What is Understanding?



How often have you been in a classroom and heard the teacher ask their students "Do you understand?" Then this will be followed by the students shaking their heads "yes". How many students do you think truly understand?

It is important for educators to acknowledge the difference between "knowledge" and "understanding." Simply put, knowledge is demonstrated by restating information, while understanding is illustrated by the ability to analyze and interpret information. The way that a teacher structures a lesson can be directly impacted by knowing what cognitive processes it takes to bring students to a deep understanding.


By the end of this unit you should be able to...

  • Differentiate bewteen "knowledge" and "Understanding"
  • State instructional strategies that promote deep understanding


Before reading the articles provided write down some of the strategies you currently use in your classroom. Do you feel that when you teach your students you are creating an understanding? Or providing them with knowledge?

Your task for this unit is to read two articles provided below. The first article differentiates between “knowing” and “understanding,” providing a frame-work and strategies to teach for understanding. The second article provides a study of two math teachers using the frame-work in their classrooms.

After completing the readings, write an analysis of the main ideas presented in the articles. Please be sure to include ideas from BOTH articles.

  • In your analysis, reflect on the teaching strategies you wrote down before reading the articles. What have you been doing well, and what do you think you could improve on?
  • Pick a specific concept that you plan to teach/ have taught. Think about how you can incorporate these strategies in your lessons for that unit.



Perkins, D., & Blythe, T. (1994). Putting Understanding Up Front. Educational Leadership, 51(5), 4-7.

Unger, C. (1994). What Teaching for Understanding Looks Like. Educational Leadership, 51(5), 8-10.

Retreived from EBSCOhost: http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.albany.edu/ehost/search/advanced?sid=ec80db10-a4b0-48c2-87cc-cb48448ff455%40sessionmgr113&vid=13&hid=104


Advance to Unit 2: NYS Mathematics and Common Core Standards

Return to Teaching mathematics for Understanding