Math 3-6

Think-alouds

Overview

When students explain their thinking process aloud, they recognize the strategies they use and solidify their understanding. Think-alouds, or self-explanations, require students to reflect on the details of a problem, the steps needed to solve it, and the mathematical reasoning behind those decisions. They can also be used as formative assessment to monitor students' understanding and address any misconceptions. Research cautions that this strategy is most effective when students are prompted with specific protocols or questions, and that prompts should be carefully aligned with target learning outcomes so students avoid reinforcing incorrect approaches or choices.

Use It in the Classroom

Watch how this teacher models using a think-aloud during an error analysis. As she verbalizes her Proportional Reasoning, she incorporates mathematical vocabulary while walking through her problem-solving process.

  • Teachers can and should model think-alouds, but they are especially important for students to attempt themselves. As students talk through an assignment that requires shifting between strategies and tasks, they build their Cognitive Flexibility. Teachers can also reinforce problem-solving procedures through multiple think-alouds, during which students verbally repeat information to support Long-term Memory and understanding.
  • Design It into Your Product

    Videos are chosen as examples of strategies in action. These choices are not endorsements of the products or evidence of use of research to develop the feature.

    Starting at 1:26, learn how digital portfolios like Seesaw allow students to take photos of their math work and voice record their thinking.

  • Products can provide question prompts that focus on the learning goal and have students write their self-explanations. They can also provide voice recorders for learners to share their mathematical thinking with their teachers for feedback. These records of thought can be also powerful reflective learning tools where students listen to older recordings to see their growth.
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy