Today I facilitated a professional development session on Cognitive Complexity for a half of my staff. We began the session with a comparison task between solving two sample assessment problems. One problem was from AIMS based on the 2008 math standards, and the other was from Smarter Balanced based on Common Core Math.

As you can imagine, the discussion quickly emerged to reveal the difference in mental processing, mathematical language,and the Mathematical Practices evident in solving the problem. Then we examined the “Top Score Exemplar” for the problem. We read through a paragraph explanation of how the “Top Score Exemplar”student solved the problem, including a seamless integration of connections between visuals, symbols and equations.

One teacher shared some apprehension about such a huge paradigm shift. And, then one teacher looked at the exemplar still on the screen, and simply stated that our kids could not achieve such an exemplar. And, with that statement the air grew heavy, and for a second, perhaps many teachers pondered his sentiment to be true. Instantly, the climate changed back to a group of educators that know our students are capable of meeting new standards and demonstrating their knowledge proficiently on complex tasks.

Our professional development continued on as we gathered new insights into various instructional strategies that create Cognitive Complexity throughout a lesson. Rigor has increased, but our teaching can meet and achieve the challenge of cultivating students who think, problem solve, create, explain, justify, and elaborate.

Anyone who believes otherwise forfeits the right to educate our students.


Daniela A. Robles

Daniela A. Robles

Phoenix, Arizona

I am a teacher and beginning my fourteenth year of teaching in Arizona’s public schools. The greatest lessons I learned were from teaching first grade for ten years. My inspirations stem from these past few years where my classroom has ranged from the Intervention Room to the Coaches’ Room.

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