Metacognitive Strategies for Math

Student reading book with math symbols and numbers in background

Teaching students to actively think about their thinking and monitor their comprehension of concepts and procedures is an important part of becoming a successful math student.

It is no secret that metacognition is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. When students think about their thinking and learn about their learning, they are better able to understand their strengths and challenges. When it comes to math, there are a number of ways that teachers can help their students become strategic learners and promote students’ self-awareness.

Find What Works

When you find a strategy that works for you, stick with it. Write it down and keep using it. This is a simple and often overlooked strategy, but it helps to stick with what makes sense for each student.


Acronyms can help students remember organizational processes. Here are a few examples:

RAPS Math Strategy - read and rephrase, art, plan and predict, solve
RAPS Math Strategy


  • Read and rephrase
  • Art
  • Plan and predict
  • Solve


  • Circle the numbers
  • Underline the question
  • Box the key words
  • Evaluate and eliminate
  • Solve and check
Two column chart that has know in the first column and need to know in the second column
Know/Need to know Chart


  1. What do you KNOW?
  2. What do you NEED to KNOW?
  3. Which Equation will you need?
  4. Substitute and solve

Brain Dumps + Self-Checking

Many students may be familiar with brain dumps as the first step in the writing process, but they can also be used in a math context. Encourage students to write down their remembering tricks for procedures and formulas to use as a reference at the top of a test or quiz.

One effective way to help students check their work for the most common errors is to teach the SMARTS lesson Top 3 Hits. In this lesson, students use previously graded assignments to check for their most common errors. Then, students generate a list of their personal Top-3-Hits and create a funny phrase to check their own future assignments. Interested in trying out the Top 3 Hits lesson? Request your free Top 3 Hits lesson plan (please indicate the grade level you teach).

Metacognition is the key to success in school and beyond, not to mention the use of executive function strategies. Thanks to Joan Steinberg, Director of Educational Therapy at ILD, for sharing her expertise and tips for this blog post.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:



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