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How cognitive verbs play a part in reasoning

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How cognitive verbs play a part in reasoning

BitMaths 20/4/22

Reasoning tasks are distinctly different from problem-solving tasks because they focus on the how and the why of the solution, rather than the answer itself.

A reasoning task requires students to not only solve the problem, but also articulate their mathematical reasoning using specific cognitive verbs.

To do this successfully, students need to both recall the meaning of the cognitive verb and explain how the verb applies in a specific context.

Let’s unpack some common cognitive verbs that students will encounter and what a well-reasoned answer statement should include.


To use a sequence of steps to find a conclusive result. Answers should include ‘is/is not’ or ‘does/does not’ statements.


To show all evidence that supports a conclusion in a logical way. Answers should include ‘because’ statements.


To come to a conclusion after considering and/or investigating given information. Answers should include ‘is’ statements and provide justification.


To make a process clear by giving a detailed account of the given information and/or investigation. Answers should be written in sentences or a paragraph.


To consider options or given information and reach a conclusion. Answers should state the decision clearly and provide justification.


To appraise a situation or list of options by considering strengths, limitations and implications, and make judgements based on specific criteria. Answers should be written in sentences and can include calculations, tables, graphs or lists to support findings.


To identify and consider the strengths and limitations of options. Answer statements can include a list.

Because cognitive verbs are so valuable to the reasoning process, you’ll find one in every BitMaths reasoning task to prompt students to correctly articulate their mathematical reasoning.

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