Week 2: Discussion question (Option 1)

11 Nov 2017 7:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

What have you observed about how students use the phrase "This is easy" in your classroom? What has been the effect?

Comments

  • 11 Nov 2017 7:47 PM | Anonymous member
    I was fortunate to have read this chapter before we started the year. Our team decided to take a couple of weeks to explore some Week of Inspirational Math lessons and videos with multi-age groups. One of the things we did was to talk about what makes math difficult for us. I have a poster that I refer to that shares their responses: “that was easy,” quick hand-raisers or shout-outs, teachers who show off and just do the math for them, “I’m already on #…,” and more. This still happens, but we can refer to the poster, and students are more willing to speak up and make mistakes and try new things.
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  • 12 Nov 2017 5:49 AM | Anonymous member
    The phrase "this is easy" was shouted out a quite few times through the first couple of months of school during independent work, teamwork, whole group lesson, and guided group lessons.
    At first, it seemed that a few students shouted it out because they knew the concepts and could perform the calculations quicker than their peers. To boost their confidence and look like a shining star to their teacher they boast about how easy it is for them. This was not always the truth because at times they did not know how to perform the calculations just thought that they did.
    We've talked about how shouting out how easy math is can be difficult for other students to hear. We all learn at different speeds and in different ways what is easy for me may be harder for you. Sharing our strategies and toolboxes will help us stay in it together so that the whole learning community feels like they are not in it alone. When someone says its easy I look for the deer in the headlight looks those are the kiddos that have math anxiety. They get instantly petrified that they don't know and that can block their thinking very quickly.
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  • 12 Nov 2017 12:16 PM | Anonymous member
    Students who use the phrase “This is easy” are often learners with strong computational skills who view math as a procedural quest for the “right” answer. They detest explaining their thinking, listening and/or responding to the thinking of others, are unwilling to take risks, and worst of all….they cannot persevere! These students are often not mathematicians.

    The impact on classroom culture is initially tense. Other kids seem to wonder what is wrong with themselves, they don’t see the math as “easy.” Other learners may become more reserved or hesitant to volunteer their thinking. This one statement rocks the foundation of many, especially those who are just beginning to see themselves as mathematicians. The long term impact depends on how I respond, and has the potential to be profound. These learners CAN become mathematicians!!

    The “this is easy crowd” are very uncomfortable with my style of teaching – at first. They want me to “tell” them if their answer is right, or how to do it. My questions frustrate them, my encouraging the thinking of less computationally skilled learners tests their patience. “Making” them work in groups with those they don’t deem as equally skilled as they is irritating. Some of them even state they don't like math anymore.

    Gradually, however the students can and do learn to think more deeply. With time, they begin to investigate, wonder, ask “why” instead of “what is,” – the mathematician in them begins to emerge!
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  • 12 Nov 2017 4:51 PM | Anonymous member
    When students in my class say "This is easy!" I cringe and I have seen kids in the class cringe, too. I have always told my students not to say that because it can make others feel bad. Gradually other kids will even say to that student, "You aren't supposed to say that!" It makes me feel good to hear some students have gotten the message, but I wish all students would refrain from saying something is easy. It's like they need to say it to feel good about themselves and show off in front of their peers.
    In addition to reminding them that they should not be saying that something is easy, I now also rephrase for them, saying, "You mean you have some experience with this?" They say "oh, yeah.." remembering our conversation at the beginning of the year when we discussed what kids mean when they say "This is easy.". I do think it is good to begin the year with discussion of that phrase, but I think we need to come back to it periodically throughout the year. I know I need to!
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  • 12 Nov 2017 5:46 PM | Anonymous member
    I didn't realize how often students in my class were saying "this is easy." I get as many comments about the word being hard. The funny part is that there seems to be no connection between what they say and the quality of work that they produce. Students often comment about the difficulty when they first look at a task or when they try the first problem on a worksheet. They are quick to make a judgement. We had a conversation about this. They really mean that it "looks familiar."
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    • 12 Nov 2017 10:52 PM | Anonymous member
      That is funny. In the past, I have noticed the same thing. Sometimes there is no connection between quality of work and saying it is easy. Looking familiar and being easy can be very different. Language use is amazing.
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  • 12 Nov 2017 6:31 PM | Deleted user
    I often hear "This is easy" in my classroom when students have previous background knowledge in a topic we are working on. These are often the students that are the first to raise their hands and try to answer all the questions. While they feel proud when they can answer, I can look around the room and notice that students who are not as confident will not make eye contact with me because they know one of the other kids will answer the questions easily for them.

    I challenge those students that say "This is easy" to think about how they would feel if they were in the other kids shoes. Once I say this, they often think first before they say it again. I also challenge these students to ensure they understand how to solve the problem but also why they solve them the way they do. Helps them to explain their work to others.

    As I have worked through growth mindset activities the past couple of years and trying to change my students vocabulary to a more positive one, I have seen less of this and more positive outlooks on math, even when it is hard
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  • 12 Nov 2017 6:46 PM | Anonymous member
    I work in a special ed pull out setting at the middle school level. I have worked with my students since the 6 th grade and we are on our final year together. ‘This is easy’ had been discussed in my classroom many times in the 6 th grade and part of the 7 th grade.

