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Metacognitive Markers in Math

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Oct. 11, 2019, 10:54 a.m.

By Ashley Taplin

Using metacognitive markers is a low prep, yet effective strategy, that works well when students take notes to intentionally practice processing information. Creating a simple anchor chart, like the one pictured here, and keeping it up all year for students can be a helpful reference guide. This is a perfect opportunity to chunk the lesson and provide places for students to discuss their learning through a think-pair-share model. Teachers can also have students mark these next to their success criteria as a way to analyze and assess understanding. When I used these in my class and modeled the conversation aloud, it really helped students generate questions, develop a growth mindset of learning from mistakes, and celebrate successes of knowledge.



Reciprocal Teaching

Another method to cultivate metacognition is reciprocal teaching. Reciprocal Teaching is a structured strategy that help students comprehend and synthesize text by modeling four roles of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarizing. When used in math, cycling through these roles helps students build problem solving and literacy skills. The professor and researcher, John Hattie, identifies that Reciprocal Teaching has a .74 effect size resulting in significant growth of students (Hattie).

I created two examples for use in math lessons that I got to test out with teachers a few weeks ago. This first example with Systems of Equations replaces the “questioning” role with “solving,” something researchers Yvonne Reilly, Jodie Parsons and Elizabeth Bortolot suggested when using it in math (article: Reciprocal Teaching in Mathematics). 


To help students analyze and solve a problem, teachers will model the four roles and then have students go through each independently or in a group. The second example with Linear Transformations is something I created after listening to a podcast, TCEA Ed Tech Club. The speaker, Miguel Guhlin, was explaining Reciprocal Teaching and also mentioned Jigsaw (another high effect size strategy). When I heard both strategies, I had the idea to combine the two as a way to close a lesson and create a “strategy smash” as Guhlin called it after sharing with him. To incorporate the Jigsaw idea, each student is designated a role to respond to with their home group, then meet in new groups of each role and teach their classmates. Click here for both materials.



SEL Connections

Metacognition also relates well to Social Emotional Learning strategies and I recently got to use the connection during Algebra II training I did. At the end of a lesson, we reflected on our learning through the strategy called, “One Minute Accolade.” This closure activity allowed space for “Self-Awareness (Accurate Self-Perception) as participants reflect on their learning and Social Awareness (Respect for Others) as they absorb the variety of input from those who share aloud” (CASEL). There are a variety of questions you can ask that would help students process their learning in a metacognitive way such as, “what is one thing you are proud of accomplishing today and how did you get there?”; “what did you find challenging, but doable, today?”; or “how do you know you solved your problems correctly today?” Below are the directions. Give this quick strategy a try for an optimistic closure that relates to the lesson and enables students to work on their metacognitive skills.








Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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