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Encourage Thinking Aloud While Problem Solving


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking Abstract Reasoning Spatial Perception

Encourage Thinking Aloud While Problem Solving

If your student gets stuck if their first approach to the problem doesn't work, particularly if their verbal reasoning skills are good

Instruction And Practice

  1. Objective: Students will think aloud while solving math problems to help their understanding and help themselves self-correct.
  2. Explain Why. Discuss with students how thinking out loud forces us to pay closer attention to what we are doing and think more systematically. Hearing ourselves out loud also helps us know what we do or do not understand, and catch our errors.
  3. Model it: While doing problems in front of the class, speak out loud the steps you are taking to show what "thinking out loud" actually means.
  4. Practice: Have students work in pairs with one student speaking out loud while solving a problem, and the other student listening and providing feedback, or asking questions as appropriate. Then switch roles. Teachers can oversee where students need support with breaking down the steps of a problem out loud. The listening partner might also need guidance on how to provide substantive feedback without criticizing.
  5. Considerations: Be sensitive to pairings, particularly for students who might be uncomfortable or lack confidence. Pairings also make it easier to have students develop this skill without the dread of speaking in front of the whole class.
  6. Ongoing reinforcement: Encourage students to think out loud while solving math problems in class and for homework.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

When we speak out loud, we are more deliberate and self-aware of our thoughts and processes. Effective problem solving depends on attention to detail and a deliberative approach. Thinking out loud will naturally develop a student's self-awareness and self-monitoring. In addition, students will become more comfortable and less self-conscious over time about thinking out loud and provide teachers with more insight into where students need help. Helping students monitor and self-reflect on their problem solving has a significant positive effect on their learning.

Best-suited for students with weaker: Attention, Flexible Thinking, Inhibition, Long-term Memory, Metacognition, Short-Term Memtory, Visual Processing, Working Memory (Source: Digital Promise Learner Variability Project)