When I train new math and special education teachers I explain that teaching math should be like feeding a hot dog to a baby in a high chair. Cut up the hot dog into bite-sized pieces. The baby will still consumer the entire hot dog. Same with math. Our students can consume the entire math topic being presented but in smaller chunks using a chunking strategy.

This approach involves a teacher thinking through all of the mental and observable steps to successfully complete a problem representative of an objective. The photo below shows an example. When I work with teacher candidates, they often overlook the mental steps and present a lesson with a focus on the written or observable steps, e.g., “first add all the prices together.” What is a simple step that we instructors take for granted will not be so obvious to many students.

The mental steps can be addressed two ways. A “think aloud” strategy involves the instructor modeling thinking by stating his or her thought process in working out a problem. In the example above, the instructor might say, “First I need the total cost so I need to add the prices. The 6% is not a price so I will skip that for now.” A scaffolded handout (photo below) can include prompts to have students write what they should be thinking, e.g., in solving an equation, a couple mental steps are to identify the number to eliminate and the inverse operation.