Obvious or obviously.
It has to be
It’s the only way
These words and phrases are pervasive in mathematics classrooms, and they are increasingly common the further we go in mathematics.
But each has a toxic effect on student engagement. Consider the following two scenarios.
Scenario 1: I don’t get it
If I don’t understand what others describe as obvious, I feel stupid and I disengage. I feel like I can’t do this.
scenario 2: I do get it
If I am feeling smart because I understand something, and then others describe it as obvious, I don’t get to feel smart anymore. The thing I worked so hard to understand is obvious to everyone else. I am likely to disengage and to feel like I can’t do this.
As a teacher, I have two roles related to this issue.
The first is to eliminate this language from my own teaching vocabulary. There is no upside to these terms, so I have to stop using them.
The second is to challenge the “obviousness” of what others claim to be obvious. Is it really that obvious? Is that really the only way to do it or to think about it? As the one who sets the tone for discussion in the classroom, I have a responsibility to include everyone. Sometimes that means pretending I don’t understand something I do.