Cognitive Tutor® Algebra

Commercial Program, Computer Assisted Program

3-5 periods per week

Target Student

students who struggle with algebraic thinking


Cognitive Tutor® is a secondary mathematics curriculum with a focus on how students think about and learn mathematics.  In this program, teachers facilitate student learning and guide students through discussions on applied and acquired information.  The curriculum can be implemented using a textbook, adaptive software, or a combination of the two.


Cognitive Tutor® can be implemented using a textbook, adaptive software, or any combination.  In the blended implementation, three periods per week are spent using the textbook for classroom activities. The textbooks aim to foster a collaborative classroom environment; students develop skills to work cooperatively to solve problems, participate in investigations, and propose and compare solutions. Two periods per week are spent using the software. The adaptive software is self-paced.

 The curriculum uses a pedagogical approach focused on how students acquire and apply new information, and promotes a student-centered classroom where teachers facilitate student learning. The program follows an engage, develop, demonstrate model.  First, student thinking is activated by tapping into prior experience and real world examples.  Next, deep mathematical understanding is built through collaboration and questioning.  Student discussions about mathematics are encouraged as students explain their solutions and reasoning to one another. Lastly, students reflect and evaluate on what was learned.  Learning opportunities include real world problems, peer review of student work, step-by-step demonstrations on how to solve example problems, hands-on tools including manipulatives and technology, graphic representations of mathematical concepts, and classroom discussions and explanations about mathematical understandings and key concepts.

 Teacher curriculum materials contain print and electronic materials.  These include teacher implementation guides, teacher resources, assessments, professional development, and classroom management tools. Student curriculum materials include texts, personalized instruction using the software system, and supplemental materials such as student assignments and skills practice exercises.


Cabalo, J. V., Jaciw, A., & Vu, M. T. (2007). Comparative effectiveness of Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor Algebra I curriculum: A report of a randomized experiment in the Maui School District. Palo Alto, CA: Empirical Education, Inc.

Ritter, S., Kulikowich, J., Lei, P., McGuire, C., & Morgan, P. (2007). What evidence matters? A randomized field trial of Cognitive Tutor® Algebra I. In T. Hirashima, H. U. Hoppe, & S. Shwu-Ching Young (Eds.), Supporting learning through integrative technologies (pp. 13–20). Netherlands: IOS Press.

Research Summary

What Works Clearinghouse

Related Resources

Algebra I Scope & Sequence

Algebra II Scope & Sequence

Available Training

flexible, customized professional learning available

Information on this entry was adapted from US Department of Education. (2016). Cognitive Tutor® . WWC Intervention Report. Retrieved from

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