Information Gap [MLR 4]

Give each student different pieces of information needed to solve a problem so they must communicate and work together with peers
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Information Gap [MLR 4]

About This Strategy

The Mathematical Language Routine, Information Gap, allows you to facilitate meaningful peer-to-peer interactions by giving partners or team members different pieces of necessary information that must be used together to solve a problem or play a game. Because individual students do not have all of the information needed to achieve the activity's goal, this creates a "gap" that can only be overcome by speaking with other students to exchange information. As a result, students need to orally (and/or visually) share their ideas and information with their peers in order to bridge the gap and solve the problem collaboratively. This routine increases student talk time, incorporates authentic communication practice, and can be creatively designed to focus student conversation on specific curricular content.

Plan It

Prior to implementing Information Gap, it is important that you strategically plan for implementation by completing the following:

  1. Review the curriculum and read the lesson narrative to learn how to use the info gap strategy with the task.

    • Consult the examples from the K-5, OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Curriculums below.

  2. If you do not use this curriculum, create an activity in which a variety of information is needed to achieve the goal of the activity. Divide the necessary information up into two resources -- a problem or question card and a data or information card. The data or information card can contain diagrams, graphs, images, etc. 

  3. Print and prepare all materials.

  4. Strategically plan how you will pair students. Consider creating pairs for your classroom ahead of time, with students labeled as either Partner A or Partner B.

  5. Determine how you will model this routine for students and outline clear expectations.

Practice It

15 minutes

Now that you have planned for the Information Gap, it is time to implement it with students:

  1. Students should be paired into Partner A and Partner B. Partner Partner A is given a card with a problem that must be solved, and Partner B has the information needed to solve it on a “data card.” Neither partner should read nor show their cards to their partners. 

  2. If this is the first time using this routine, consider modeling this strategy with the Anchor Chart below. Consider projecting the Anchor Chart or printing for each student pair. Consider displaying a timer for students to complete the activity. 

  3. Direct students to begin communicating with their partner to share information.

    • Note: partners should not share information unless their partners directly ask for it! Students also may not read their resources to one another or show their resources to their partners. Instead, students should practice asking specific questions to identify what information their partners have. When students answer their partners' questions, they should use clear language to share the information from their resource.

  4. In order to support students to bridge the information gap, follow these steps:

    • Partner Br could ask, "What specific information do you need?" or "Why do you need that information?"

    • The other partner provides an explanation for what information they need.

    • Partner B asks clarifying questions and then provides the answer. 

    • The partners follow these steps until Partner A has the information he or she needs to solve the problem or answer the question.

  5. Partner A will share the problem or question card with his or her partner. Then, have the students solve the problem independently and confer afterward to discuss strategies. Only after both students have solved the problem should the second partner share the information or data card.

  6. As an optional extension to increase engagement in an Information Gap activity, consider turning the activity into a competitive game in which students need to work together with their partners to share information and/or develop a strategy to win a game.

  7. Reflect on the strategy with students. Consider asking students: 

    • What was difficult or frustrating about this activity? 

    • What helped you to be successful and solve the problem? 

    • Do you prefer to be Partner A or Partner B? Why? 

    • Did talking about the problem help you to better understand the problem? Why or why not? 

Reflect and Refine

The Information Gap is a strategy that will take time to refine in your classroom. After you begin implementing this routine, consider the following:

  • What went well? What was challenging? 

  • Are students following the routine and is the routine helping students to deepen their mathematical understanding? 

  • What iterations should be made to this routine?

  • Are there any supports students may need for the next round of this routine? Would sentence frames/sentence starters help students? 

  • What was the feedback from your students? How can you incorporate their feedback into the next iteration?

  • What changes should you make to student pairs? 

  • Would students benefit from seeing this modeled again? Was there a student pair that could model for the whole class? 

After engaging in reflection, determine any changes and go through the planning and implementation steps again.

OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Math

Information Gap is a Mathematical Language Routine used in the OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Math Curriculums. For more information, review the overview and sample activities in the resource section below. You will need to create a free login to access these resources.

OUR K-5/IM K-5 Math

The Mathematical Language Routines are integrated into the OUR K-5 and IM K-5 Math curriculums to support students to develop their math understanding and language at the same time. Information Gap is used in grades 3-5. For more information, review the overview below and example activities from the curriculum.

Opinion Gap

An opinion gap activity requires that students give their personal preferences, feelings, or attitudes in order to complete a task. For example, students might be given a social problem such as high unemployment and be asked to come up with a series of possible solutions. Another task might be to compose a letter of advice to a friend who has sought their counsel about a dilemma. To learn more about supporting students to navigate information and opinion gaps, explore the Exploring Multiple Perspectives strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

Implementation steps:

  1. Introduce a topic to students that will elicit a range of opinions from students.

    • This could be a story from the news, a fictional story, a political or social issue, or even a set of data that indicates something about society.

    • If students have never participated in an Opinion Gap activity before, consider practicing with an easy-access prompt (i.e. "What is the best flavor of ice cream, and why?") before moving into a more academic topic.

  2. Frame the purpose of student discussion. Explain to students that there is no right or wrong answer, but that the goal of their partner or group work is to share their own thoughts on the topic with a peer, and consider their peers' opinions as well.

  3. Follow the steps for group dialogue in the implementation steps above. Encourage students to ask follow-up questions of one another to draw out their partner's opinion.

  4. Ask students to reflect on and/or share what they heard and took away from their conversations. This could either be via a whole-class share out or via an independent written reflection on the conversations they had.

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Use of Information Gap is an excellent alternative way to engage in content for students with disabilities.  By helping students break down and understand complex problems in a variety of ways, teachers will help build their toolbox to engage with content to begin helping them build overall investment in their learning.

Information Gap skills require significant executive functioning skills (including focus, organization, working memory, etc.), reading, written skills and/or verbal expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, consider the following modifications:


  1. Before deciding on a differentiated lesson plan involving Information Gap, teachers should consult with special education department administrators or special education teachers that can give extra guidance on both the accommodations and modifications that should be considered to support students during the lesson.  

  2. Use or modify structured handouts to help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion during Information Gap. 

  3. Use visual timers and verbal reminders to help learners with task initiation and task completion when using Information Gap.  

  4. For students that have disabilities that affect their verbal and/or written expression, provide additional scaffolds, such as visuals, talk stems, and/or manipulatives to support their crafting of questions, discussion of the problem and feedback from peers.  See “Accountable Talk Stems” in the resource section below for more information.   

  5. Intervene as a teacher to ensure all students have the opportunity to process what has been said in discussions with their partners.  Students who benefit from additional processing time or who struggle with short-term memory should be given time during feedback discussions to stop and jot any new ideas they learned before moving on.

  6. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with intensive disabilities to provide them more modeling and more frequent feedback when using Information Gap strategies.  

  7. If multiple teachers are present in a classroom, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated lesson plan using Information Gap.  

BetterLesson Lessons

Explore the "An 1870's Classroom Meets Common Core: Drilling Math Facts & a Game of What's Wrong with This Answer?" lesson by 4th grade BetterLesson Math Master Teacher Mary Ellen Kanthack to learn more about how to use this strategy in a classroom.