Collaborative problem solving in classrooms may be influenced by the social status of the members of problem-solving groups. One mechanism by which it may occur is the politeness of the members' criticisms of one other. During group problem solving, high-status students may be perceived as strong leaders, but their high status could interfere with group problem solving by biasing other students' evaluations of the correctness of their actions during the problem-solving task. Similarly, polite students may be judged weak leaders, but politeness may facilitate group problem solving. These hypotheses were tested in a study of 80 high school students who were videotaped while attempting to solve a difficult algebra problem in groups during class. The students also completed questionnaires about their social status before the task and, after the task, about who they saw as leaders in their groups. Four dimensions of status were analyzed: academic, peer friendship, gender, and ethnicity. Time results suggest a conflict between a task focus and a social relationship focus in classroom activities and the possible value of politeness as a measure of group social interaction. Copyright © 2000 Sage Publications Inc.