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Standards-based assessment and Instruction

Task Writing Overview

Thank you for interest in submitting DOK3 problem-solving/performance tasks to Exemplars.

For over 25 years, we have worked with a number of independent consultants, teachers and educators around the country to develop and pilot rich DOK3 math tasks. We are the  leader in performance-based instruction and assessment and publish only the highest quality problem-solving/performance tasks.

We believe problem-solving tasks benefit students by:

  • Developing curiosity and wonder about things
  • Inspiring them to ask questions 
  • Promoting persistence and "stick to it-iveness"
  • Encouraging flexibility and risk taking as students look for different possibilities/solutions and try things that are new or difficult 
  • Fostering reflective skills as students take time to think about what they are doing; consider why and how well it has worked 
  • Developing higher-order thinking skills/critical thinking

A good problem-solving task:

  • Is meaningful and engaging to students
  • Contains no immediate or obvious way to determine a solution
  • May be solved through multiple strategies and may yield multiple solutions 
  • May use a variety of mathematical representations
  • Can be extended mathematically 
  • Is appropriate in skill level 
  • Involves significant mathematics 
  • Promotes the skillful use of mathematics 
  • Integrates the content/skill in a coherent way
  • Includes prompts that are clear 
  • Addresses a defined and focused set of objectives
  • Features subject matter that builds on students life experience, interests, and/or prior knowledge
  • Includes a real-world context - establishes a ‘need to know' purpose for engaging in learning and completing the task.
  • Provides clear opportunities for students to make key content and strategic decisions for how to complete the task and extend their own learning by introducing new strategies.
  • Is written according to DOK Level 3, which is defined as:
Depth-of-Knowledge Level 3 (Strategic Thinking) requires reasoning, planning, using evidence, and a higher level of thinking than the previous two levels. In most instances, requiring students to explain their thinking is a Level 3. Activities that require students to make conjectures are also at this level. The cognitive demands at Level 3 are complex and abstract. The complexity does not result from the fact that there are multiple answers, a possibility for both Levels 1 and 2, but because the task requires more demanding reasoning. An activity, however, that has more than one possible answer and requires students to justify the response they give would most likely be a Level 3. Other Level 3 activities include drawing conclusions from observations; citing evidence and developing a logical argument for concepts; explaining phenomena in terms of concepts; and deciding which concepts to apply in order to solve a complex problem.


Depth-of-Knowledge definition per Normal L. Webb & others, Web Alignment Tool (WAT) Training Manual, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Center for Education Research, 2005, page 45. Accessed June 2012.

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Deb [the presenter] was so interesting, inspiring and encouraging – helped me feel as though I could truly do this in my classroom. My students will really benefit from this approach to learning.

K. Dietz

Kindergarten Teacher

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