enVision Mathematics – Developing Conceptual Understanding: The Case of Place Value

By Dr. Janet H. Caldwell

Over time, it seems that the major focus for teaching elementary mathematics has shifted back and forth between procedural skills and conceptual understanding, with problem solving also appearing as an emphasis. These are not competing aspects of mathematical proficiency, however, but different aspects of mathematics that develop in an iterative manner, supporting each other, throughout the elementary years (and beyond).

This paper has illustrates how place-value concepts are critical to developing both conceptual understanding and procedural skill with operations throughout K−5. The five instructional strategies described extend to all topics. When they are implemented on a daily basis, students will understand mathematics, and therefore become competent and confident mathematicians.

Discover what a mathematical concept is and why we should focus on conceptual understanding in the math classroom.


Developing Conceptual Understanding