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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2,4,6,8 Collaborative Problem-Solving Strategy Overview

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.

Plan It

Prior to implementing the 2-4-6-8 problem solving strategy, it is important that you strategically plan for implementation by completing the following:

  1. Decide if 2-4-6-8 is the appropriate amount of time for the task. Adjust the times as needed. 

  2. Make a plan for introducing your students to this strategy. 

  3. Consider what sentence stems can support students as they engage in discussion. Make an anchor chart for students to reference. 

    • See the BetterLesson strategy, "Accountable and academic talk stems" for more ideas.

  4. Revise the provided template to support note-taking during this approach. 

Practice It

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.

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

Reflect and Refine

After you begin implementing this strategy, consider the following:

  • What went well? What was challenging? 
  • Did the students meet the objectives? Why or why not?
  • What iterations should be made to this strategy?
  • What was the feedback from your students? How can you incorporate their feedback into the next iteration?

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

Coach Tip

Consider asking your students to come to a consensus on one solution. This can support students to justify and debate their thinking. It is helpful to provide sentence stems for students to use as they work on coming to a consensus on one solution. For example, you may provide the following stems:

  • "I agree..."
  • "I disagree.."
  • "Can you tell me more about?"
  • "Why did you do [x] step?" 


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.

BetterLesson Lessons

To learn more about this strategy, explore this lesson.  In particular, explore the Concept Development section to learn more about the BUILD strategy.