Investigation of the Relationship Between Level of Task Demand and Help Seeking Tendencies in a Secondary Mathematics Classroom

Open Access
Boggs, Leigh Ruth
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Educational Psychology and Secondary Education
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Robert Stevens, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Rayne Sperling, Honors Advisor
  • Dr. Fran Arbaugh, Honors Advisor
  • Mathematics Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • Help Seeking
  • Task Choice
  • Secondary Education
  • Classroom Norms
  • Level of Task Demand
The purpose of this research is to investigate the relationship between student help seeking tendencies and levels of cognitive demand of tasks within a secondary mathematics classroom. The relevance of the study lies in the implications of a deeper understanding of this relationship on student learning, as both higher-level of task demand and adaptive help seeking have a positive impact on student learning (Karabenick, 2006; Smith & Stein, 1998). The study was conducted in a 9th Grade College Prep Algebra I classroom in which classroom norms were oriented towards mathematical understanding and sense making as well through problems-based learning. The question of the influence of level of task demand was investigated through an analysis of classroom norms identified through a teacher interview, and classroom observations as well as classroom observations oriented to analyze implemented tasks and student help seeking during these tasks. Additionally, a student survey was conducted to account for the role of motivation and student mathematical beliefs within the classroom. Through the analysis of the collected data, the findings revealed a relatively equal balance of higher-level demand tasks and lower-level demand tasks implemented within the classroom. Additionally, there was a higher percentage of adaptive help-seeking across all levels of task demand, suggesting that the classroom norms that are oriented towards the characteristics of higher-level task demands may be a mediating factor. This case study and the preliminary results that it reveals regarding the relationships between level of task demand call for further research to expand the understanding and applications of level of task demand and help seeking on students’ mathematical understanding in a secondary classroom.