    There have been a few students who are very quick to respond (not always accurately) and will confidently say that ‘this is easy’. I have a handful of students who slowly process the information and seem to completely shut down when they hear ‘this is easy’. We have had numerous discussions about the phrase. I feel that a student who is not confident and who is trying to figure it out gets really down on themselves. They don’t see it and feel like ‘what is wrong with me’ that I don’t see it. This year, some of my excited, confident students tend to catch themselves and do not say ‘this is easy’. Progress!
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    • 14 Nov 2017 11:49 PM | Anonymous member
      Hi Joan,

      Having been a tutor for the special education department in our district, I have done class pull out. I had a couple of students once that found it liberating to get out of the classroom setting and ask the questions that they would not dare ask in a larger classroom setting. Working on a dry erase poster was their "go to" activity. They could easily erase mistakes and when a problem was complete and correct they would copy it down on paper (to pass in). All the "dry runs" on a problem was something that I could communicate to the teacher, but their work completion made them feel like "this is easier than I thought it was", instead of "what is wrong with me".
      I often see visual processing issues in Geometry. I tell the students (individually) that I can't go in and rewire their brain, but I can give them extra tools to help them process the problems (covering up part of a diagram, using colored pencils to distinguish or accentuate parts of a problem, turning the paper to keep a horizon line, etc.).
      Watching them shut down is so hard and the increased anxiety levels inhibit their learning process. I don't think the "this is easy" students realize what it is like for the "shoe to be on the other foot".

      Pam
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  • 12 Nov 2017 7:22 PM | Anonymous member
    When students in my class have yelled out "This is easy." I have observed 2 main things happen. Other kids will join in with "It's easy." even if they don't get it just to be seen as smart or other kids seem to shrink in their seats trying to not be seen because they can't figure out why it is not easy for them.

    The effect has been those kids who like math seem to be inspired to go on and figure it out and it is a confidence booster for them. Those kids who struggle with math feel like there is some secret code they just don't get and stop trying. It is not easy for them and they feel like their must be something wrong with them that it isn't easy for them.

    Saying "This is easy." seems like such an innocent thing to say, but it can have a big influence over how kids in the class are feeling about the math lesson or math in general.
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  • 12 Nov 2017 8:25 PM | Anonymous member
    My experience with "This is easy" has mirrored Kathleen's (below) very closely.

    When I do hear it, I try to acknowledge it in a whole-group manner. Sometimes I'll say, "Well, YOU think it's easy, but I know there are folks in the room right now who are still wrapping their brains around it -- let's give everyone some time to process," or something along those lines. Other times I'll ask if we need to up the challenge, especially if I get the sense that the speaker really is speaking for the room, expressing boredom.

    Generally, my students have been receptive to the reminder that it's not always easy for everyone, and that we don't want to leave anyone behind. I don't hear "this is easy!" that often in class, I think mostly because when it comes up I do tend to police it.

    I have noticed two things in this regard.

    1. "I like this!" is coming into more frequent use, and I think it is definitely reflecting kids who like something because they feel confident, but don't want to say "This is easy!"

    2. There is still a tiny, tiny subgroup of "not nice," hyper-competitive kids, who seem to use "this is easy" as a weapon to make other kids feel badly. Interestingly, they throw "this is easy" out too early in whatever process, almost as if they know they need to "claim" it before it actually isn't easy anymore. These kids are harder to deal with, because their motivation isn't exuberance of "I get this!" but exactly the opposite: "I get this before YOU do." Honestly, I struggle with this. I try to respond the same way I do in other classes, with the comment that not everyone thinks it's easy, but there are moments where I say, "That's because we haven't done any [calculus] yet! I hope you think the Algebra is easy, or we're in trouble!" That usually gets a chuckle of relief from the rest of the class and shuts down the braggers... but it's still not ideal, because often enough in upper-level classes, the algebra isn't easy, either!
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  • 12 Nov 2017 10:48 PM | Anonymous member
    After 20 years at the middle school, I now teach pre-k, concentrating on giving them math language as much as possible. Because pre-k is about training to get ready for school, they are young, innocent, and positive. I have a STAPLES "That was easy" button that students are able to push after they have completed work time. They do not have the language of that is easy or hard. It is just, "I can or can't." My goal is for them to know the word math and that it equals fun. Pushing the easy button says they accomplished a task. They can and did do it!
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  • 13 Nov 2017 7:30 PM | Anonymous member
    I teach a combined 4th and 5th grade class. For the last 2 years I have used the Inspirational Math videos in my class, and we revisit them throughout the year. "This is so easy" I have heard it in the classroom, interestingly more this year than in the past. When it is said during math, it is more of an expression of excitement, celebration, or to boost the individuals confidence. However the impact, intended or not, can create negativity in the classroom culture. We stop and rephrase what the student is feeling or thinking and talk about how saying "this is easy" can make others feel.

    This leads me to a question I have been thinking about since last year when a student shouted out in excitement..."it feels so good to be right" when solving a challenging problem. I was taken back when this was said. What does it mean, what does it say about making a mistake or perseverance. Don't we want student to "feel" good when they don't give up, and when they struggle. How do we communicate that. How can we celebrate those things instead.

