptual understanding. Our programs allow students to learn foundational math skills and fill in any misunderstandings in mathematics while enabling them to discover new ways of learning. Through proven strategies and manipulatives combined with an accelerated learning approach, we help students master math operations while boosting their confidence. 

If you are worried about your child’s conceptual understanding of mathematics, don’t search for a “math tutor near me.” While this may seem like the logical step to take, math tutors often don’t address conceptual understanding. They focus on helping students through their current school work and ensure they memorize one way of accomplishing the equations. 

In our math intervention programs, our certified Ontario teachers will work with your child to ensure they understand math concepts and don’t just memorize one way of accomplishing them. We will work through the conceptual understanding pentagon and allow students to learn math in several different ways. 

Visit our website today to learn more about our programs and how they can help your child succeed in mathematics in school and throughout life. 

Recent Posts