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Renee Smith, Cognitively Guided Instruction, and Its Impact on Female Math Students

Posted Date: 03/14/2018

Renee Smith spends much of her time at ESSDACK working with elementary math teachers, facilitating conversations about how best to incorporate brain-based research strategies such as Cognitively Guided Instruction. She recently talked with Kris Styes, a former 4th grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Hutchinson, Kansas who now works as a Title Math coordinator in Bonner Springs.

Renee asked Kris to share her thoughts on using CGI in the classroom:


“I especially love CGI for those students who lack self-confidence because my role as teacher is NOT to tell or show how best to solve a problem. Instead, my role is to facilitate thinking by asking questions and helping the student find an entry-point to the problem. Once started, students can usually find their own paths through the problem and solve it.

Because my role is a facilitator and questioner, my instruction has changed.  I don’t start with traditional / typical whole group instruction.  My whole group time is spent talking about the problem and discussing potential tools or strategies to solve the problem. I’ve learned over time that it’s important to take the time to read and discuss the problem as a whole group and talk about ideas to solve it. That step is important for students who don’t really know where to start, but who can and will take an idea from a peer and try it.  

One of my favorite things about CGI is when I see my girls (who generally lack self-confidence in their math abilities) “find” each other in the classroom and work together.  It’s fun to see them talking about ideas - what could work, and what definitely will not work – and then try out those ideas.  

More times than not, with an especially challenging problem, my team of girls will solve the problem correctly and my high-achieving math students will still be independently struggling with the problem because they didn’t want anyone to work with them.  I have many, many favorite things about CGI but seeing my girls work together (and yes, it’s typically girls in my classroom) is one of my all-time favorites.”


(Learn more about Renee, check out future math workshops, and explore CGI resources in the ESSDACK Store.)