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Metacognitive Strategies


The purpose of Teaching Metacognitive Strategies is to provide students explicit teacher instruction for a specific metacognitive (learning) strategy.

What are they?

  • First, a metacognitive strategy is a memorable "plan of action" that provides students an easy to follow procedure for solving a particular math problem.
  • Second, metacognitive strategies are taught using explicit teaching methods.
  • Metacognitive strategies include the student's thinking as well as their physical actions.
  • Some of the most common metacognitive strategies come in the form of mnemonics which are meaningful words where the letters in the word each stand for a step in a problem-solving process or for important pieces of information about a particular topic of interest.
  • Metacognitive strategies are memorable and it must accurately represent the learning task.

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What are the critical elements of this strategy?

The following list includes critical elements of Teaching Metacognitive Strategies:

  • Metacognitive strategies are taught using explicit teaching methods (see Explicit Teacher Modeling).
  • Metacognitive strategies are accurate and efficient procedures for specific math problem-solving situations.
  • Metacognitive strategies are memorable.
  • Metacognitive strategies incorporate both student thinking and student actions necessary for performing target math skill.
  • Students need ample practice opportunities to master use of a metacognitive strategy.
  • Student memory of a metacognitive strategy is enhanced when students are provided with individual strategy cue sheets and/or when the metacognitive strategy is posted in the classroom.
  • Monitor student use of strategies and reinforce their appropriate use of strategies.

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How do I implement the strategy?

  1. Choose an appropriate metacognitive strategy for the math skill (For a list of metacognitive strategies by math concept area click Videos and Resources on the top menu, then click Metacognitive Strategies).
  2. Describe and model the strategy at least three times. Use those instructional components emphasized in explicit teacher modeling (see the instructional strategy Explicit Teacher Modeling.)
  3. Check student understanding. Ensure they understand both the strategy and how to use it.
  4. Provide ample opportunities for students to practice using the strategy.
  5. Provide timely corrective feedback and remodel use of strategy as needed.
  6. Provide students with strategy cue sheets (or post the strategy in the classroom) as students begin independently using the strategy. Fade the use of cues as students demonstrate they have memorized the strategy and how (as well as when) to use it. (*Some students will benefit from a "strategy notebook" in which they keep both the strategies they have learned and the corresponding math skill they can use each strategy for.)
  7. Make a point of reinforcing students for using the strategy appropriately.
  8. Implicitly model using the strategy when performing the corresponding math skill in class.

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How Does This Instructional Strategy Positively Impact Students Who Have Learning Problems?

  • Provides students an efficient way to acquire, store, and express math-related information and skills.
  • Provides students who have memory problems an efficient way to retrieve from memory information they have learned.
  • Facilitates independence by those learners who are typically dependent on high levels of teacher support.
  • Helps students move from concrete and representational understanding to abstract understanding.

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Additional Information

Research Support for the Instructional Features of This Strategy: Allsopp (1997); Borkowski (1992); Jitendra, Hoff, & Beck (1999); Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon (1996); Miller & Mercer (1993); Miller, Strawser, & Mercer (1996); Montague (1992); Morroco (2001); Owen & Fuchs (2002); Paris & Winograd (1990); Strichart, Mangrum, & Iannuzzi (1998);  Swanson (1999).


Running times: total video 18:24; total elab 25:30; total clip 43:54

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Video Slideshow w/Audio Slideshow Script


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   Clip 1

   Teacher IDENTIFIES the learning objective

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   Clip 2

   Teacher LINKS to student prior knowledge

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   Clip 3

   Teacher PROVIDES meaning/rationale for learning

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   Clip 4

   Teacher DESCRIBES/introduces Strategy Cue sheets

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   Clip 5

   Teacher describes the ORDER strategy

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   Clip 6

   Teacher models using the ORDER strategy

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   Clip 7

   Teacher reviews using Rapid-Fire Verbal Rehearsal

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Thanks to Dr. Maggie Kyger, Region 5 T/TAC, James Madison University!

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