Date on Honors Thesis

Fall 5-2024


Middle School Education

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Miguel Gomez, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Kemaly Parr, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Chanel Schwenck, Advisor


The work of Mary Kay Stein and Margaret Smith is foundational to cognitive research in education. Most other works in the field branch out from their work in one way or another. One of their most influential contributions was their system for classifying tasks according to cognitive demand or the type of thinking the tasks requires students to engage in. Memorization tasks or tasks that involve procedural work without making deeper connections are classified as having low cognitive demand. On the other hand, tasks involving procedures with connections and “doing” mathematics tasks are viewed as having high cognitive demand. Research in the field has examined the nature of the different kinds of tasks and teachers’ ability to identify tasks by these categories. The goal was to promote a greater use of high cognitive tasks in the classroom. As more high cognitive tasks were being selected by teachers, it became apparent that selection did not guarantee student engagement at the intended level. Stein and Smith also worked extensively with the Mathematical Task Framework, which describes the transformation a task may take from curriculum to planning to implementation. This framework led to the ability for researchers to better understand when changes might occur and what factors affected the maintenance or decline of demand.

Two main challenges emerged from the existing research that will be addressed within this project. Who benefits from high cognitive demand tasks and how the implementation of tasks can be planned in a way that will maintain a high level of demand. The goal of this project is to design high cognitive demand tasks that can be differentiated to meet the needs of all students and provide suggestions during the planning phase for how tasks can be implemented to maintain high levels of cognitive demand.

Included in

Education Commons