Response to Intervention, CueThink Style

CueThink enhances Response to Intervention strategies by providing a consistent, supportive structure while flexibly integrating with a variety of tasks and allowing teachers to differentiate. 


What Is RtI?  

The Montana Office of Public Instruction’s paper on Response to Intervention and Gifted and Talented Education states that Response to Intervention (RtI) came into being when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act turned its focus to “prevention-focused instructional practices.” The instruction practices are divided into three tiers.  

  • Tier 1 is for all students and is defined as classroom instruction that is differentiated and allows 80% to 90% of students to successfully learn the content.  

  • Tier 2 is defined as small group, targeted intervention for students whose assessment shows a need for support beyond the classroom. The Institute of Education Sciences recommends Tier 2 interventions in which teachers model proficient problem solving, verbalize thinking, scaffold guided practice, and provide corrective feedback.

  • Tier 3 is the top level of intervention, focused on remediation of skills and typically lasts for a longer duration.  (Hall, M, Poole, D., Carlstrom, R. Smith, S. & Speaks J.,2009).

The RTI Network explains that students are placed into the different instructional tiers based on screening tasks linked to classroom goals. From the screening task, relative judgements compare students to similar peers and absolute judgements compare the student to expectations for the time of year.


How Is CueThink A Fit With RtI?

CueThink fits well with all three tiers of intervention because its structure flexibly enhances a variety of tasks and allows teachers to differentiate their instruction.  

Specifically for tier 2 and 3 interventions, CueThink supports students identified with difficulties in problem solving. The Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) published a guide of peer reviewed recommendations called “Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for Elementary and Middle Schools.” Their third recommendation states, “Instruction during the intervention should be explicit and systematic. This includes providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review.” Within these recommendations are four focus areas that integrate with CueThink's problem solving tool.  Below are the four focus areas and how they align to CueThink:  


Focus 1: Teacher Demonstration

The IES instructs teachers to start the intervention by demonstrating models of how to solve a variety of problems.  As they model their problem solving process, teachers should “think aloud” to explain their reasoning and thought process for each step. Elena Aguilar, in her article in Edutopia, “The Think-Aloud Strategy: An Oldie but Goodie,” writes that the power of “think-alouds” is “making our thinking transparent for kids, the steps we take to figure something out, and the ways in which our actions flow from this thinking. In this way, we are modeling what children need to do, not just telling them what to do” (2013).  Within CueThink, teachers can create a thinklet of an example problem, or series of problems to share with students. The screen casting functionality allows teachers to explain their thinking as they solve the problem. Because the teacher’s model is stored in a digital gallery, students can watch the tutorial at their own pace, pausing and rewinding as needed.  Additionally, students are able to reference the example at anytime.  


Focus 2: Guided Practice

As a targeted intervention for students struggling with problem solving, teachers must carefully scaffold their level of support. The IES recommends that teachers gradually decrease their level of involvement as students problem solve.  The consistent structure of the 4 phases fits well with the gradual release model because students are always following the same 4 phases, regardless of the problem.

Teachers can model how to unpack the problem by noticing and wondering in the Understand phase. Noticing and wondering helps students start a problem and reduces anxiety because there is “no right or wrong answer.” Using gradual release to introduce noticing and wondering, the Math Forum’s article “Beginning to Problem Solve with ‘I Notice, I wonder” recommends starting by projecting a problem or scenario and guiding students’ noticing and wondering. Overtime, the interventionist should change the structure from full group to a “Think-Pair-Share.” Once students are familiar with noticing and wondering, interventionists should challenge students to identify the importance, usefulness and paths from noticings and wonderings to a solution.      

Metacognitive reflection in the Review Phase should also be practiced to improve students’ critical thinking skills. In “Metacognition: The Gift that Keeps Giving,” Donna Wilson, Ph.D writes about modeling metacognition by showing students when personal mistakes happen and how to stop and recognize the error and correct it. CueThink’s blog, “Benefits of Error Analysis, CueThink Style,” explains how to use this metacognitive process to have students critique and revise incorrect thinklets. Jo Boaler confirms the power of teaching students by using mistakes. In her blog, "Mistakes Grow Your Brain," Boaler notes that mistakes lead to student learning and increased effort.  


