How to Use Cognitively Guided Instruction in Your Classroom

Cognitive guided instruction is your answer to teaching students to reason. When teaching math to children, what is YOUR goal? Is it helping your students get to the correct answer or what’s the math the student is supposed to learn from working on this problem. Before we go any further, please watch the following video.

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One solution to just “answer getting” is, CGI. Cognitive Guided Instruction is a way to teach mathematical reasoning that is developmentally appropriate. It is great because the types of word problems have been researched so that you can guide student thinking and understanding as they move through different types of word problems, eventually mastering concepts and improving mathematical reasoning. The goal is that students become independent problem solvers who can approach and solve a variety of word problems without relying on the teacher to tell them how to solve them. Who doesn’t want to encourage and inspire their students to be problem solvers?

You can help students develop computational fluency by having them frequently solve Cognitively Guided Instruction type word problems and evaluate if their answer makes sense. The main focus at the K-2 level is addition and subtraction, but do not be afraid to use the multiplication and division just to help expand their thinking.

In the CGI classroom, there are different types of problems. Each of the different problem types requires different reasoning processes. I would recommend you read how to conduct math talks in addition to this blog post.

Methods used to solve Cognitively Guided Instruction problems are broken into levels. It is important to understand that students will go through these levels as they develop their mathematical reasoning. The student moves from concrete mathematical reasoning to more abstract.

Solving a Math Problem

The first step in problem solving is… understanding the problem and making sure that it makes sense. For example, take this problem:

There are 125 sheep and 5 dogs in a flock.  How old is the shepherd?

Now, watch this video of eight graders who were given this problem:

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It is through daily discussions of problem solving that we hope to move students from direct modeling to counting strategies to using number facts to solve problems. If we rush this process the students may be copying our instruction with no understanding. If a student is stuck, reread the problem with them, have them talk it over with their friend, and if you need to suggest something, say that “last year, a student…” It should never come from you, the teacher, try to guide them but do not lead. It is important for you as the teacher to understand, the types of problems and where students are on the developmental level to help them learn math.

In the CGI classroom, some common components are:

  • Problem solving is the focus on instruction, with children deciding how they should solve each problem.
  • Many strategies are used to solve problems.
  • Children communicate to their teachers and peers how they solved their problems.
  • Each person’s thinking is important and respected by peers and teachers.
  • Teachers understand children’s problem-solving strategies and use that knowledge to plan their instruction.

I love this product! Saved me a ton of time planning for my intervention block!

This is fantastic! The kids figured out how to use it so quickly. I am sending one problem home each week in the kids’ homework folder too. The kids are confident and able to do the work at home.

Very detailed! I love the different problems and that they get students to think about what they have to do to solve the problem. Love the added bookmark to remind them of strategies! Thanks for sharing.

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