Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Textbooks...Who Needs Them?

That's a loaded question, isn't it?  
For me, it really depends on the subject.  If we are talking about reading, I'd lean towards....who needs them?

But, for math....well, I have mixed feelings about textbooks.
 
I spent the day today at our local textbook caravan for our math textbook adoption coming up this spring.  Do you have to go to these? 

Basically, teachers, instructional coaches and administrators are given a "sales pitch" by different textbook companies.  Then, we go back to our home schools and try to "sell" the best textbook to our faculty.  It's not a fool-proof plan, but one that I guess helps the process a bit.  If you get too many teachers in one room trying to make the decision...well, I'm sure you know how that would turn out. Right?

I appreciated the chance to go today, but I am in information overload.  My brain hurts.  I also feel like some companies tried to "sell" me a little more than others (not naming names here).  I'm not too sure how I feel about that, either.  I think the product sells itself, don't you?  I can see/read/analyze the textbook myself.

Anyway...I digress...I guess it's the information overload.

As many of you know already, I use "Math Workshop" in my classroom.  One of the components is "Independent Practice" and for me, that time is used practicing the lesson that I taught my students in small group the previous day.  Our math textbook has provided that "Independent Practice" because...well, it's free.  It's not something I have to create, run off, staple together, laminate or cut out and oh, it's free.  So, for me, the textbook is a resourceful tool.  Does it completely fill all of my needs? No.  Do I have to supplement?  Sure.  But, does it come in handy?  Yes.

Here's my loaded question for you.  I need your help.  How do you feel about textbooks for math?  Do you have a particular textbook (yes, we are naming names here) that you use that you LIKE?  Dislike?  I have a favorite as of right this minute, but I could be persuaded to feel a different way.  {Not that it's my decision to make for my district, but I'd like to be able to share with my faculty at least what teachers like you think.}

Please, please, please leave me a comment sharing with me your favorites and why.  If you'd like to share what you DON'T like, that's fine, too.  If you'd prefer to email me (rather than leave it in my comments), I'd appreciate that, too. **Funinroom4b@gmail.com

Thank you, my dear, sweet readers for always being a great spring board for discussion.  I've enjoyed my own personal/professional development that I've received through blogging this last year because of all of you.  {Sure wish I could count it for my official PD!!}

So, let's get started...

Ready?

Comment....


37 comments:

  1. Hey Elizabeth!

    Our school uses Harcourt. It's old. I don't even know when we had the last textbook adoption. Teaching in GA I've never been to one of those textbook adoption sales meetings but when I taught in Memphis, we went all the time (you get free stuff!).

    Anyway, I don't really use the textbook. It's not really aligned to the common core now. Sometimes it has ideas in it that I might use but I don't even think the kids have cracked that book this year. I do use the resources out of the kit for intervention or challenge or sometimes the problem solving pages, depending on the needs of the group or for homework. I also do math workshop. We do math maintenance (review skills) and problem solving during independent practice or they play a game.

    Not sure that this helps at all!!
    Amanda
    Collaboration Cuties

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    1. Amanda, thank you for weighing in :) I liked hearing that you use it for certain parts of your math workshop model. Problem solving is so important. One of the "selling pitches" today was that problem solving is a key component of most of the textbooks up for adoption as a separate page added to the lesson. However, another company boasted about how they have problem solving within each and every question (not much standard algorithm in the "practice"). It's really a whole new outlook for a lot of us and the way we have been teaching for years. There's a lot to think about. Standard algorithms have their place, too (in my humble opinion). So much to think about.

      Thanks again for your perspective!

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  2. Our math curriculum is Investigations, so we use the student workbook that comes with it. Other than that, we don't use textbooks. We feel we can better present the information and do it in a more interesting way. Besides, textbooks are notorious for being written way about their level. I'm all for NOT using them.

    Leslie
    Miss R's Room

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    1. Thanks, Leslie! I agree with you about textbooks being above students' levels. (Especially in the content areas.) We didn't hear from Investigation today, but are you at all satisfied with the workbook at least?

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    2. I LOOOOOOOOOOVE Investigations!!! It is so hands on and all of the students "investigate". I may have a love affair with it.

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  3. I actually have grown very fond of our math expressions. We had the choice between this or math connects 3 years ago. All but 2 schools in our district chose expressions. It has the homework book, text/activity book, great spiraling units, and student white boards which I've used the heck out of! Oh yea! It is common core aligned too! Ha. We adopted cc last year and it has fit nicely. Good luck!!

