Apple Valley News

Inside the CGI math classroom

Apple Valley, Calif. (news release) – Teachers from various AVUSD schools gathered at Desert Knolls Elementary on Sept. 18, 19, and 22 to learn, collaborate, and practice next steps in a mathematics instructional strategy utilizing Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI). The training was led by Downey Unified School District’s Melissa Canham.

CGI math is research and professional learning that focuses on understanding the development of mathematical thinking and explores ways that teachers draw on and leverage children’s thinking in their instructional practice. Young children have an informal knowledge of mathematics before math concepts are introduced in the classroom and this method encourages students to connect new math ideas to prior knowledge to promote learning math at a deeper conceptual level of understanding. In the CGI math classroom, students are encouraged to articulate their problem-solving process and share their strategies with others. Problem solving is key and a deeper understanding comes from exploring multiple routes to an answer accompanied by sound reasoning.

“Kids are finding that math is for everyone and everyone can do it,” said Theda Smith, AVUSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

“When I was in school if you got the correct answer, but you didn’t do it the way the algorithm said, you were marked down,” said David Bradley, teacher at Desert Knolls. “The kids show each other different ways to solve, and they retain more information so they know several different ways to solve and not just one way.”

At the end of each training day, teachers had the opportunity to plan and present a lesson to a classroom at Desert Knolls and experience this teaching method in action. On Monday afternoon, Tracie Bennett, teacher at Rio Vista School of Applied Learning, delivered a CGI model math lesson for a group of teachers observing Becky Ruddock’s third grade class.

Bennett presented the students with a real-world math problem and gave them an opportunity to think and problem-solve the problem in a variety of ways. At the conclusion of the exercise, students were invited to share their answers and the strategies they used to draw their conclusions. “(The collaboration) really lets us see their thinking, so I know what they’re thinking about and how I can address that and better help them,” said Brian Kirby, teacher at Desert Knolls.

This is Becky Ruddock’s second year of implementing CGI concepts into her classroom. “(CGI) has helped them to organize their thinking because they all have those thoughts in their brains, they just need to learn to organize them. It has really given them confidence and I’ve already seen a huge difference between last year and this year.”

“The flexibility of thinking is a big deal,” added Tami Cholly, teacher at Desert Knolls. “We’re teaching them to be flexible and problem solve and not give up, but find a different way if that one didn’t work.”

The concept of CGI math was first piloted in our district by Desert Knolls, Rio Vista, and Yucca Loma Elementary in the summer of 2016. Teachers have embraced CGI and have requested continued support and similar training opportunities to allow them to take these concepts even deeper. Trainings have continued at various sites as the program continues to gain momentum, and an open training at the District Office last summer brought in a record number of 75 teachers.

“CGI has allowed teachers to see how the students interpret math and it’s really been amazing,” said Desert Knolls Principal Crystal Schinhofen.

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