Cognitively Guided Instruction in Math

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Student-Centered Instruction: Definition, Origin & Benefits

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Cognitively Guided Instruction
  • 0:34 Using More of the Brain
  • 2:07 Watching How Students Learn
  • 3:28 Recognizing Student…
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Perhaps the most powerful thing we can do for students is to teach them to think for themselves. In this lesson, we'll explore how to teach using your students' natural problem-solving abilities to learn mathematics.

Cognitively Guided Instruction

The human mind has an innate, or built-in, ability to understand logic and mathematics, and different people have different ways of developing that knowledge. Sometimes it is extremely valuable to allow your students to choose their own path toward learning.

Cognitively guided instruction (CGI) is an approach to teaching mathematics that is based on the developmental stage of the student and the process of asking questions to help guide the students toward finding their own approaches for learning math.

Using More of the Brain

Although many children (and older students) may groan at the idea of math story problems, many parts of the brain that can aid in math understanding are activated by story problems. Story problems present situations like the ones we face in real life in ways that our brains are designed to handle. We are creative, spatial, visual individuals who have a wonderful capacity to grab a situation and understand the bigger picture.

In cognitively guided instruction, the teacher presents situations to the students rather than telling them how to solve a problem. The students are invited to find their own solutions, getting to answers any way they can. This activates their innate ability to reason and understand (the mind's cognitive processing centers).

This is different from the 'laundry list' approach, which presents a set of steps and then expects the students to remember and follow those steps. Memory centers, which are what the students use to try to remember things, like steps in a process or answers in a multiplication table, are much less effective regions for logical processing. This is why sequential memorized instruction often results in statements like 'I don't remember how to do it!' or 'What was the next step, again?' Additionally, since CGI instruction is designed around the individual student's math reasoning developmental level, it's a much more natural and fundamental way to learn mathematics, using a far wider array of the mind's special tools.

Watching How Students Learn

Let's say you are presenting the idea of subtraction to a group of your students. You have learned from past experience that these particular students have a wonderful aptitude for understanding stories. Your approach to teaching them mathematics might be to read them stories (or parts of stories) where a subtraction process occurs.

Perhaps while the wicked witch with seven apples wasn't looking, the clever little girl stole four of them and ran off to share with her friends (you might follow up with a moral lecture on stealing). So you pose the problem to your studious little listeners. 'The witch doesn't have as many apples now. How many do you think she has left?'

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account