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Chapter 2 – Option 2 (Connection)

01/24/2020 9:14 PM | Karen Campe

What do you observe about how students use the phrase “this is easy” in your classroom? What is it effect? (You are free to choose a different word from page 11 if it is more common in your teaching, and please do remind us of your grade level in your response).

Comments

  • 01/25/2020 9:15 PM | Nicole Gilson
    Currently I worked with tier 2 and 3 students as a math interventionist. Recently, I have been asked to work with a few 5th and 6th graders that excel in math and use a compressed curriculum model. I am glad I read this chapter before working with my 5th graders because they were quick to say "this is easy". I stopped our problem solving and we held a "math congress/talk" and discussed what they really meant about that phrase. We agreed in our group to try some other statements that were suggested on page 13. After reading this section of the chapter, I immediately thought of the habits of mind. As it was stated in this chapter, "At the same time, we talked about the language we use and how we can unintentionally affect our friends and classmates." Students really do need to encourage eachother...supportive messages are very important.
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    • 01/26/2020 2:47 PM | Alison Foley
      Hi Nicole,
      I completely agree with you. I have a similar role as you do and work as a math interventionist (grades K-5) but do lead a few math enrichment groups in grades 4-5. In the groups with students who are working at an accelerated pace, the word "easy" comes up all too often - and when something is not "easy" - the students get frustrated very quickly. Of course, the effect of making other students feel less confident (like in Deb's classroom) happens as well. The overall mentality with a lot the students in the challenge groups is "if it's not easy for me right away, then I must not be as smart as you." I like your idea of a "math congress." I am going to try that with my students. We have habits of mind at our school - one of which is perseverance and I think I have to take very purposeful steps to ensure students are being supportive of one another, taking on challenges with grit, and being mindful of our language in our math community.
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  • 01/26/2020 3:02 PM | Peggy Bell
    "This is easy" I read this chapter and it caused me to pause and reflect how often I have heard this comment in my classroom. I read this one evening and the next day in math class a student was in a small group with me and said these exact words. I stopped in my tracks and those words resonated strongly with me as I looked at the other students faces, body language, effort and enthusiasm on the problem they were working on ceased. We stopped and talked about what that meant and brainstormed other phrases that we can use. We too as a class made an anchor chart and are eradicating that phrase from our classroom vocabulary. I teach third grade and we work on developing a growth mindset.
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  • 01/26/2020 7:41 PM | Rene Chin
    As a first grade teacher, this expression is heard by day 4-5 of the school year. It amazes me each year to hear it around the same time. The first few weeks of the school year are spent building the climate of our classroom. We work hard to "have each other's backs", to see the classroom as a safe place to make mistakes - even celebrating those mistake by posting them and talking about how we learn from them. Early on we talk about this word "easy" and how it feels if you are not the person using it. We replace it with "efficient." We talk about how what is efficient for one person might not be for another because all of our math brains think differently. We talk about how being efficient means using the tools and strategies that make sense to our own brain. That there is no right or wrong way to approach a problem...in math, or reading, or science.
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  • 01/27/2020 7:13 PM | Susan Palma
    When I am in a classroom and I hear "this is easy" or a quick "I got it" I see other students heads lower and they begin to shut down or I see students rushing and making quick guesses to try to make it look like they are responding with the same ease and speed as those who announce "this is easy". These students then do not participate in the discourse because they did not process the problem as completely as they needed to. Confidence in math is diminished. As a student I needed more processing time and I remember thinking, why continue because I can never process through the problem as quick as the "this is easy" or "I got it" kids, so I must not have what it takes to be good at math and I can read the faces of students who are feeling the same way. I do everything I can to help prevent this feeling in students.
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  • 01/28/2020 11:55 AM | Alisha Signore
    I teach third grade and I've heard this phrase use a few different ways. Sometimes on the fact fluency checkin when kids know how to do it (and do it fast) and they anticipated it being harder-(although a message is sent indirectly- if you're fast, you're good- the effect is the kids who don't- could develop poor math mindset.) I've also heard this while giving a pre-assessment- I think because some students are honestly shocked that they can do something without being taught first-while others are already beyond the unit content and are looking for a challenge. (Obviously, we differentiate for the unit accordingly and we say it's just to give us info.) Sometimes in workplace games, students realize that the concepts they're working on that may seem challenging in a workbook suddenly seem less intense and fun while problem solving in a gamelike format with others and without that anxiety, it all makes sense. :)
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  • 01/30/2020 1:23 PM | Anonymous member
    I have always hated the phrase "this is easy," since I was a student. Math was not a strength and something I had to work hard at. I was definitely the need more wait time or more trials kind of gal. One way I have tried to handle this in my fourth grade class is with non-verbal cues. Sometimes a quick look at a student to share a smile works. This takes time for the students to learn, but then I can validate they are feeling confident and excited without disrupting the work of others. A simple thumbs us works too. It takes lots of discussion, but we talk about being a supportive community of all learners and what we can do to support each other. We also discuss the power of hurtful phrases that are not intentional, but can have a negative impact. I think that by having the students share out their thinking about the phrases is so impactful when it comes from peers instead of the adults. My class is not perfect, but there is a marked difference between comments from September until now. It is a work in progress.
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  • 01/30/2020 1:23 PM | Anonymous member
    I have always hated the phrase "this is easy," since I was a student. Math was not a strength and something I had to work hard at. I was definitely the need more wait time or more trials kind of gal. One way I have tried to handle this in my fourth grade class is with non-verbal cues. Sometimes a quick look at a student to share a smile works. This takes time for the students to learn, but then I can validate they are feeling confident and excited without disrupting the work of others. A simple thumbs us works too. It takes lots of discussion, but we talk about being a supportive community of all learners and what we can do to support each other. We also discuss the power of hurtful phrases that are not intentional, but can have a negative impact. I think that by having the students share out their thinking about the phrases is so impactful when it comes from peers instead of the adults. My class is not perfect, but there is a marked difference between comments from September until now. It is a work in progress.
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  • 01/31/2020 10:27 AM | Jennifer Rianhard
    I am no longer a classroom teacher and thinking back, I did hear this often by my select few higher level math students and it probably did make some of the other students anxious. I now teach elementary intervention. The other day, I had a second grader in my classroom and we were working on adding base ten pieces with regrouping and he always says "this is easy" (he does it with other math skills as well). I stopped and talked to him about why he says this because sometimes when he says this phrase, he is not correct in his math thinking and how it could make others feel. Since having this conversation, I haven’t heard him say “this is easy” and I think he’s more aware of how it makes others feel.
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  • 02/02/2020 8:53 PM | Luke
    I currently teach 3 levels of sixth-grade math - standard, honors (includes 6th and 7th-grade content) and content that is 2 to 3 levels below grade 6. When students say something is easy I quickly zero in on who is saying it and how many. It initially gives me a sense of reassurance that I communicated content/procedure well enough for kids to "get it". However, it really depends on what the kids are reacting to. Is it math facts, finding area, calculating centers of measure, or following the steps for using the division algorithm the kids are reacting to. It seems reasonable that there is always going to be one kid who gets it. However, when more than half say it, I automatically look at the kids I routinely keep on my radar. If these kids aren't saying it then it seems I may have more work to do. I have to support them more and in the quickest way possible in order for them to meet with success.
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  • 02/04/2020 5:50 PM | Becky Lyman
    I don't think I have ever heard "this is easy" in my current classroom. I teach 6-8 behavior students in a resource setting and math to several of them as their primary math teacher. The thing I like to hear is the "oh" and "I get it now" I do hear this is hard quite a bit and it takes a lot of coaxing to get them to open up to the fact that there are so many ways to get to an answer. Today I actually got to observe one of my students "think out" his answer but using array type math and breaking down a multiplication problem into two easier problems and then adding them together. It made us both smile when he got the answer without the use of a calculator. He got to show me he could manipulate the numbers in his own way and get a correct answer.
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  • 02/07/2020 3:49 PM | Karen Campe
    Bravo to those of you who took on the phrase “this is easy” with your students, discussing the message it might send to others who aren’t as speedy or fluent at math. Setting norms so that a few people’s math thinking/accomplishments don’t SHUT OFF the progress of the rest of the class is really important. Give every student opportunity, support, & motivation to reach their own understanding at whatever rate they get there.

    I currently work with HS students one-on-one; and my saying “this will be easy for you” can cause anxiety for them if they find a topic difficult, even though we aren’t in the social setting of a classroom. I’m trying to update my phrasing to be “you can do this” to build confidence, and focus on what they already know that can help them make sense of the current challenge. The phrases Tracy suggested on page 13 that are particularly useful to me are: “I know something I can use here”, “I see a way to start”, and “I have an idea to try”; I’m trying to get my students to use these as they approach math problems.

    --Karen
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  • 02/15/2020 7:18 AM | Shelly Jones - elementary teacher educator
    At the collegiate level students may not say "oh, this is easy"; however, the speed at which they answer the questions tells it all. Grown up 20 year olds have expressed how they feel demoted when they see a classmate already finished with a problem they are just now considering a strategy. Zager (or the teacher) talked to the students about their words and helped them to see how it might be effecting other students. I find myself as a teacher catching myself not to say these same words. In setting up a problem we sometimes say this is an easy one in an effort to ease students fears but I can see now that my words might actually exacerbate their fears. These students were awesome at taking the teachers cues. We want to encourage math talk but students need to understand which words are appropriate.
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    • 03/03/2020 11:07 AM | Amber Bishop
      A fourth grade student told me "easy is a bad word". I try to remember that whenever working with students and remind myself it's another word you would never say in front of children.
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  • 03/03/2020 11:18 AM | Amber Bishop
    I recently participated in an Escape Room with a group of friends. Much of the problem solving involved math of one type or another. Some of the clues I understood immediately, others seemed written in another language. When someone in our group expressed that a problem was easy, I watched what they did and felt totally insecure with my own skills. Later, I asked how the person solved the problem. They told me it was easy, which lead to a great conversation about our different learning styles and how the word easy in that situation made me feel.
    This was a great reminder to me how our students feel in such situations.
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