Metacognition in Math

I had the pleasure of sitting in on part of a sixth grade math class last Monday as students were getting back their first POW of the year (Problem of the Week) - The Palindrome POW. The class was celebrating powerful POWs. Kool in the Gang was playing "Celebration" in the background, so I had to restrain myself from busting out some dance moves. In this joyous atmosphere the teacher engaged in the effective teaching technique of "think aloud" to help students' build metacognitive self-reflection skills. The teacher displayed successful, student-written POWs on the document camera and named several features of the POW that made them effective:

- succinct problem statement

- alternating between showing the math in numbers and then explaining it in words

- use of a table

- seeking a pattern in the data (explaining that a palindrome was occurring every ten minutes in the hour for single digit hours)

Students then studied their own POWs, the standards based feedback the teacher had given, and identified in writing at least one strength in their own POWs and one area that they would look to improve upon when writing up their next POW (or re-writing this POW). As a means of ongoing support, the teacher had posted successful POWs on the back bulletin board for students to reference. Additionally, he had included sentence starters and POW vocabulary that might be helpful scaffolds for students to use in their explanatory, non-fiction mathematical writing:

- To solve this problem...
- I need to (find out, solve, determine)...
- The solution is ______. I know this because _______.

These metacognitive strategies are ones that students can apply across the disciplines. It was terrific to see students engaging in this higher order thinking.