3 Types of Math Lessons

When planning a math lesson, considering the 3 types of lessons can help build your expected outcomes. Whether planning a conceptual, procedural or application-based lesson will shape what types of materials to use, what problems to present and even the types of student responses expected.


In the next 3 blog posts, I'm going to explain each type and even give you an example. Today, I just want to give a broad overview of each type.

The first type of lesson is my favorite: Conceptual Learning. These lessons are usually the first time a student has seen this concept and allow a lot of exploration. Students must use hands-on manipulatives to connect their prior knowledge to the new concept. Students begin making generalizations and understanding the vocabulary. Some common examples include:

  • Learning the definition of a fraction

  • Understanding equal groups

  • Developing understanding of the equal sign

The second type of lesson is Procedural Learning. These lessons are typically the kind of lesson many people think of when they think about math lessons. However, these lessons only work after students have already had the conceptual learning meaning they must have had exploration time before they can begin learning algorithms.


During Procedural Learning, students begin to learn strategies to help them solve problems efficiently. Often there is one type of method that is most common, but it should not be the only method introduced. In fact, students who develop flexibility with numbers have better understanding of the most common procedure, because they understand why these methods are short cuts. (You can't understand why it is a short cut unless you have gone the long way.)


This type of learning often requires the most planning, because students are coming into the lesson from various levels of understanding. Some students are still developing the concept and trying to piece it together. Other students may struggle with fact fluency making any computation take much longer than expected. A few students may solve the problem in seconds needing a challenge.


This lesson is going to require the most planning and differentiation. Teachers must consider how the lesson will look and ways to make it accessible to every student.


The final lesson type puts both conceptual learning and procedural learning to practice in an Application-Based lesson. These lessons require students to apply their understanding of the concept and their proficiency of the strategies to solve real-world problems. These lessons usually have multiple steps and are set in the process of word problems. Again, this lesson can be a challenge due to the multiple levels of each student coming into the lesson.

You will notice that each type of lesson directly correlates to a grade levels' objective or standard. In fact, you will often see in each grade level concepts that are introduced, taught to mastery and maintained. These will match up directly to the type of lesson designed. (More information about these standards coming soon.)


Thinking about the type of lesson when planning can help frame your questions and the way you approach the lesson. Over the next 3 blog posts, I will give an example of each lesson. In the meantime, click below to download your checklist to help you determine what type of lesson you are truly planning.



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