Research shows that children enter school with an informal but rich understanding about mathematics. To tap into this rich knowledge, Santa Fe Christian’s Lower School uses Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) to help children learn math problem solving strategies. CGI is not a curriculum but rather, it is an approach to teaching mathematics that builds on children’s natural problem solving abilities.

So how does this work in the classroom? The first step for a classroom teacher is to assess what the child already knows about fundamental properties of arithmetic and how he or she uses this knowledge to solve problems. Based on this assessment, the teacher provides the right level of problem types. Students are asked to articulate conjectures about what they know and to clearly express these conjectures using words and symbols.

 Understanding the Why

“It is important that students understand why the computation procedures they use work the way they do. They must also be able to articulate their process. This develops their mathematical thinking.” said Hannah Park, SFC Lower School principal. Even very young children can solve complicated math problems, such as multiplication, division, and multistep problems, when in the context of an everyday story.

Commitment to Teacher Training

SFC teachers are given three years of intensive CGI professional development, including five full days of training the first year. CGI was first introduced at SFC in 2007 and the school’s commitment to on-going teacher training was highly commended on our recent accreditation process by the WASC and ACSI accreditation visit.


Briley Volpp and Andrew Espinoza