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Mastering Math Concepts for Success

education best practicesMastering Math Concepts for Success

December 17, 2019

Rote Learning and Concept Mastery

Before we fully dive in, let's quickly review rote learning versus concept mastery with Professor Judah Schwartz and Kreg Moccia.

"The purpose of rote learning in any subject is to help people develop fluency," says Dr. Schwartz, Professor of Education Emeritus at Harvard & MIT. What does rote learning look like in math? Professor Schwartz cites the multiplication tables that we learn in elementary school, from 1 x 1 all the way up to 10 x 10. There is value in memorizing them, such as easier recall and not having to rely on a calculator for smaller calculations.

However, it is also vital to understand deeper, underlying math concepts so that learnings can be applied more broadly. "Given that fluency is important, so is conceptual understanding," says Dr. Schwartz. Yup's Director of Academics Kreg Moccia agrees and points out the difference between knowing "a process for solving this problem" versus knowing "a process for solving any problem."

"The latter is a transferable way of thinking about math problems," says Kreg. This transferable knowledge is applicable to situations far beyond a given problem set, lesson, or grade level.

Research by thought leaders like Carol Dweck shows us that everyone is capable of mastering a concept when provided personalized learning strategies and a Growth Mindset environment.

Here are three reasons why concept mastery helps students achieve long-term academic success.

1. It Builds a Strong Foundation

Think of learning like building a house. You can't feasibly build a structure that will stand the tests of time without first setting a sturdy foundation. Conceptual understanding is that anchor!

Understanding concepts is key to learning, and mastery learning is a process that is different for everyone. Students will make mistakes and learn what works for them in their own time. This strategy builds a strong foundation by identifying and filling knowledge gaps. This gives them the prerequisite skills they need to tackle more complicated problems down the road.

2. It Builds Confidence

If you began building a house without a strong foundation, would you feel very confident in its ability to hold up? When a student knows they have a strong foundation in math, they feel more confident in their abilities. When students feel more confident in their concept mastery, it lends to a more positive relationship with math and learning.

A positive relationship helps motivate students to more actively participate in their own learning by asking questions, collaborating with teachers, and applying feedback. When students are in control of their learning they’re better-equipped to self-evaluate their own progress.

3. It Prepares Students for the Future

Without a strong foundation, students may find themselves ill-equipped for future problems, classes, and even careers. In the end, the goal of concept mastery is to cultivate self-motivated, independent, and enthusiastic learners who aren't afraid to take on new challenges and work with others to solve more complex problems. Internalizing learned concepts helps students be successful in the immediate, near, and long-term.

For more reasons why it's important to learn math, you can download our free whitepaper from this blog post: 3 Ways to Explain the Importance of Math to Your Children.

How Does Yup Ensure Concept Mastery?

Yup's pedagogy is designed to drive concept mastery. To accomplish this, Yup tutors follow a set of core principles when working with students.

The first principle is based on Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset model, in which instructors encourage students to believe in themselves and see mistakes as opportunities for growth. The second principle is based on the Socratic Method, in which tutors ask guiding questions to help students find the root of the problem. These two methods help students become independent, critical thinkers who are driven to achieve long-term academic success.

Cristina B., parent of Yup student Ella, recently commented on the positive impact Yup tutors have had on her daughter's grasp of concepts and overall confidence in math:

"The tutors take time to make sure she understands the concepts behind the problems in a way that is very supportive and encouraging. She feels proud of what she does know instead of embarrassed by what she doesn't!"

Read more notes from parents right here! To learn more about how Yup tutors teach for the long term, watch this video about our teaching methods.


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