Saturday, July 6, 2013

What's CGI?

I completed an "introductory course", if you will, for CGI just three days before the recent holiday.
What is CGI, you ask?
Well, I'm so glad you asked:)

Many of you are probably thinking computer graphic training at this point---I am NOT that technologically savvy!, it has nothing to do with computer anything!
CGI stands for Cognitively Guided Instruction.
It is a very different way of thinking about teaching mathematics.

CGI asks teachers to consider math instruction almost solely through the use of word problems!
Scared? Shocked? Ready to run???
I was, too.
Because this used to be me:

Actually, this is still kinda me:) 
Because I was sort of "taught" to fear word problems...weren't you?
They were like reading a mystery novel: you kept trying to figure out what the heck was going on, only to have a big twist at the end that completely messed up your thinking.
So, we were taught to look for "key words".
We were taught specific procedures and "steps" to follow in order to get the right answer.
In fact, the whole goal of working on the problem was to get the right answer through the "right steps".

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't still want students to get the correct answer, but I am here to argue that there is certainly not "one specific way" to go about solving word problems.
And that's the whole point of CGI---to let students show what they already (innately) know; to let students build on their thinking and construct new knowledge.
We need to allow students to show us their way of solving the problem, rather than "the" way.

During my 2 years of teaching first grade, I only integrated word problems if it "came up" that day in our math program, and we did them whole group almost always.
I attempted to "help" my struggling students who weren't great readers or mathematicians by having other students read and provide models for solving the problems presented by our program.
I reasoned that these kids were just beginning their journey with math, and they would be exposed to word problems more in the next year, and would gradually become more adept at completing them independently.
I rationalized that I was "scaffolding" this process for my struggling kiddos.
I realize now that I could have helped them sooo much more if I had had this training!!

I really don't have time right now to go into everything I learned in three days (and I am still so far away from knowing everything I need to---some of that is going to have to come from experience!), because if I continue writing, many of you will be checked out and moving on:)

So, to break up a little of the "lecture", here's a freebie.
Most of us utilize math journals, and this little poster is just something you can post in your room to let students know exactly what you expect to see in their journals:
My plan for this poster is to introduce it in steps.
First, we will talk about (and model, model, model!) drawing or writing which manipulatives students used to solve the problem....the rest of the poster will be covered up!
Secondly, we will talk about (and model, model, model!) showing the step-by-step actions taken to solve the problem.
At this time, we will uncover this second "must" on the poster:)
Then, we will be including the answer (though many students will probably do this initially), &
Lastly, we will talk about/model-model-model writing the correct number sentences....and, yes, I will introduce my firsties to the word "algorithm", in constant reference to my go-to phrase, "number sentence".

I am getting a little ahead of myself by talking about math journals, but I realize they have become more commonplace among teachers in blogland, which means many of you have already begun to incorporate word problems on a more regular basis!
Yay for you!!

I plan on posting more about CGI tomorrow afternoon.
I don't wanna bog y'all down with too much info all at once:)
It IS still summer, after all...even if those days are dwindling fast.

So, if you're a little bit intrigued with what you've heard so far...
...come back tomorrow for Part 2 of a great "math revolution" :)

Yes, there will be another freebie.
If I have to bribe ya to get ya back here, I'll do it.
No shame.

If you've heard of/utilize CGI, I would LOVE-LOVE-LOVE to hear about it:
Please comment below!!

That's all for today.
Enjoy your Saturday, friends!


  1. I am interested! Looking forward to learning more!

    1. I'm so glad! The research is amazing! K & 1ST kiddos doing multiplication & division on a REGULAR basis (not just at the end of the year, for the "high" kids). I am so excited to share more:)

  2. I'm interested. We've done math journals for the last 2 years. This poster will really come in handy!
    Teachin' First

    1. This is verbatim what the instructor that did the training suggested we tell students to include. I can't wait to implement this to our journaling time and see if the quality of their journaling improves! Glad you liked it!

  3. I have incorporated CGI the past few years. It is awesome to see the thought process of each student. I like working on one type of problem a couple of times and then switch to a different type of problem. Don't spend to much time on one type or I find they have a hard time changing their process.

    1. I kind of figured I would need to switch up problem types; I have a freebie for tomorrow that incorporates that practice. I think you can still work in the same fact family, but change the place of the unknown to keep stretching kiddos thinking so "familiarity/routine" doesn't set it. Thanks for that tip! I hope you comment more tomorrow; I'm so interested to hear from someone who actually uses CGI!!!

  4. Amber, I was so proud to see your blog on the front page of the ESSDACK news today! Great thoughts about math and how sometimes the only fear of problem solving is on our end of things!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! I was really amazed that they wanted to use this post...the only thing I really have to offer right now is my opinion of the training and research! I haven't yet had time to really see what it can do in the classroom, but I'm looking forward to the strides I'm sure my students will make in math thanks to CGI!

  5. This is my first year in math and I plan to use journals! Love the poster. I will be linking up with you tomorrow!!!