Focus 3: Student verbalization

Just as the teacher modeled “think alouds” in step 1, IES establishes that during an intervention to improve problem solving, students should also speak about their thoughts and rationale for each of their steps to solve a problem. In their article, “Metacognitive Strategy Use of Eighth-Grade Students With and Without Learning Disabilities During Mathematical Problem Solving: A Think-Aloud Analysis," Rosenzweig, Krawec and Montague cited Bryant et al., 2000 when they noted students with learning disabilities tend to struggle with problem solving and respond impulsively using trial and error. Thus, Rosenzweig, Krawec and Montague continue that cognitive and metacognitive processes such as visualization, estimation and self-questioning are essential interventions.  

Within CueThink, students explain their thinking several times. First, students start putting thoughts into words by noticing and wondering about the problem. Then, within the Plan phase, students write a detailed guide about how they will solve the problem and use the strategies they selected. As they record their thinklet, students model how they solve the problem and verbally explain their thinking. Finally, when watching their own thinklet and the work of their peers, students write feedback and reflections evaluating the steps to solve a problem.


Focus 4: Corrective Feedback

IES concludes that corrective feedback is a critical part of an intervention to improve students ability to solve multi-step mathematical problems. Andrew Miller, in “Feedback for Thinking: Working for the Answer” discusses the power of feedback both to prompt student thinking but also to help the teacher determine the root of a misconception. Miller classifies feedback into three categories: questions, prompting and cueing. He continues to explain that questions should be open-ended and “cause students to explain and justify their ideas.” He defines prompts as “statements and questions that cause students to do metacognitive work” and cueing as verbal or nonverbal signals that “shifts the learner’s attention.”  

Feedback directly pairs with CueThink’s annotations process. Teachers watch a student’s thinklet, see how they solved a problem, hear their thinking and provide written feedback. Because annotations are spatial temporal, comments or questions link to a specific point in time during the thinklet. Thus, a student can see that their teacher’s comment directly relates to a statement they made 45 seconds into their thinklet. This level of specificity helps students connect the feedback to the part of their work that needs improvement.  



In the brief Why Is Teaching with Problem Solving Important to Student Learning? NCTM states that teaching problem solving is a slow process that teachers must dedicate focused attention to promoting. With the emphasis on problem solving, “students explain and justify their thinking and challenge the explanations of their peers and teachers, they are also engaging in clarification of their own thinking and becoming owners of ‘knowing’” (Cai, Lester citing Lampert, 1990). Thus, by integrating CueThink’s structured problem solving and collaborative application into tier 1 instruction and further scaffolding support through tier 2 and 3 interventions, students develop problem solving skills that NCTM found not only impact “students’ higher-order thinking skills but also reinforces positive attitudes” (2010).



Aguilar, Elena. "The Think-Aloud Strategy: An Oldie But Goodie." Edutopia. Edutopia, 01 Aug. 2013. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.

Beginning to Problem Solve with “I Notice, I Wonder” The Math Forum, 2015. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

Boaler, Jo. "Mistakes Grow Your Brain." Youcubed at Stanford University. Youcubed, 2016. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.

Cai, Jinfa, and Frank Lester. "Why Is Teaching with Problem Solving Important to Student Learning?" NCTM, 8 Apr. 2010. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J. R., & Witzel, B. (2009). Assisting students struggling with mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for elementary and middle schools (NCEE 2009-4060). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.

Hall, Michael, Deb Poole, Ruth Carlstrom, Stephanie Smith, and Joette Speaks,. "Gifted and Talented Education from A-Z." (2004): n. pag., 2009. Web. 27 July 2016.

Hughes, Charles, Ph.D, and Douglas D. Dexter, Ph.D. "Universal Screening Within a Response-to-Intervention Model." Universal Screening Within a RTI Model. RTI Action Networt, n.d. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.

Miller, Andrew. "Feedback for Thinking: Working for the Answer." Edutopia. Edutopia, 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.

Rosenzweig, Carly, Jennifer Krawec, and Marjorie Montague. "Metacognitive Strategy Use of Eighth-Grade Students With and Without Learning Disabilities During Mathematical Problem Solving: A Think-Aloud Analysis." Journal of Learning Disabilities 44.6 (2011): 508-20.

Sparks, Sarah. "Study: RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise." Education Week. EdWeek, 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.            

Wilson, Donna, Ph.D. "Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving." Edutopia. Edutopia, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.