    We talk about persevering, and making mistakes, and revising our thinking. We discuss how the brain grows when mistakes and made and then worked through. So why does it "feel so good to be right" ?
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    • 14 Nov 2017 11:58 PM | Anonymous member
      Hi Susan,
      In a slightly different scenario, when an honors level student only wants to know their grade and doesn't care about looking at their test (if the grade is satisfactory by their standards). In this case, the student has been "right enough" to pass, so the mistakes/errors don't matter. No further learning take place and there is no "perseverance" to revise any further. I would rather have students be happy about completing a multi-task problem with a few minor sign errors, that get a quick correct answer on a single-task problem.

      Pam
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  • 14 Nov 2017 11:29 PM | Anonymous member
    Chapter 2:
    What Do Mathematicians Do?

    Option 1:

    In the past several years, I seem to have a wider spectrum of student abilities within classes than I have had in the past. As such, having students finish a two-sided worksheet or online activity at two to three times the speed of their classmates sets a tone of awareness among the students of their ability levels (even if comments like “This is easy.” aren’t said out loud). When these comments are made, there is definitely “feedback” from the other students (“what?”, “you’ve got to be kidding”, etc.). My favorite response is, “will you come and help me?”.

    Students helping students is a great tool, if the “teaching student” has the patience. Unfortunately, some students can’t understand why their classmates “don’t get it”. Cooperative pairs and groups have to be selected carefully.

    By high school, some of these students have been in classes together for ten years. The students know who thinks math is easy or hard. They have strong feelings about their confidence levels and in some cases even criticize or make fun of themselves when they make a mistake.

    I often use the concept of a continuum to help the students with their confidence levels. Each student is “somewhere on the math continuum”. Nobody knows nothing and nobody knows everything. For each skill set that we cover there is a new continuum (for graphing, solving, drawing/sketching, etc.). Students often move higher or lower on a given continuum as we change topics. Some students that have lower skills have a very good common sense about mathematical solutions (especially when they are set in a context). In contrast, some with strong algebraic solving skills assume that their answer is correct, but do not understand why their answer might be wrong (e.g. a negative value for the length of the side of a triangle).

    Although I like the idea of reading mathematical stories, so students understand some of the history of mathematics. Most of them cannot understand why mathematicians would want to spend months or longer proving mathematical theorems. One book that I tried to read an excerpt from (a few years ago) was “Here’s Looking at Euclid”, by Alex Bellos. It discusses a trip up the Amazon to a village where the tribe do not have a counting system (numbers 1 - 10). In this culture all of my students could be “teachers of math”.

    Pam
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  • 15 Nov 2017 9:52 AM | Anonymous member
    I have a math class of 15 students with mixed abilities. I have a student that likes to state 'this is easy' and when I hear it I remind the student that it's not very fair as some students may not think it is easy. Reading this chapter I see there are other phrases the student could use to validate what they are feeling. I really enjoyed reading about the 'math walk' around the school. I am thinking about how that could be used in the middle school! I think the student saying 'that was easy' is looking for validation - I think this student might not be getting a lot of that when I think about it. The student views himself as smart in math - but when I look at their work - I see there are strategies he has learned to answer a multiple choice question - but doesn't understand the math behind the question. I think the student is beginning to realize this too.
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    • 22 Nov 2017 9:52 PM | Anonymous member
      Hi Doretta,

      I have a similar situation with one class where a few students feel too confident, but cannot then apply their knowledge. Other students breeze through the material successfully, and others have very low skill sets and need a lot of help with foundational processes. It is difficult to keep everyone engaged simultaneously.

      Pam
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  • 15 Nov 2017 11:12 AM | Anonymous member
    When I was in the classroom as a 4th grade teacher, I noticed that students loved to use the phrase- "This is easy!" and it bothered me, and I knew it bothered others, therefore I always started my first week of school having a conversation with my students about being an individual and the different types of learners in our class who might come and go here and there for learning, as well as the strengths and weaknesses we all had. Many of the kids knew their strengths and weaknesses as learners and were invited to share, as I did. I went on to say that taking risks and setting goals could help strengthen our weaknesses and that it was important to work hard and to be positive and to respect another's learning. Of course the phrase Growth Mindset hadn't been officially promoted at this time, but it was just that.

    As the days progressed and the kids got more comfortable and the "that's easy" would pop up in the middle of class, my response would always be, "It's easy because you've been working hard and practicing how to work out these types of problems and now it's all coming together and making sense to you". Of course I always had the few who disagreed and said, "No , I just knew it," only to hear me say...."We all have our strengths and weaknesses..right?"

    I took the approach and reinforced that it was hard work that went into understanding the concept that now made it easy, and for some it would take a bit longer but they would also get it. I did see the amount of "shout outs" diminish overtime, though not completely, but the comment from me remained consistent and for me.

    I provided a safe space for risk taking and learning.
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  • 15 Nov 2017 12:08 PM | Anonymous member
    I have observed my students using the phrase "This is easy" in my classroom in different ways. At times, when I start math time and present a new concept some students will quickly yell out "This is too easy" before I even have time to fully present the concepts. Often the kids that shout out are the ones that might not truly understand what is even being presented. My response often is "Before we can move past this concept you need to show me that you are able to do it.” I don’t want to stifle kids, but I want them to realize that even if something appears easy to them there is a reason we are practicing concepts in math to help them have a deeper understanding.