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    1. That's good to know, Rachel. I am really interested in how closely they are aligned to Common Core. I should have probably mentioned that above. I think I might go back and add that! I like the text/activity book concept where they write in the text. That makes a lot more sense to me than transferring to a notebook in 3-5 (like we have had to do for years). I'm a fan of spiraling curriculum, too. Doesn't brain research show that you have to practice to remember? And, if you don't teach geometry until the end of the year and that is the ONLY time you teach it, well that makes no sense, right?
      Thanks so much for your input. I really appreciate it!

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  4. I second Rachel Lamb's Math Expressions. I've been teaching out of it for the last 6 years. It is a VERY strong problem solving approach that has an inquiry twist to it. I love that it uses "Math Talk" and students are encouraged to explain strategies - why things worked, why things didn't. I also like that it gives multiple strategies. I was a part of the pilot for ME years ago and it was already aligned to Common Core - still is. That being said, I'm not to fond of the student work books - hardback and softback. There are a few tasks - especially at the 2nd grade level that would benefit greatly from the math kits, but my school opted out of those and they ended up being cut and paste. This curriculum is great for my average to high kids, but my lower kids that need to see multiple days of certain skills tend to struggle. It also alternates between geometry and operations every other unit instead of keeping geometry at the end of the year.

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    1. This is great information, Shasta! I did like the "Math Talk" component of Math Expressions. I think the problem solving approach with the "inquiry twist" is important, too. I think that we sometimes forget about the Mathematical Practices part of Common Core when we are looking at curriculum. That's too bad. It's really those thought processes that students will carry with them for years to come. Sure, I also want them to know how to multiply two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers, too. So, there needs to be a balance between both (in my opinion). Thanks again for your insight.

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  5. We have Investigations...which is not my favorite...and it is pretty outdated. However our district has some fantastic online supplements we can download. One is SMC Curriculum. It has brief lessons with a quick practice page. I usually print the all the lessons, with the check ins and make them into books for every student. Then I do the lesson as a whole group and they repeat the lesson on their own, as well as complete the quick checks. It is very very concrete...no manipulatives or materials. And makes for a fantastic, "independent practice". The manipulatives and more abstract thinking can happen in other parts of workshop. Here is a link to the SMC Curriculum.

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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    1. Maybe I should actually add the link--http://www.diggingintomath.com/

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    2. Thanks for your input! That's a lot of supplementing that you are stuck doing. It's a shame when we have to supplement so much and the state is paying for (or have paid for) a textbook adoption. That's why I think it is so important to "buy" the right product. I like the "Digging into Math". That looked like a great way to supplement your series. Are you up for an adoption soon?

      I hope for your sake that you are...hopefully, that will save on copies?? :)

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  6. We use the text books for practice problems, but for homework. That way if the parents are unsure about how to help their student, they have a built in resource. I send the textbooks home in September and ask for them back in May.

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    1. That's not a bad idea! I've done that before with outdated textbooks.

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  7. My district uses Everyday Math, which doesn't have a textbook as much as a "reference book" that explains how to do problems, theories behind why, etc. I found most of these explanations above my kiddos heads (though I as the instructor finally learned a few things!) There is also very little standard computation practice with this program. The textbook contains, at most, maybe 4 problems so you are stuck with whatever the student workbooks present unless you supplement... Which we find we need to do when we want to review big concepts like fractions or review before tests. I just started math workshop with my kiddos this year and I found Everyday Math lends itself well to this. Some great bloggers have posts about how they make EM work for their class and I'm finding that my students (6th grade) love doing math this way. The program is very different from tradition textbooks of the past and many of the teachers are having a hard time adjusting to something that is more problem based learning. Honestly, I don't mind it but since I don't follow the "traditional" teacher way of teaching math (especially how the EM program is supposed to be presented), I'm not sure that's a completely fair assessment.

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    1. Hey Lauren-
      My district also uses Everyday Math and I would agree with everything you've stated above. I'd be interested in learning more about how you apply the workshop model in your classroom with EDM.

      Thanks,
      Amy
      Turtley Loving Teaching

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    2. Hey Lauren and Amy,
      I did like the problem based learning of Everyday Math, but I didn't really see how I could use it in Math Workshop (except during my small group time, of course...which leave the other 3 parts of the workshop out). Maybe I was looking at it from the wrong angle. I will have to go and pull those materials out and do some more research. Oh, I just remembered...they didn't give us materials. No wonder it wasn't my top choice. Hum...looks like I might have to dig a little deeper. Any suggestions of places I could go to look? And like Amy, I'd also love to see how you have made it work for Math Workshop and would love to read about your success, Lauren. Thanks again, ladies, for the thoughtful comments and suggestions!

