New Math Textbook?

booksWill your school be in the market for a new textbook anytime soon?  Teacher buy-in is hugely important; so finding out what teachers like makes a lot of sense. And I don’t think it is very helpful to read old posts on this topic because resources are changing dramatically. There have been, and will continue to be huge shifts in what our students need; and with the workload we have as teachers, it can be nearly impossible to keep up with it all.  Choosing a resource that teachers can appreciate and meets the changing needs of students can be a daunting task.  I would like to suggest some things to consider that are having an increasing impact on our students’ needs as it might affect your final resource decisions.

Mathematical modeling.  The highly influential GAIMME report explains what “mathematical modeling” should look like at each level here:  http://www.siam.org/Portals/0/Publications/Reports/gaimme-full_color_for_online_viewing.pdf?ver=2018-03-19-115454-057

Low floors, high ceilings (LFHC).  NCTM’s Catalyzing Change points out the injustice of segregating students for honors and “regular” math classes.  I agree.  In my current context, students who are not on the honors track coming into high school are highly unlikely to ever get onto the STEM math track because honors students get access to math content in their class that non-honors don’t.  A resource that heavily embeds LFHC tasks can eliminate this inequity.    As a result of using a LFHC textbook, this year I was able to recommend a third of my regular Algebra I students to honors level classes next year.

CCSS alignment.   Even educators in non-CCSS states would be wise to know what is missing from any resource under consideration.  Edreports.org details what reviewers found lacking so that teachers can be informed on the front end where they will need to supplement.

Social-Emotional needs (trauma-informed), soft skill development and STEM integration.  Anxiety among teenage students has increased dramatically, even affecting attendance rates.  Employers have become increasingly vocal about our students’ need for improvement in communication skills and perseverance in generalized problem solving strategies. Full inclusion students and English language learners have even more challenges.   On one hand, we don’t want to divert math class time to teaching these other things directly.  But math is the M (the foundation) for all the others, and “STEM-skills,” when broadly defined, can be related to most living-wage jobs.  It is possible to have both a tightly focused math curriculum and meet these needs when students are grouped in teams with assigned roles, but the teaching resources have to be designed more for exploration and less for direct instruction.

Finding a resource that teachers like and students need is often complicated.  My district started off piloting resources before adopting.  That has been helpful in buying time to explain the “whys” of the changes.  Change is hard.  Sometimes teachers are disappointed when the new resource makes them feel like all the work they put in developing their own was “not enough.”  The truth is, we were rock stars!  But we have to evolve to meet the changing needs of our students if we want to maintain that rock-star status.  From reading and watching, my best guess is that advancements such as integrating coding in the regular math classes are probably 5-10 years off from becoming mainstream, but it makes sense to me to get a resource that is as forward-leaning as possible so that it’s not obsolete three years after buying it.  Looking forward now may stave off more top-down initiatives for a little while, and that’s something every math teacher can appreciate.


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