SIS Mathematics Curriculum:

Enhancing Conceptual Understanding


Mathematics introduces students to concepts, skills and thinking strategies that are essential in everyday life and support learning across the curriculum. It helps students make sense of the numbers, patterns and shapes they see in the world around them, offers ways of handling data in an increasingly digital world and makes a crucial contribution to their development as successful learners.

The SIS Mathematics Curriculum has been developed to enhance the teaching of mathematics in our schools. It provides a balanced programme and helps students build a solid conceptual foundation in mathematics that will enable them to apply their knowledge.

Combining the most relevant and essential information from the British and Swiss curricula, the curriculum is divided into three strands:

  • numbers and variables
  • geometry: shapes and space
  • measurement and statistics

Each strand provides progressions for the teaching and learning of mathematics from kindergarten to grade 6.

Implementing the Curriculum
Emphasis has been placed on the introduction of the new maths curriculum in all SIS schools this year so that it is implemented successfully. Through school workshops, SIS Maths Trainers Switzerland Andrea Oettinger and Miranda Dominguez Stead, with the assistance of Valérie Nordmann, are involved in its implementation.

As maths trainers we have placed great importance on the purposeful actions that teachers can take to support the engagement and learning of each student by positioning students as active learners and constructing their knowledge of mathematics through exploration, discussion and reflection. One such way that we are encouraging this is through maths discussions. 

two students discussing in a maths lesson

Maths Discussions
Maths discussions provide students opportunities for deeper understanding whereby students articulate and defend their ideas and analyse the reasoning of others. They allow for the exploration of ideas, strategies and procedures. Using discussions in the classroom to explain and justify, shapes the way students learn mathematics.

Simultaneously, teachers gain the ability to assess student knowledge through choosing open-ended tasks, which can be approached in many different ways, and by asking good questions. They align instruction to ensure students understand how to use maths skills through thinking, talking and exploring. These questions help students clarify and deepen their thinking and that of others, and to consider mathematical ideas more explicitly while making connections between different approaches. Furthermore, asking questions gives teachers information about students’ thinking that can help determine the next course of action in lessons.

Shifting our Focus to Conceptual Maths
At SIS, we believe that conceptual understanding is essential for learning mathematics and the trainers are encouraging its execution within maths lessons. Conceptual understanding refers to an integrated and functional grasp of mathematical ideas. Students with conceptual understanding know more than isolated memorised facts and methods. They understand why a mathematical idea is important and the kinds of contexts in which it is useful. By contextualising topics with real life examples, students’ conceptual understanding is enhanced, they are encouraged to think fluidly and thus they can creatively solve unfamiliar problems. 

Written by Miranda Dominguez Stead, SIS Maths Trainer Switzerland and Head of Kindergarten and Primary SIS Männedorf-Zürich

Published in emphaSIS 2020, Switzerland edition

If you wish to read more about how the implementation of the SIS Mathematics Curriculum has influenced teaching and learning maths at SIS Zürich, please read the article "Keiner zu klein, ein Mathematiklehrer zu sein" (in German only).