CGI Math

A Hopkinson student working through a CGI problem with the support of a teacher

Elementary age students bring lots of things to school with them -- besides huge backpacks stuffed with supplies. They bring ingenuity, intuitive knowledge, and mathematical insight. They sometimes amaze their teachers with innovative ways to solve problems. When mathematics teachers link their classroom instruction to students’ intuitive knowledge, students can take classroom instruction a lot farther.

Tapping and nurturing that ingenuity and intuition is the idea behind Cognitively Guided Instruction. CGI is an elementary-level mathematics professional development program developed by education professors at the Wisconsin Center for Ed. Research.

What is CGI?

In a typical CGI math problem young students are presented with a problem like this: Robin has $5. How many more dollars does she have to save to have enough money to buy a puppy that costs $12? The teacher asks students to think about ways to solve the problem. A variety of student-generated strategies are used to solve this problem such as using plastic cubes to model the problem, counting on fingers and using knowledge of number facts to figure out the answer. The teacher then asks the students to explain their reasoning process. They share their explanations with the class. The teacher may ask the children to compare different strategies. Children are expected to explain and justify their strategies, and the children, along with the teacher, take responsibility for deciding whether a strategy that is presented is correct.