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Encourage Thinking Aloud While Problem Solving


Mathematics Study Skills & Tools 21st Century Skills Universal Design for Learning Social-Emotional Learning/Growth Mindset All Ages Strategy


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Encourage Thinking Aloud While Problem Solving

We suffer more often in imagination then in reality.
— Seneca

Encourage students to think aloud while solving math problems to help them self-correct and enable adults to give feedback.

How To Apply It!

  1. Explain why. Discuss with students how thinking out loud forces us to pay closer attention to what we are doing, and thus think more systematically. Since math depends on organized, methodical thinking, this can really help students.
  2. 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. Demonstrate how this process benefits everyone.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.