Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI)

Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) Methodology

In education we talk a lot about students becoming critical thinkers and problem solvers and yet most mathematics curricula and instruction has been created to develop students’ factual and procedural knowledge. This has led to generations of students who both dread math and have difficulty trying to explain or describe how they have solved a particular problem.

For this reason, in August 2015, Wonderland Avenue Elementary adopted the Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) methodology for mathematics. The most distinguishing feature of CGI is that it focuses on developing student’s individual mathematical reasoning. CGI teachers use their knowledge of grade level standards, Common Core Mathematical Practices, problem types and solution strategies to make decisions about their curriculum and pacing.

CGI is based on over 30 years of research beginning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has continued with research from Megan Franke at UCLA. This research focuses on how students’ mathematical analyses can drive the instruction to reaching the standards and beyond, rather than limiting opportunities through a set curriculum. Wonderland has direct support from UCLA and Brandon who provided professional development, coaching, and grade level planning for teachers.

CGI allows Wonderland’s teachers to differentiate and build off students’ ideas to guide the instruction. This approach is similar to Wonderland’s Reading/Writing workshop where students are involved in their individual and classroom instruction progression and collectively creating problem-solving methodologies.

CGI teachers strongly emphasize conceptual development to encourage our students become independent problem solvers and critical thinkers in the way they engage with the mathematics. Students then become the mathematicians and see themselves as such. Algorithms become more intrinsic and meaningful to students because they acquired them based on their own mathematical development and the acquisition is usually at a faster pace with a deeper concreted mathematical . For example, student will work in groups and in pairs to create their own problem solving strategies that they will then explain to the teacher and their peers.


How You Can Extend CGI Into Home Learning

You can help your child learn math by offering them insights into how to approach math. They will develop more confidence in their math ability if she understands the following points:

  1. Problems Can Be Solved in Different Ways.
    Although most math problems have only one answer, there may be many ways to get to that answer. Learning math is more than finding the correct answer; it’s also a process of solving problems and applying what you’ve learned to new problems.
  2. Wrong Answers Sometimes Can Be Useful.Accuracy is always important in math. However, sometimes you can use a wrong answer to help your child figure out why they’ve made a mistake. Analyzing wrong answers can help your child to understand the concepts underlying the problem and to learn to apply reasoning skills to arrive at the correct answer. Ask your child to explain how she solved a math problem. Their explanation might help you discover if they need help with number skills, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, or with the concepts involved in solving the problem.
  3. Take Risks!
    Help your child to be a risk taker. Help them see the value of trying to solve a problem, even if it’s difficult. Give your child time to explore different approaches to solving a difficult problem. As they work, encourage them to talk about what they are thinking. This will help them strengthen math skills and to become an independent thinker and problem solver.
  4. Being Able to Do Mathematics in Your Head Is Important.
    Mathematics isn’t restricted to pencil and paper activities. Doing math “in your head” (mental math) is a valuable skill that comes in handy as we make quick calculations of costs in stores, restaurants or gas stations. Let your child know that by using mental math, their math skills will become stronger.