Metacognition in the Math Classroom

Metacognition in the Math Classroom

Metacognition, essential to success across all academic areas, is especially important in math. There are a number of ways that teachers can help their students become strategic math learners and promote self-awareness.

Background: Metacognition in the Math Classroom 

How does math rely on metacognition? An article published by ASCD describes the connections between metacognition and mathematics(link opens in new tab/window)↗. Metacognition means (1) being aware of one’s own thought processes and (2) controlling and regulating these processes. The process of solving math problems typically follows these steps, which rely on metacognition:

      • Understand

        • Plan

          • Solve

            • Reflect

Students have to actively choose heuristics, or strategies, that work for the problem they are trying to solve. But it doesn’t stop there. Students have to actively monitor their progress through the problem. If their first strategy isn’t working, students will have to revise their plan and shift to use a new strategy. As described in the article, strategies like journaling and video recording during the problem-solving process help students monitor and regulate their thinking.

Math Journals

Whether students keep track with paper or pencil or use a digital math journal (such as one from CueThink(link opens in new tab/window)↗), the act of journaling can help students document how they solved certain problems, why they chose certain strategies, and lessons learned through reflecting on their problem-solving.

Video recordings

Video recording students’ thinking forces them to think through their processes enough to articulate them and make their thinking visible. This also provides an opportunity for teachers to understand and aid students’ reflection process.

It is no secret that metacognition is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. For specific metacognitive math strategies, check out this post and Lesson 5.5 Shifty Math in SMARTS Elementary and SMARTS Secondary.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development: