Life Beyond Numbers: How Conceptual Understanding is more important than ever before

Living in an era of conceptual understanding develops skills such as analytical thinking, logical reasoning and conceptual understanding

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Building concepts from a young age: We have moved on from consuming knowledge from a particular person or source to relying on critical thinking and problem - solving abilities.  


With the exponential growth of information and the digital revolution, success in this modern age requires the efficient processing of new information and a higher level of abstraction. We now live in an era of conceptual understanding, which is unlike the industrial and agricultural eras.

Our education system traditional trains children to memorize and reproduce information, which results in our children cultivating the habit of rote learning. This, in turn, affects developing skills such as analytical thinking, logical reasoning and conceptual understanding. Most real-world problems do not have simple, direct solutions. This is where thinking out of the box can come in handy. Conceptual learning helps define the problem in different ways and, thus, come up with a wider set of solutions to choose from.

The Role of Educators

The early years are important not just for laying the foundation for children’s conceptual understanding, but also for shaping children’s attitudes towards education and learning mechanisms. Parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards learning methodologies can influence their students’ and children’s educational goals.  

Numeracy is as essential for students’ success as literacy is, and early years educators should equip their students with fundamental Math skills as well as positive attitudes towards learning. Teachers should place particular emphasis on learning the right way in the early year’s development. Moreover, the usefulness of Math can be highlighted in everyday activities such as doing a head count of people and dividing up snack portions. Educators should be playful and creative in their approach to teaching in the hope of encouraging their students to be playful and creative in using Mathematics.

Focus Areas in Math in the Future

While it boils down to subjects like Mathematics, it is common for parents or peers to say that they do not like Mathematics or that they aren’t good at it. These types of statements can give students the notion that Math is not necessary and can or should be avoided or reserved only for those who are good at it. Math need not be difficult or scary, and incorporating mathematical concepts into guided play in the early years can foster young children’s curiosity, laying solid foundations for education into the primary years.

Whether it is gardening, building forts, stacking blocks, playing at the water table, or lining up by height in the classroom, children demonstrate a clear readiness to engage in conceptual learning and Math learning early in life. Research from several disciplines is converging to show the importance of early childhood development in general. Brain and skills-building experiences early in life are critical for child development, and concepts such as lateral thinking are essential to support children’s personal and professional growth.

Learning the Conceptual Way

Learning to think critically may be one of the most important skills that today's children will need for the future. In today’s global and rapidly changing world, children need to be able to do much more than repeating a list of facts; they need to be critical thinkers who can make sense of information, analyze, compare, contrast, make inferences, and generate higher order thinking skills.  

While there is no strategy, in particular, to support and teach a child how to think critically, as a parent or a teacher, our role may sometimes be to ask open-ended questions to guide the thinking process. In other cases, it can be more appropriate to allow children to experiment and refine their theories on what causes things to happen. Guiding a child’s critical thinking process can have a positive an impact on their problem-solving skills.