    I also have seen students who use this phrase once they have had lots of practice with a concept and finally feel confident in themselves. I try not to have students using this phrase because it can effect those students who might be struggling and become frustrated. I also feel that by using this phrase students who math comes easy to might then feel that when they come to something that isn’t as easy for them that they aren’t as good at math anymore. I try to have my students realize that there are always new things to learn in math and we are always moving forward. I also want them to realize it is important to do things that may be challenging and that making mistakes helps them learn. Those students who seem to struggle with concepts at first seem to be the ones to end up really understanding because they have made mistakes that they have learned from. It is harder for students who can quickly solve a math problem in their head to explain how they got an answer. I am trying to get my students to focus on how they got their answer instead of just getting it “right” or a math concept being “easy.”
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    • 15 Nov 2017 6:39 PM | Anonymous member
      Amanda,

      I have also seen that students who initially find things "easy" in math usually shut down when "the going gets tough", so to speak! I agree with the comment you made about how kids who struggle generally learn "stick-to-it-iveness" when solving math problems.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Danielle
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  • 15 Nov 2017 4:34 PM | Anonymous member
    As a Math Coach I hear this comment often and noticed that it has a negative effect on some students as they sometimes stop trying or defer to the student who says "this is easy". When I hear this I often stop and ask, "What part of this is easy for you?" or "When did this become easy?" Students are often surprised to explain why something is easy and when it became easy for them. " I also ask what do you need to know and be able to do for this to be easy?"
    The classroom has to have a culture of respect and responsibility for defending their comments. In the beginning of the year it is important to build a this culture of risk taking and calling each other on what they mean when they say this is easy or this is stupid...

    I have also observed teachers refer to class anchor charts in which students have co created that address how we talk in a classroom that shows respect and kindness to where everyone is on their learning journey. By doing this it is clear to everyone what and how we talk to each other matters.
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    • 15 Nov 2017 6:42 PM | Anonymous member
      Carrie,

      I agree that we have an obligation to foster respectful attitudes on the learning journey (I like that phrase, by the way!). I also find it interesting when kids are unable to explain their reasoning, but yet they are quick to solve problems. It is always telling to me when a student cannot explain their answer-- it makes me realize that I need to delve deeper into their understanding because it is possible they do not understand the "why" of the answer.

      Thank you for sharing!
      Danielle
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      • 25 Nov 2017 10:46 AM | Anonymous member
        Thank you Carrie for sharing this with us. I could not agree more.

        Diana Pettis
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  • 15 Nov 2017 6:37 PM | Anonymous member
    I have had students say, "This is easy!" or "We have already learned this!" in my middle school classroom this year... generally, the students who say this are the ones who are "on the cusp" of understanding a concept. I can tell right away that the students who struggle more are bothered by this comment... I try to move on quickly once a student has said this. I also have pointed out to them that, even though they have already been taught this, they have not shown me that they understand how to use strategies to solve specific problems.

    All of this brings me to assessing my own teaching of math. Even though I am not a professed "math person", I am definitely someone who benefited from the old "drill and kill" concept when it came to math in school. That is the one thing I LOVED about math-- if you knew the formula or algorithm, you could solve any problem that was thrown your way. This makes it difficult for me to teach students who do not learn the same way that I do. I have a hard time remembering that I need to have multiple ways to present mathematical concepts. I need to be more proactive about finding the best way to teach each student in my class, even if each student requires a different method of instruction.
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  • 16 Nov 2017 12:06 PM | Anonymous member
    I have seen children shut down when others say "this is easy" . Others however have come back with comments such as "no it's not" or "maybe for you". I have tried to stop these comments, so was glad to read about the conversations had and ways to rephrase that statement so other students don't feel like they are not up to par because they are struggling.
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  • 16 Nov 2017 5:46 PM | Anonymous member
    I have not heard many four year olds use the phrase “This is easy” but often say "I know how to do it". I wonder if they are referring to how much experience they have had with a task or perhaps they have seen someone else do the same task. I recently had a brief conversation with one of my students about putting a small 12 piece puzzle together. I asked her if she would like help since she was not at school when we demonstrated how to put puzzles together. She replied “I can do it” and quickly began manipulating the pieces but finding no connections. It wasn’t long before she gave up, stating that it was too hard. I am wishing now that I had asked more questions about what she meant. What was it about the puzzle that made her feel so confident? Was she drawn to the picture on the puzzle? Had she observed her older sister doing puzzles? Is she one of the students who is quick to respond to the correct answer for “how many” question? This chapter has also made me more conscious of the Emilys and Serenas in my classroom and how to help them grow their inner mathematician.
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  • 16 Nov 2017 7:48 PM | Anonymous member
    I've noticed the comment "This is easy" in two different circumstances.

    THE BAD WAY...
    First, from the kid that says it all the time because they think something is easy or they just want the recognition from their peers. Unfortunately, this effects many kids in a negative way. Often the students who do not think the work is easy feel less confident because they do not understand the topic. This often leads to a lack of effort and avoidance on their part because they don't want to show their neighbor that they are struggling with an "easy" topic.

