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Procedural vs.

Conceptual Knowledge: Implications for Instruction

Presented by: Dr. David Allen Melisa Jean Hancock

Consider This Problem

Consider the task of learning the multiplication combination: 7 X 8 = 56 Talk with your partner to come up with as many good ways as you can to think about the answer. A good way is one that is simple enough to become completely mental (no counting or finger tricks) and should be mathematical.

The Process of Learning

Information Processes Learning Theory Linked to Behaviorist Theory The Information Processing Model

The Process of Learning

Executive Control Expectations


Response Generator

Model employed by information-processing theories of learning and memory. From R.M. Gagne, Essentials of learning for instruction. Copyright 1974by the Dryden Press, a division of Holt. Rhinehart and Winston. As cited in: Gagne R.M. (1985) The Conditions of Learning 4th Edition. Chicago, Ill.: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston, Inc.


Sensory Register

Short-term Memory

Long-Term Memory

Traditional Geometry Lesson

Circles: Formulas and Definitions Practice Short Term Memory Practice Short Long Term memory Practice Long Term Memory Practice Long Term Memory Practice Permanent Memory Assessssssssssss and Move on

No matter how lucidly and patiently teachers explain to their students, they cannot understand for their students.
~Schifter & Fosnot (1993)

Basic Tenets of Constructivism

Knowledge is actively created or invented by the child Children create new mathematical knowledge by reflecting on their physical and mental actions. Learning is a social process in which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them. When a teacher demands that students use set mathematical methods, the sense-making activity of students is seriously curtailed.

Constructivism: Two Major Goals

Students should develop mathematical structures that are more complex, abstract, and powerful than the ones they currently possess so that they are increasingly capable of solving a wide variety of meaningful problems. Students should become autonomous and self-motivated in their mathematical activity.

Instrumental Understanding

Relational Understanding

Consider This Problem

Memorize the following string of numbers:


Implications for Teaching and Learning: What does a Constructivist teacher do?

Create a mathematical environment Pose worthwhile (cognitively demanding) mathematical tasks Use cooperative learning groups Use models and calculators as thinking tools Require justification of student responses Encourage discourse and writing Listen actively

Elicit Thinking
In NCTMs Principles of Standards for School Mathematics, teachers are encouraged to develop instructional programs that enable ALL students to make and investigate mathematical conjectures and communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly.

Constructivist Geometry Lesson

Discovering geometry relationships existing within the construct of a circle Investigate and explore Collect Data and Analyze Make conjectures and generalizations Assess understanding and move on

Mathematical Knowledge
1.Conceptual Knowledge (logical
relationships, representations, an understanding and ability to talk, write and give examples of these relationships, etc.) 2. Procedural Knowledge (knowledge of rules and procedures used in carrying out routine mathematical tasks and the symbols used to represent mathematics)

Conceptual vs. Procedural

Identify who has what kind of knowledge

NCTM Standards
The Learning Principle makes it very clear that learning with UNDERSTANDING is both essential and possible. That is, ALL children can and must learn mathematics with understanding. It is impossible to predict the kinds of problems students will face in the future. The Learning Principle says that understanding is the only way to ensure that students will be able to cope with these unknown problems in the future.

Unpacking Division

169 14 =

Procedural Knowledge
It is generally accepted that procedural rules should never be learned in the absence of a concept.
(John A. Van De Walle)

Procedural vs. Conceptual Knowledge

Objects and names of objects are not the same as relationships between objects.

Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract?

Base 10 Blocks (Number Relationships) Tangrams (Geometric Relationships) Unifix Cubes (Measures of Central Tendency) Others, etc. (Share ideas)

Procedural vs. Conceptual Knowledge: Implications for Instruction

Presented by: Dr. David Allen Melisa Jean Hancock Copy of presentation available at: