Math PK-2

Systems Change
Math PK-2 > Strategies > Explaining Their Thinking

Explaining Their Thinking


When students explain their thinking process aloud with guidance in response to questions or prompts, they recognize the strategies they use and solidify their understanding. Think-alouds require students to reflect on the details of a problem, the steps needed to solve it, and the 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 kindergarten teacher models using a think-aloud to solve a word problem. As she verbalizes her thinking, she incorporates mathematical vocabulary while walking through her problem-solving process.

  • Teachers can and should model thinking aloud, but they are especially important for students to experience for themselves. As students talk through an assignment that requires shifting between strategies and tasks, they build their Cognitive Flexibility. Teachers can also reinforce specific math skills, like Arithmetic Fact Retrieval and Operations, through multiple think-alouds, during which students verbally repeat information to support remembering 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 record their thinking.

  • Products can facilitate think-alouds by recording the audio of learners while they verbalize their mathematical thinking. Teachers can listen to these recordings and give 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