    THE GOOD WAY...
    The next way a student uses the phrase is positive for the student and the students around them. At times kids are working hard at a concept and have struggled to understand the ideas behind it. When they finally make a breakthrough they are excited and energetically say, "This is easy!" The kids around this student are often energized because they have seen this student struggle along side of them. This realization often sparks discourse between students because the other kids want to know the "secret." to this great math riddle. Through this discourse confidence is gained by all that are involved!
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  • 16 Nov 2017 9:37 PM | Anonymous member
    I notice that too often students are saying, "this is easy" either when they know how to start a problem or before they even attempt it. As soon as the words come out of their mouths I notice other students in the room feel defeated. We had a conversation about this and I asked them to be more mindful of their classmates. I'm hopeful to put a stop on this language.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 7:43 AM | Anonymous member
    "This is easy, everyone should get that." was just stated in my third grade class. So, I decided to say "everyone freeze!" I just heard something interesting said out loud and I want you to shout out one word that you were felt when you heard that. Here are their responses, "SCARED, NERVOUS, ANGRY, SAD, UNHAPPY, NOT BELIEVING IN MYSELF ANYMORE, HORRIBLE. I think this conversation was eye opening for my class and our climate. Turns out the student that said it ended up with the wrong number, so he and I did some reflecting on how he felt afterwards.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 9:46 AM | Anonymous member
    I have a very competitive group of students this year and am hearing that phrase more than I ever have before. I have encouraged them to come up with a way to quietly celebrate that feeling of success and it's working very well. I don't want to squash the excitement some of them feel when they "get it." Having the conversation about quietly celebrating did create and interesting conversation though. I had asked why they felt like they needed to shout it out and most of them said it was because they were excited to be able to do the math quickly. When I pointed out that it is distracting to others they genuinely seemed remorseful and some even apologized.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 10:07 AM | Anonymous member
    I hear the phrase "this is so easy" used quite regularly in my room. I always try to address it when it comes up, but I am looking forward to having a class discussion like the example in the book. I think it will be good for students to be able to share their feeling when they hear someone else use this phrase, and for others to hear how it makes their classmates feel!
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  • 17 Nov 2017 3:50 PM | Anonymous member
    When I was still a classroom teacher, I would hear "This is easy" until I told students that I did not want them to say anything until we were all ready to discuss or work on something. We talked about how some things are easier for some people and when we say things like it's easy, it makes others feel bad and it causes them to stop thinking. They all thought of a time when something was not so easy for them and reflected on how they felt. This helped to stop the "This is easy" comment because they realized that they had things that were more difficult as well. I also think sometimes kids say it when they want the teacher to think they know it.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 4:05 PM | Anonymous member
    I asked my students to:
    Reflect on things you don’t like people to say or do in a group when they are working on math together.
    Give away the answer before they have time to think
    Having their ideas ignored
    Having to rush-not enough time to think
    Having someone take over the group
    “I can’t believe you don’t get this.”
    “This is baby stuff.”
    Reflect on the things you do like?
    Take turns
    Share materials
    Stay on Task
    Everyone works
    “Great idea.”
    “Let’s try this.”

    I followed this discussion with, “How do you feel when some says, ‘This is easy?’” In my classroom, I have observed that when one student remarks, “This is easy,” that the learning often shuts down for my least capable students. We are working toward developing a growth mindset. We had an interesting discussion and came up with some remarks that are more helpful.

    Let’s work on this together.
    This is like what we did when…
    We can do this.
    Let’s get some help.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 9:37 PM | Deleted user
    I was thinking that I don't hear the phrase "This is easy" very often in my classes, as I was reading the chapter on Sunday night. And then on Monday, during the last block of the day (high school geometry), not only did I hear "This is easy" by one student, shortly thereafter another student said, "Easy peasy lemon squeezy!" (Did they somehow know that I read those words the night before?!) So many of my students come into high school geometry and algebra 2 with the notion that math is "hard" or "I'm not good with math" that it feels like a celebration when someone says "I get this! This is easy!" particularly for that hard-working student that struggles.
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    • 19 Nov 2017 12:01 PM | Anonymous member
      I, too, see the celebration in the phrase "This is easy." When I first read the phrase one particular student came to mind. When I hear him say, "This is easy" I know I will see a smile on his face and his body will be relaxed. In general, school is not easy for him and he often uses the words "This is confusing" or "I don't get this", so when he says "This is easy" I know he feels confident in his work. After reading the chapter I see the other side to this phrase as well and understand how it can make others feel bad about their math work in the moment. I can see the benefit of encouraging my students to say "I think I've got this now" or "I think I understand". But when I hear this one boy say, "This is easy" I know he is feeling good about math.
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  • 18 Nov 2017 5:38 AM | Anonymous member
    I find that my students use the phrase "This is easy" interchangeably with "This is fun". Usually, if they are working in a partnership and feel supported by the learners (and teachers) around them, or if it feels like a game or like play to them, then they experience the task as "easy." I find that the more I am able to interject play or partnership into our day, the more the students buy in to what we are doing and are more willing to attempt things.
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  • 18 Nov 2017 10:40 AM | Anonymous member
    I tease my students and say that if they think it is easy, we need to be working together to push them harder. There's no growth being made when things are too easy. That being said, I find that the students who are thinking things are too "easy," are typically students who are not mindfully solving the problem, or thinking about the deeper understanding that went into it. For me, it seems like, "This is easy," typically comes from students being asked to do surface level tasks.
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  • 19 Nov 2017 10:15 AM | Anonymous member
    I have heard students shout out “this is easy” in math class and the effect has never been positive. As listed in other comments, the saying leads to frustration for some and giving up for others. We have had classroom discussions about how students feel when they hear these words. They said things like “this isn’t easy for me”, “ why don’t I get it “, “ math is stupid/dumb”, “makes me want to stop/quit trying” , “I want to tell them to shut up”, “makes me feel stupid because I don’t get it”, and “I feel embarrassed to ask any questions.” As a class, the students then came up with some alternate sayings to use instead of “this is easy.” One of my favorites is “ if anyone needs help, I understand how to do this!”
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  • 19 Nov 2017 12:23 PM | Anonymous member
    This year's students have rarely used the phrase, " this is easy". Last year's class did it frequently even after many discussions about what that meant and the affect it had on classmates. I have found that a child might say this to cover up a feeling of inadequacy while others might say it to feel superior. Some children might say it because they are surprised that the math is coming easy for them.

