Series Success at the Core: Active and Exploratory Instruction: The Big Brain: A Cooperative Learning Protocol


Common core State Standards

  • Math:  Math
  • Practice:  Mathematical Practice Standards
  • MP3:  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

    Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. They make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements to explore the truth of their conjectures. They are able to analyze situations by breaking them into cases, and can recognize and use counterexamples. They justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. They reason inductively about data, making plausible arguments that take into account the context from which the data arose. Mathematically proficient students are also able to compare the effectiveness of two plausible arguments, distinguish correct logic or reasoning from that which is flawed, and--if there is a flaw in an argument--explain what it is. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Later, students learn to determine domains to which an argument applies. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • Math:  Math
  • Practice:  Mathematical Practice Standards
  • MP6:  Attend to precision.

    Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

The Big Brain: A Cooperative Learning Protocol

Lesson Objective: Use a small group cooperative learning protocol in a math investigation
Grade 7 / Math / Collaboration
Math.Practice.MP3 | Math.Practice.MP6


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the Big Brain Protocol encourage cooperative learning?
  2. How would you describe the students' role in this classroom?
  3. How would you describe the teacher's role?


  • Private message to Carrie Jalonen
Going to try to use this in my 7th grade tech class
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  • Private message to barbara goemans
Well done.
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  • Private message to Cassie Elliston
My Middle Grades Civic teacher shared this video and the assignment that her class did recently using this protocol. She reported that students were able to cite evidence to support their discussion and writing with more confidence and understanding than when working in isolation.
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  • Private message to Amanda Brooks
I like what Barbara had to say at the end of the video about how they can advance their learning as a table group which eventually leads to advancing a school. Powerful thoughts and ideas. Her belief in what she says came across in the video and shows in how she speak to her students.
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  • Private message to Lisa Reyes
I enjoyed watching the students interact with each other. You can tell that they've been lead by a great example on how to encourage one another. I was looking for specific information to help me with collaborative groups in my class, and I like the Big Brain idea. In the past, when I've assigned group work it didn't seem as if every student was involved. With Big Brain I felt that the entire group was always participating. I look forward to trying this method out.
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School Details

Wilson Middle School
902 South 44th Avenue
Yakima WA 98908
Population: 818

Data Provided By:



Barbara Cleveland


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