Depth of Knowledge (DOK)
An excellent mathematics program includes a curriculum that develops important mathematics along coherent learning progressions and develops connections among areas of mathematical study and between mathematics and the real world. (PTA, 2014) With the adoption of rigorous standards, we must evaluate our student’s experiences with mathematics. Rigor is not assigning more problems ... it is not using more difficult numbers to make harder IS about making students think more deeply by increasing the complexity and cognitive demand. Increasing the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) required for a student means looking at mathematics through a different lens, promoting mathematical thinking rather than the final answer or result. We must understand that DOK is not about the difficulty of the objective, rather, it is about the intended outcome or the complexity of the mental processing that must occur in order to get to the intended outcome.
Consider the example of adding 4 + 4. This is a simple problem that students can routinely complete with ease.  It is a DOK 1. Increasing the difficulty of the problem by asking a student to add 4,678 + 7,530 does not increase the complexity. To solve this problem requires a child to simply recall the sequence of steps. The level of cognitive difficulty is still a DOK 1. It is still recall.  Knowing the rules of adding larger numbers - increasing the difficulty of the addition problem - does not affect the intended outcome. We still want the student to be able to add, just larger numbers.
While we still want the student to be able to add larger numbers, this cannot be where learning ends. Consider this progression of adding multi-digit numbers with regrouping:
DOK 1: Solve.
4,678 + 7,530 =
DOK 2: Use digits 0 to 9, at most one time each, to create two true number sentences.
DOK 3: Use digits 0 to 9, at most one time each, to create a true number sentence with the greatest possible sum.
In each example, students add multi-digit numbers; the standard is the same. Yet the cognitive demand and student thinking increases as the Depth of Knowledge increases as well. In order for educators to fully implement the 2017 Kansas Mathematics Standards with the intended rigor, we must consider how increasing Depth of Knowledge promotes student thinking.
DOK Resources
DOK Level Narratives Narrative explanation of the four levels of DOK.
What Exactly Is DOK  
Cognitive Rigor Matrix Math Science Applying Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Levels to Bloom’s Cognitive Process Dimensions – Math/Science
Depth of Knowledge Analysis Levels of Cognitive demand from NCTM PtA and DOK.
Contact Information



Stephen King
STEM Program Manager
(785) 296-7285

Meg Richard
STEM Program Manager
(785) 296-8108

Michelle Irvine
Senior Administrative Assistant
(785) 296-2078


The Kansas State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities. (more information...)

To accommodate people with disabilities, on request, auxiliary aides and services will be provided and reasonable modifications to policies and programs will be made. To request accommodations or for more information please contact the Office of General Counsel at or by 785-296-3204.

Copyright 2012 by KSDE   |  Privacy Statement  |  Terms Of Use  |  System Maintenance Notices