    We discuss that we're pleased when a math skill comes easily but that won't always be true. I should be challenging my
    students so they have to take time to work through a complex problem. We are rewarded emotionally when faced with a new strategy or problem to solve and come to a solution after persevering.If the children are working cooperatively, then then those that are having trouble will be helped by those that find the process less intimidating and every one is rewarded.
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  • 19 Nov 2017 4:55 PM | Anonymous member
    When my students say, "This is easy!" it is often with a sense of surprise. This is especially true when I work with struggling students. Quite often, these students don't 'get it' the first time around, so when I spend one-on-one time with them, I will walk them through the process again. When they finally do get it, they will say, "Hey! This is easy!" Often, however, the effect is that they don't think they need to learn anything more about the concept, and when they encounter a more difficult (but similar) challenge the cycle starts all over again.

    With more advanced students, on the other hand, the problem comes when they think something is easy when it is really quite complicated. As Zager points out, students who think they are good at math are often just have good working memories and have an exceptional ability to memorize facts, figures, and formulas. With these students, I try to have them see beyond the formula to how it is derived and why it works. Some students welcome this added challenge, while some just want to do the problems without any deeper sense of conceptual understanding.
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  • 19 Nov 2017 7:07 PM | Anonymous member
    Like many other teachers, I cringe a bit when I hear a student say, "This is easy." I know that others in the room don't find it easy and this comment adds to their negative feelings about math. I try very hard to foster a positive atmosphere in class and encourage students to believe in the growth mindset. I love the idea of having a conversation about these (and other) comments and their effect on others.
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  • 20 Nov 2017 7:27 PM | Anonymous member
    Regarding Math, we were doing perimeter the other day. I had introduced it a little while back, but doing Geometry now, brought the perimeter back to learn. After the lesson, I asked students on their white boards to give me the answer, showing how they found the answer on their whiteboards. They all had done it correct. I asked them to show me with a 1-4 response how difficult or easy it was for them. (1 is always a very hard time of it, 4 being so easy, could teach others.) Some raised 10 fingers! I said Wow after congratulating them on their correct answers. They said it was easy! I said why do you think it was easy? Most all of them said because I had modeled it on the board, then we all got a chance to practice it. I said what do you mean by easy? They said we were able to do it without any problem at all.
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  • 21 Nov 2017 1:03 PM | Anonymous member
    "This is easy" is such a simple statement to say but when pushed for a deeper understanding of what they are doing - many students are only remembering a procedure and are unable to provide concrete understanding of the math behind the procedure.

    I am working hard to have students work all problems out in as many ways as possible so that they are approaching problems from different strategies - this allows them to check, rethink and revise their work. Encouraging students to talk through what they are doing is also helpful in giving them an opportunity to share what they do understand and if they have any misconceptions.

    I have been careful in how I approach conversations with students by using words like struggle, process, determination, etc. so that I don't just use simple responses like - you should know this -- to Where have you used this before? By modeling good conversation and encouraging students to share their comments in different ways allows for a supportive classroom environment.
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  • 21 Nov 2017 2:33 PM | Anonymous member
    I have observed students say, "This is easy." quickly before they have taken the opportunity to look my deeply into the problem/mathematics in front of them. This can result in retractions of sorts after closer observation or students initially working on the problem in a more superficial - less thorough manner.

    Other observations:
    Some students say, "This is easy." when they feel like they've had an epiphany and want to express they finally "get it".

    Some students say, "This is easy." to save face with peers.
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  • 25 Nov 2017 10:43 AM | Anonymous member
    I have heard students say "this is easy" before because of previous experience with the topic being introduced. I have also heard this statement with students in my class that want to prove to me and others that they already know it. The effect in the classroom has been that others would chime in by saying "this is easy" and not understand what this truly means. Others who need help with the particular content will often find me after the group lesson and want 1-1 assistance trying not to show others in class that they did not understand the concept. I think the language that we use as educators is very important when introducing new content to students. In our classrooms I feel it is important to exhibit a growth mindset with all students in the class and show the students that the teacher is learning right along with them. Since reading this chapter, I have been reflective in the language I use when introducing new math content to students and promoting a growth mindset in the classroom.
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  • 25 Nov 2017 12:45 PM | Anonymous member
    Early in my teaching career I saw how damaging "this is easy" could be to some students. I began starting off the school year reading by reading the book, "The Little Engine That Could". When I tell students that I am going to read this book they giggle, and often tell me it is a little kids book. So, I tell them that I think it is applicable to teenagers and adults too. After I read the book, we talk about the trains and how they may resemble students they have been in class with before. We discuss perseverance, and not giving up. How this relates to not giving up and sometimes it is difficult to get up that mountain, but once you do it feels great and you feel confident in your abilities.

