2,4,6,8 Collaborative Problem-Solving Structure

2,4,6,8 Collaborative Problem-Solving supports students to engage in independent and collaborative thinking to effectively problem solve
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About This Strategy

2, 4, 6, 8 provides students with a scaffolded structure for collaboration during problem solving. This structure enables students to first think independently and derive meaning from the problem prior to discussing their solution with a peer. Students begin by reading the problem and working independently for 2 minutes to make meaning of the problem and begin to create a plan for solving. For the next 4 minutes, students discuss their thinking with a peer. This can provide a scaffold for students who need additional support. After discussing what the problem is asking students to do and making a plan for solving, students work independently for 6 minutes to solve the problem. During the last 8 minutes, students collaborate to explain and justify their answers. This collaborative discussion structure provides students with independent thinking and working time, but it also provides opportunities for discussion and peer support which support students' development in math.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Introduce students to the 2-4-6-8 structure with clear expectations for each step using an anchor chart or verbal cues.

    • During the 2 minutes of independent time, it is important to support students to understand how to make meaning of problems and to support them to slow down and read and think about the meaning, not just the math. It may be helpful to implement supplementary strategies, such as BUILD (see resource below), which provide students with a structure for annotating the problem and making meaning.

    • During the 4 minutes of collaborative time, support students to effectively discuss the meaning of the problem and the plan for solving. It may be helpful to model this step for students or to implement accountable talk stems.

    • After students discuss what the problem is asking students to do and make a plan for solving, release students for 6 minutes of independent work time. During this time, students put their plans into action and actually solve the problem independently.

    • After solving, students discuss, explain, and justify their answers with their peers for 8 minutes.

  2. Model and practice each phase until students are independent in this routine.

  3. Have students reflect on what they learned during the process of discussion.

Special Education Modification

To support students with learning disabilities that affect their verbal communication, provide students with accountable talk stems such as these from the New York City Charter School Center with additional scaffolds, such as visuals and manipulatives, to support their explanations and justification as needed. Consider modifying the accountable talk stems to support students with responses to specific prompts/activities.

EL Modification

To support English Learners, teachers should purposefully group students with diverse backgrounds and proficiency levels in order to promote linguistic turn-taking and reciprocal teaching and learning among peers.

Teachers can also provide students with accountable talk stems such as these from the New York City Charter School Center with additional scaffolds to support students' explanations and justification as needed. Consider modifying the talk stems to support students with responses to specific prompts/activities.

Questions to for Teachers to Consider before Implementing this Strategy

  • Is the 2, 4, 6, 8 minute structure the correct amount of time for each step?

  • How can you support students to deeply discuss what the problem is asking them to do and their plan rather than jumping into solving?

  • How can you model this for students?

  • How can you extend this collaborative discussion protocol outside of problem-solving?

Kelly's Tips for implementing the 2,4,6,8 Collaborative Problem-Solving Structure

2, 4, 6, 8 minutes may not be the appropriate amount of time for you students. Consider altering the times to best meet the needs of you and your students.

BetterLesson Master Teacher Project Lessons that Support Implementation of this Strategy

Explore the lesson linked below by 4th grade math teacher Melissa Romano to see how she utilizes the 2,4,6,8 structure to support her students to engage in problem-solving and discussion. In particular, explore the Concept Development section to learn more about the BUILD strategy.