January 21, 2013 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

Happy New Year! Now that school is back in full swing, I’m getting my head together for topics to blog about and that might be of interest to you too!  So let’s talk about textbooks.  In my opinion, and in my practice, textbooks are just a resource.  However, there are funds distributed to school districts which are earmarked specifically for new textbooks, so every 5 years we go through the process of choosing “the best one”.  I recently attended a Textbook Caravan where the publishers and their sales representatives show you all the bells and whistles that their product contains.  While they all have positive attributes and something to offer, I couldn’t help but think while I sat there that’d I’d like to take parts of some and put them with parts of others to create a specialized textbook, just for my taste.  Wouldn’t that be cool as a teacher? Tell the publisher exactly which components you want, tell another publisher their components you want, and spend the money making your ideal resource book! That’s why I’ve always viewed textbooks as a resource, not a bible for the content.  But, I suppose there are teachers out there who are either told they have to follow the book (poor things), or they just are not comfortable enough creating their own lessons (can’t imagine) and so they resort to going by the book.  Let me just say this, the math textbook is probably what made me hate math as a student… it was dry, boring, and all those practice problems we were assigned, when what I really wanted to do and what I really understood was the Problem Solving section! If anyone reading this happens to be a textbook publisher, I urge you, please… please… change format, especially now with Common Core State Standards.  Put problem solving at the beginning of the lesson, this way students can comprehend and make sense of the math, which by the way, is the most important part of the learning progression.  Then put a few guided practice or independent practice standard algorithm type of problems at the end of the lesson.  Until we design textbooks for the way students learn, from concrete to abstract, we will continue to lose them, especially in mathematics. But I will continue to design problems and encourage teachers to do so as well, and help students make connections to the math they use in their everyday lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about textbooks and how they are used in your school or classroom. 


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Kristen Hahn

January 2013
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