    I also have them watch the video 212 degrees, and that short video talks about going that little extra. At 211 water is water, but at 212 degrees there is steam.

    I ask them about that feeling that one gets when they do not understand something, or are in a situation that is new and they are nervous? We talk about that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, and everyone can relate to that.
    I tell them when you have that feeling, you shut down and physiologically you cannot let information in. It happens to everyone. To get past it, I tell them, you need to take a breath, step back, and then let this challenging information in.

    Next, I say as you are trying to process this information, how would it feel if you had that feeling and the person next to you is dancing around shouting YES! I got it, this is so easy.

    From that day forward, before beginning tasks, I remind them that no one in the group cares that you are done, they are working on solving a problem. It may not even be the same problem that you solved. So, focus on being able to explain how you solved the problem.

    I remind students that learning is a continuum, and while something is easy for you today, a new concept may take awhile to catch on, and that is OK, because that is what learning is and we are all in different places.
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  • 25 Nov 2017 12:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In reading chapter 2, I found myself understanding that what students say has an underlying meaning. As Tracy points out, saying "this is fun" could mean that "I get it" or "this isn't as hard as I thought it would be." I'm often curious about the meaning of "fun" when teacher or students say an activity was fun. Based on what I've had students tell me, fun can mean the activity was engaging, it was challenging, it wasn't what they expected.
    Students hearing a classmate say something is easy can be a very negative experience. It can make them feel l like they must be "dumb" because they don't find the activity easy at all. As a classroom teacher, I have this conversation with students at the beginning our our work together - we build a culture of positive learning. We talk about what's easy for one person is not necessarily easy for another.
    Several people know that I also have an issue with the word "just" when used to explain how to do something or when a student is explaining his/her thought process. Starting with, "Well, I just..." sends the connotation that the solution was easy, didn't take much thought, etc. I think it also belittles the thinking that the person did, even if they don't think it's a big deal.
    Paying attention to learning environment and helping students learn to be respectful classmates is something that I think should be part of every learning environment.
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  • 26 Nov 2017 7:04 AM | Anonymous member
    Whether students actually say the words, "This is easy!" or use actions such as swiftly getting to task, it can be intimidating to others who take a bit longer to process the situation. I notice when students hear and see this that they start to panic and often start to shut down. I was definitely one of those students who would look on and wonder why I couldn't get started! Having those open and honest conversations about learning is essential and truly honors all learners. I like the alternate phrases discussed that help to develop more positive attitudes. I understand we're talking about math here but the same thoughts apply to other subject areas. Students need to feel confidence in their knowledge and strategies and know it's not a race to learn.
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  • 26 Nov 2017 1:58 PM | Anonymous member
    In Kindergarten I have not heard "This is easy." However I have heard "I can do this." or "I can't do this." I have not thought about how the statements could have influence other students. I try to have a supportive classroom. I encourage students, who don't understand or need support to ask for help. Depending on the activity I also encourage students to help other students by giving hints or support. I also let students know that being the first finished is not important in my classroom but doing their best work is what is important. I will continue to listen for student comments and understand how they may affect other students.
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  • 26 Nov 2017 3:27 PM | Anonymous member
    In the past, when students said "this is easy", it was because they could actually understand and do the math that was assigned to them. Today, I find that students are too confused and in too much of a rush to really attend to the math we are working on. When they say, "this is easy", it tells me that they don't really get it and don't want to continue. Why is this? Well, I think some of it has to do with the math programs that have been adopted by the schools. Some programs ask for understanding and mastery of each conceptual piece of the math curriculum. The lessons focus on one concept at a time, and it is explored in a variety of ways until students feel ownership. Other programs offer three different ways to attempt each new problem. Students don't get a chance to learn one, much less how to choose a strategy that works for them. The next day, they are on to something new. The teacher is expected to keep up with "a lesson a day" schedule and complete the program by the end of the school year. This is exhausting for both the teacher and the students. It feels terrible, and results in so much frustration!
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  • 26 Nov 2017 8:30 PM | Anonymous member
    I find that students are often saying "This is easy" when it isn't, in fact, easy for them. Occasionally a student who is a bit pompous about their math ability (usually a student who is great at procedural math) will make this statement after another student says they're confused or "don't get it". However, I found often that students verbalized this to convince themselves that they would be able to enter into the math when it wasn't always easy for them. Or, they would think the first step is easy, but then it turns out the rest wasn't as clear. From the start of the year this comment was discouraged in my math classroom in order to avoid students feeling bad that something wasn't easy for them. As a middle school teacher, I found that my students could fully understand the reasoning and it usually wasn't a problem for them to comply.
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  • 28 Nov 2017 7:39 AM | Anonymous member
    As we work through our math assignments every day a few of the kids always comment, "Wow, this is easy!" I asked them the other day why they said this all the time. It took a little persuasion to get them to open up about this in the small group. But, they all finally shared with me the reason they said this was to make it seem they knew what they were doing and understood the process. They didn't want to appear stupid in front of their classmates. They were struggling with the new concepts but didn't want their classmates to think they didn't get it. They wanted to look smart. We had a long discussion about how they were feeling now that they opened up and found that others they thought weren't struggling, were. Most of them felt more comfortable about asking for help during independent work time.
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  • 28 Nov 2017 2:12 PM | Anonymous member
    Kids seem to say "This is easy" when they want to sound good to themselves and those around them. They say it when the work is done correctly or incorrectly. I think it makes other kids around them feel either bad, that they aren't finding it easy. I think it shuts some kids down. Usually the one who says it is one who needs some sort of validation of their own.

