Cognitively Guided Instruction and CueThink: Impact On Student Learning

Cognitively Guided Instruction and CueThink are a powerful combination in the classroom.  Read on to find out how a 5th grade class in Tustin, CA has used this duo to increase students’ growth in mathematics. 

In CGI, students are asked to justify their thinking. Students need to organize their work very well and practice revising their strategies and thinking. CueThink enables them to easily do that and show their transformation. Teachers grow and develop their mindset alongside their students.
— Theodora Beauchamp

We had the great privilege of partnering this past year with Mrs. Theodora Beauchamp, a 5th Grade teacher at Tustin Ranch Elementary in Tustin, CA, who has used Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) for the past four years. In doing so, we collectively discovered the powerful impact CGI and CueThink combined can make to improve students’ problem solving skills and math communication.

What is CGI and CueThink?

In Cognitively Guided Instruction, students use their understanding of numbers to solve word problems. The role of CGI teachers is to pose a variety of purposeful problems and guide student thinking to get to the concepts. In a CGI classroom, students are learning how to be flexible thinkers and develop a growth mindset where they take ownership in making sense of mathematics.

CueThink supports CGI teachers in identifying where their students are in their sense making of mathematics and what the next steps should be through its structured problem solving process designed around mathematician George Pólya’s 4 Phases.

The process CGI teachers and students engage in is very similar to the process experienced in CueThink. 

When CGI is coupled with CueThink, teachers can capture and revisit at any time how a student unpacks a problem, what strategies students have and how well they understand when to apply them and how well students can communicate their strategies both in writing and verbally. This is done to support students’ development of flexible thinking, growth mindset and digital citizenry skills by providing effective feedback on peers’ thinklets.

After one year of consistent CueThink use and over 75 thinklets per student completed, Theodora’s students have grown in countless ways as mathematicians. A data analysis was performed on Theodora’s class by aggregating students’ work over 6 months from September to February and measuring the impact of CGI and CueThink on her students’ problem solving skills. Here are the top three areas of growth we’ve seen these students make.

Top 3 Areas Of Student Growth With CGI and CueThink

Growth #1: "Unpacking" A Problem For Successful Problem Solving

The most significant element in the problem solving process is understanding the problem. Without mathematical literacy, there is very little chance of student success. Mathematical literacy refers to the engagement of students in analysis, argument and literacy used in the field of mathematics. CGI focuses deeply on building students’ ability to unpack a problem for understanding.

In CueThink, the language from The Math Forum of, “What Do You Notice?” and “What Do You Wonder About?” is embedded in the Understand Phase. This aims to support students in truly understanding the task at hand.

Students in Theodora's class showed increases in the number of noticings and wonderings, an indication of student engagement in the problem solving process with more skill.

Theodora displays the Understand Phase in CueThink when presenting a CGI problem to her whole class. She builds in context when necessary and begins the process of unpacking for understanding. After individually completing the Understand Phase, her students often come back together as a class to share-out their noticings and wonderings before solving the problem.

Growth #2: Planning And Applying Strategies

In the Plan Phase, students are provided a pre-populated list of strategies and the ability to write out a plan detailing how they will attempt to solve the problem using their chosen strategies. Teachers can reference the strategies students select and guide them to trying different ones. 

Theodora’s students demonstrated growth in their ability to correlate their written plans with the strategies they selected. Using their acquired mathematical literacy to understand the strategies they selected, students produced more detailed and connected written plans within their problem solving process. Her students also demonstrated growth in their ability to apply the strategies they selected and detailed in the Plan Phase during the creation of their solutions in the Solve Phase.

Growth #3: Providing Effective Feedback While Developing A Growth Mindset

CueThink provides teachers and students with a collaborative digital platform to engage in a growth mindset journey together.  Looking back is a critical part of the problem solving process. What you can learn after solving a problem fuels your growth. In CueThink, students review their own problem solving process before uploading their solutions to share with their peers.

In this digital extension of the physical classroom, students can view each other’s solutions in a Gallery and give written feedback through an annotations process.  Students are given the opportunity to “look back” and can revise their thinklets at any time. 

Listen to this student explain her strategies and thought processes with confidence and engagement. Notice her self-corrections as she presents her thinking. Explore this thinklet on your own.

The digital platform enables every student to be heard. In addition, strategies captured can be used for open strategy sharing and targeted discussions that is central to CGI. Theodora and her students use CueThink to transition between collaborating in the digital platform and the physical classroom to #makemathsocial. 

With her guidance, Theodora’s students improved the quality of their feedback to each other in both the digital and physical classroom environment. Their growth mindset was evident in their thinklets, annotations and class discussions.

According to Carol Dweck, “students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.” 

With these areas of growth in just one year of using CGI and CueThink, we hear confident, engaged student voices shining through in their thinklet recordings. What better sound is there for an educator, a parent and the students themselves?

To Theodora’s students, we are so proud to be a part of your growth as mathematicians and we can’t wait to see how much more growth you will make in the coming years! To Theodora, thank you for helping to #makemathsocial by sharing your expertise in Cognitively Guided Instruction!

The ability [for teachers and students] to hear student voices behind the math in their CueThink recordings...to see do they have the academic vocabulary, the multiple steps, is so valuable. Seeing all the different ways to solve one type of problem through the Gallery of CueThink is so beneficial to growing their strategies and flexible thinking.
— Theodora Beauchamp