One student this morning was adding two numbers together to show how far the fictitious family in the problem travelled to get to Grandma's to celebrate Chinese New Year. I was so pleased to see him figure out that "they travelled x more than y on the second day" meant he had to add x to y in order to get the distance traveled that day, and then add that new number to the original y to get the total, that I almost jotted down a "level 3" with a smiley face next to his name, and moved on to the next student. But, so surprised was I by his apparently miraculous transformation (this is a student who generally struggles in math), that I lingered a little, just to celebrate this small victory.
Alas (well, thank goodness, really!), my lingering led to the realization that the student wasn't quite as tuned-in as I had thought at first...
He was writing down all the right numbers on his whiteboard, but he didn't know what they meant. Several times I asked him to tell me what each number represented, and each time, he either gave an incorrect response, or seemed confused about what I was asking.
Bummer. But an important lesson. We are often so eager to look for the growth in situations like this that we can be tricked into preemptively celebrating a victory.
Listening a little longer helped me to diagnose the problem for this student, and plan for next steps.