What is CGI Math and What Does It Mean For Your Kids?

I know what you are thinking. Math instruction sure has changed since I was a kid. More and more parents complain that they can’t even help their own children with elementary school math problems. So what’s the difference?

If you have heard of CGI math, but don’t know what it meant, you are not alone. CGI stands for Cognitively Guided Instruction.


So how does it differ from math instruction of the past?

In the past math classes focused on calculation and rote memorization of specific formulas to solve a problem. However, with CGI instruction, students are asked to think about the many ways they could solve a problem and explain how they got their answer. There is NO LONGER ONE CORRECT METHOD only. In addition, students are not first taught any strategies. They are expected to develop them on their own and then justify why they used them to solve the problem.


What are the Pros and Cons of CGI Math?


  • Students can use their own creativity to find solutions to a problem
  • CGI puts more responsibility on the student to publicly explain and justify to their friends and teacher their method to solving a problem.
  • Teachers can encourage original thinking and guide each student according his or her own developmental level and turn of reasoning.


  • Students have to come up with their own ways of solving the problem without any instruction first. This can be very frustrating for many of our students with learning differences and for students who do not have a strong mathematical knowledge base from earlier grades.
  • Students who thrive on explicit (direct instruction) feel frustrated and are struggling. They may give up on math or develop negative attitudes toward the subject.