Instructional Routines: Information Gap

One of the most interesting routines I have come across in the IM curriculum is the Information Gap (MLR 4). This activity has been around for quite a while but it is the first time I have come across it built into a mathematics curriculum with such detail. So…..What is an information gap?!

An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps. It is often used in communicative language teaching and task-based language learning.  -Wikipedia

The purpose of the information gap is to create a situation where students MUST communicate with one another using clear and precise language in order to solve a problem.  In this routine, students work in groups of 2 and are given a set of 2 cards. One student (Partner A) receives the “problem” card which contains the general problem to be solved. The other student (Partner B) receives the “data” card which has the information that Partner A needs to solve the problem. Since this type of activity may be new for students, it would be beneficial for you to demonstrate the routine for the entire class.

It goes something like this…

Partner B (data card):  What specific information do you need?

Partner A (problem card): Can you tell me…. (a piece of information you need)

Partner B (data card): Why do you need this information?

Partner A (problem card): I need this information because…..

**This exchange continues back and forth until partner A solves the problem on the data card.



1– Make sure that your students know if they are Partner A or Partner B BEFORE starting/explaining the activity.

2– If you have an uneven number of students, create a group that has 2 A’s or B’s. They can take turns asking/answering the questions.

3– Give your students a few  minutes of quiet think time before beginning the activity. This will help them to make sense of the information they have on their card and come up with questions they could ask their partner.  *This is not a time to try and solve the problem.

*A note about quiet think time: this is a very difficult concept for students (and let’s be honest, for teachers too!). Silence in the classroom can be awkward or can cause anxiety for students. The more you incorporate quiet think time into your classroom, the easier it will become for your students. The designated quiet time needs to be completely silent and that includes no talking from the teacher either:) Use a timer to keep track of the time because it will feel much longer than it actually is.

4– Provide students with clipboards or folders to “hide” their individual cards- no peeking! Here are some cards you can staple into the folder to remind students what questions to ask.

5– After the partners feel they have found the correct answer to their problem, group all the A’s and B’s together to check their work. The partners with the problem card could compare the questions asked by the data problem partner and make a list for the class to compare which questions helped the most to complete the task.

6– Routines are built over time- don’t worry if the first time your students try the information gap it doesn’t go smoothly. Stick with it and continue to work with your students on how the routine works. I PROMISE you won’t regret it!

*Do you want to try a practice Information Gap with your students to build their understanding of the routine? Here are some ideas to get you started.

*Have you tried an information gap lesson in your classroom? I’d love to hear about your experiences!



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