    This chapter helped me think of what else you can do in a math class that will encourage something different than "This is easy". If that's what a student is thinking first, than maybe the task I've given them is too procedural. I want their self talk to be about what they're doing and how they could attack this problem, and if they have seen something like this before, how could they do it differently or more efficiently? What connections do they now see? Etc..
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  • 29 Nov 2017 1:50 PM | Anonymous member
    I have been in some classrooms lately where the word, easy, has been banned during math class. I've had discussions with these students and their input was very insightful about how the word can impact how others feel about themselves during math when it is used. We then had a follow-up discussion about whether it was okay to use the word 'easy' if it was used in a different connotation...such as..."the array model makes it easy to see how the distributive property works in multiplication". Great discussion with students!
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  • 03 Dec 2017 12:28 PM | Anonymous member
    I agree completely with negative effect this phrase "this is easy" can have in a classroom. I cringe every time I hear students say this in class. It sends a very clear message that "I am smarter than you." However, this does not bother me nearly as much as it does when I hear a teacher say "this is easy, you should be able to do this quickly." This is a very strong message from an authority figure stating that if you don't answer this correctly and quickly you are not as good(smart) as everyone else. It is so discouraging for our students.
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    • 11 Dec 2017 11:35 AM | Anonymous member
      Nancy you make an excellent point. It is discouraging for students to hear a teacher say that, especially if they are unsure of the concept. Thank you for pointing this out.
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  • 03 Dec 2017 9:11 PM | Anonymous member
    Honestly, I get mixed feelings when I hear the "This is easy" phrase. One part of me is glad that they have the ability to feel confident about something - and then maybe it can present an opportunity to challenge said student(s). The other part of me, and probably the majority of my feelings, is worried. I get worried for two reasons. The first is that the "this is easy" student(s) will then make careless mistakes because they are just trying to fly through it. Then, as many others have mentioned, the second reason it makes me worried is that the comment will cause other students to feel more self-conscious. Usually I try to amend the situation by telling those who say "this is easy" that they should be able to get everything correct, and then be able to go help everyone else afterwards. Or, again, I let them know that I have some material ready for them where they can challenge themselves. Or, if it is during a test, I remind them of some make-shift data I have kept that where those who finish first don't always do the best.
    Again, though, as much as I want to eliminate those phrases out loud, I don't want to take away their confidence... so it is a fine line.
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  • 08 Dec 2017 9:45 AM | Anonymous member
    I have found students use the phrase, "This is easy," in the classroom as a confidence builder for themselves. I think there are times when math is very difficult for some, so when they encounter something that is "easy" they need to share that with everyone else. I also believe, it can make others around them discouraged. If it is not "easy" to them, they think they are behind or they will never understand it.

    I always try to stress to my students that some catch on pretty quickly to a particular concept, but it can take others a little bit more time to really understand. Everyone learns at their own pace, and the most important thing is for students to be working hard and at whatever level they are at. It is important to be challenged at the right level and that looks different for all students.
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  • 11 Dec 2017 11:40 AM | Anonymous member
    The students who say “this is easy” often know the calculation process but can not explain the mathematics. As others have said, the students seem to want to declare victory without undertaking the hard work of thinking through the process with depth.

    Then there are the those who process more slowly. They seem to shrink from the discussion after hearing others call the concept easy. My students work on small whiteboards so I can easily see their thought process and work. When I see students hiding their whiteboards from view, I know they are struggling or worse, embarrassed.

    My students know I do not want to hear “easy” but it is a hard habit for some to break.
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  • 11 Mar 2018 3:12 PM | Anonymous member
    Quite frankly, I use this phrase. I guess I have leaned on it because I want students to know that they too can get it, whatever it is! I think that there is a time and a place for this expression to appear in our conversions about math. As a teacher this particular topic has heightened my awareness of how it can be used in a competitive, put-down kind of way that I can keep my ears and eyes more aware of. The more obvious put-downs are addressed in class, and quick knee jerk reactions by some students are: "Oh, I was just kidding.", "He/She says that to me all the time." I generally remind students of our safe space for learning and it goes away!

    I do like the interpretations presented in the book of what "this is easy" might mean. It doesn't always mean that it is a put down. I like the idea of asking the student in those situations to explain what they mean by that phrase.

    I co-teach Algebra I courses at our high school and my co-teachers and I use a number of strategies to keep that competitive drive healthy among students (i.e. quick thumbs up when you get it, random asking, honoring deeper thinking, acknowledging that rapid answers can be great and not so great depending on a variety of factors.

    My take away with this question is to pay closer attention to how students interact with one another so that I can intervene in a positive way to attempt to ameliorate any offenses!
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