Date of Award

Summer 5-9-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Secondary Education



Committee Chair

Dr. David Glassmeyer

First Committee Member

Dr. Jihye Kim

Second Committee Member

Dr. Lateefah Id-Deen


Productive struggle is an instructional strategy in which teachers give students an opportunity to ponder, reflect, and think about problems for a set period of time, rather than giving the correct answer right away. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics names productive struggle as one of the eight effective mathematical teaching practices and encourages educators to provide students with opportunities to grapple with challenging mathematical concepts and foster an environment where students are connecting prior knowledge, discovering new ideas, and sharpening their critical thinking skills. Productive struggle is a necessary component in gaining a foundational understanding of mathematics, yet there is not an overabundance of research studies that compare productive struggle and student achievement, specifically in the International Baccalaureate classroom. The aim of this research study is to examine the data collected in the IB mathematics classroom regarding productive struggle and measure its significance related to student achievement and conceptual understanding in a secondary mathematics classroom. The Warshauer and Stein & Smith frameworks are used in this study to code productive struggle and define cognitive level of demand, respectively. The correlation study shows a strong, positive association between level of productive struggle, student achievement, and conceptual understanding. A secondary qualitative analysis examines the students’ perception of their own levels of productive struggle compared to the observer’s coded levels of productive struggle coupled with the students’ performance. The results of this analysis show students perceive their own levels of productive struggle to be notably higher than what is coded by the observer. The findings of the study provide educators with significant information regarding the practice of productive struggle and due to its impact on student mathematics achievement, suggest teachers should make productive struggle a consistent, pervasive practice in their classrooms.