May 2016 seems so long ago. I actually had to look it up on a calendar because I really thought it was more than 1.41666years ago. That was when I officially started this journey with Illustrative Mathematics. Our kickoff meeting was in Chicago. I was pumped to learn about this new adventure I was embarking on (and honestly quite scared too). One of the things I distinctly remember taking away from that meeting was this idea of an Info Gap. I hadn’t learned much about math language routines just yet but this Info Gap thing sounded really cool.

As I dove into this new project and flailed around learning about writing curriculum and style guides and all the correct language I had to use, I was still wrestling with this idea of an Info Gap. Lucky my colleague Dave Peterson started us off with one. After reading his example I understood it a bit better. This is what I know….

An Info Gap card routine is an activity involving two students. One student gets a problem card and one student gets a data card. Each student has enough info to get curious about the question but not enough info to answer the question individually. The problem card mostly contains a problem for students to answer.

The data card mostly contains information needed to answer the question.

[Info Gap student materials] [Info Gap teacher materials (requires free registration)]

One of the purposes of an Info Gap is for students to use mathematical language to communicate with each other in order to answer one (or more than one) question. For example, a student with a problem card knows what items are being purchased from a sports store but the student with the data card has the prices for the items being purchased. Now….you’re right…students COULD just sit there and hand cards to each other to get info but an important part here is the ROUTINE! The routine looks something like this:

Data: “What specific information do you need?”

Problem: “Can you tell me (a piece of information they need)?”
Data: “Why do you need that info?”
Problem: “I need that info because…..”

This interaction might happen more than once until the student with the problem card determines they don’t need any more information and can answer the question. They would solve the problem and proceed to explain their reasoning to their partner. The student with the data card would listen to their partner and ask clarifying questions if needed. After the routine is complete they switch roles and get a different set of cards (we always wrote at least 2 different sets) and go through the same routine. Overall you get the idea but if you want more info, read about them here.

Most people know instructional routines are MY JAM! So it might seem obvious why I like this whole Info Gap thing. However to take this a bit further…..

In June 2017, I was sent to PHX to get trained as an Illustrative Mathematics facilitator for our professional development. On day 2, we get to participate in an Info Gap as though we were students. I was pumped about this for a few reasons:

1. I get to be a student of math again. One of my favorite things! (even though it is middle school content, ALWAYS LEARNING!)
2. One of the Info Gaps used in the PD was one that I WROTE!
3. I really wanted to see how this whole interaction went down in an Info Gap.

My partner and I did the routine. Now of course it was shaky it was our first time but again ROUTINES build over time so I wasn’t worried about it. The biggest thing that got me sooooo excited about Info Gaps was the thinking and discussion that was happening in my head and between me and my partner!! I had to think a lot about the problem, what info I need to solve it. Form a plan of attack, if you will, then decide what info I needed. Then I had to communicate that to my partner clearly enough so that they could rifle through the info on their card and share it with me. As all this was happening I was being forced to really think through my plan of attack because my partner keeps asking me why I NEED the info!!! Then I got my answer and had to convince my partner of my plan of attack. Then we switched cards and roles and I really was trying to figure out my partner’s plan as she was asking me for info.

Now taking a step back to think about all the things I was doing here….

The amount of metacognition happening as I engaged in the routine had me really analyzing my plan I formulated. It helped me get through sticky things in the problem and make mistakes (by just asking for needless info sometimes) and I also reevaluated my plan again when I had to explain it to my partner.

The second layer to this was that math language I was using throughout the routine. What to specifically ask for, how was it given on the card. Is this really info I need? What info do I need after that? I had so many questions for myself!

Then this got me thinking beyond the math classroom. What skills is this building that a human might use to be successful in the workplace. And THAT my friends was where my mind was BLOWN! I couldn’t name them all!

• Determining a plan of action
• Communicating to someone what you need and why
• Re-evaluating an original plan as you start to implement it to make sure what you anticipated happening is still going to happen
• Explaining to someone why your plan works or why your plan might be better than a different plan

This training left me with this hype about Info Gaps that I can’t begin to describe to other educators. I have referenced these routines time and time again since our curriculum has been released. I don’t know if this is true or not but sometimes I feel like they are our hidden gem.