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  8. My comment isn't specifically about math but I thought I would share.
    Today in one of our university classes we discussed a school division in our province who was gone completely textbook free. They believe that the money they have should be spent on experiential student opportunities (trips out of the classroom, have guests brought in, etc) rather than on big businesses selling content that the teacher's already should have learned in their undergraduate degrees.

    I personally don't like using textbooks and have not utilized the ones my teachers might have had during my student teaching placements. The bad thing about most textbooks is that as soon as they are printed they are essentially outdated (I don't know if this necessarily applies to math though).

    Are you required to use a textbook? I think many teachers in our province are moving away from textbooks and elementary does not use them at all (with the exception of buying class novel sets).

    Miss L
    Miss L’s Whole Brain Teaching

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    1. In my district, we are not required to use the textbook. But, as a frugal teacher, I really hate to see the money spent on something I won't use. I'll at least try to use some of it. I think that eventually all schools will go textbook free. With the evolution of ereaders, I think that more and more states/schools/districts will lean in that direction. I'm sure I've read or seen somewhere that there are districts that already do that...ipads for students instead of textbooks.
      I really appreciate your insight and for joining the conversation.

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  9. I don't like textbooks...and have stayed away from them the past couple years. But with all the new demands our school/district is putting on us, I didn't have any option but to go back to them to alleviate some of my own stress. Unfortunately if I use the text books, it saves me time in planning and I can just supplement. I just use them as a resource- we don't sit and read out of them all day. But it makes my planning time a lot shorter. I hate them, but for my own sanity and stress levels, I need to use them.
    Gina

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    1. That's really the reason I wanted to start this conversation. It's the demands of districts across America (said "A-Mir-I-Ka"...like we've been doing in this house lately for some silly reason) that have caused me to be more careful in this decision...again, not that the decision is up to me AT ALL. I just wanted to see if textbooks that you all are using are meeting the same demands. With the push towards Common Core, are we meeting all of those demands? Are we creating more or different demands? Are we helping the children? Ah...the questions continue. Thank you so much for joining the conversation.

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  10. I finally have a math textbook I use. We use to be an Everyday Math school but after 10 years of supplementing, filling in to add enough practice for mastery, and waiting for kids to "catch up" to the spiral the district ditched it. We are now a Math in Focus school, this is the American version of Singapore Math or Math Works. Love it. It has 3 levels, so when it is time for independent work, strategic or intensive students do the reteach pages, on track students do the extra practice pages and a few students do the enrichment pages. I don't use every single component of the program but it is heavy in problem solving using the bar model method and FINALLY a program the stresses number sense throughout the year, not just one chapter. This program is difficult at first because we found our students were so severely lacking in thinking skills, applying math and number sense but after 3 years, they are showing major progress in their math skills and thinking. It also has a companion computer program called math buddies our students use at home and in the computer lab. Takes time to implement at first but great program.

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    1. Also, it is common core aligned 98% or something.

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    2. I loved the bar model method as it was explained to us today! So did the teachers who went with me. I love idea that it is heavy in problem solving. Again, like I stated before, we have to remember the Mathematical Practices portion of the Common Core or we are missing half of the picture! Do you use the Math Workshop model in your classroom by any chance? Does this program lend itself to that model? Thank you so much for joining the conversation.

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    3. As far as the mathematical practices, Math in Focus has the rigor and complexity that requires perseverance in problem solving. It focuses on a precision of language, modeling of math and appropriate tools. It may be weak in constructing viable arguments and critiquing others but most math curricula are, and the teacher must add in those opportunities. Our grade level groups for math currently so I have an intensive group of 16 students. Most of them are behavior intensive as well, so self monitoring at centers and such is a nightmare. I do mini-lessons, then some do guided practice with partners, while I work with a small group for re-teach and fast finishers do stations (mostly review stuff I get from TPT and bloggers such as yourself). I also like that compared to EDM, Math in Focus is geared towards mastery. I may be biased because all the other math curricula I have used have been pretty bad, in my opinion. (Math connects, Houghton-Mifflin and EDM)

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    4. Thank you for your quick response to my question! I have to say this sentence in your response: "As far as the mathematical practices, Math in Focus has the rigor and complexity that requires perseverance in problem solving. It focuses on a precision of language, modeling of math and appropriate tools." makes me very excited to look a this one more extensively. Just when I thought I had narrowed them down........

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  11. We use Growing with Math, however this is our last year. We are in the process of adopting a new math textbook this year as well. It is so overwhelming. We have needed to adopt a new program for a few years but our district, actually our state, is not fully implemented into the common core until next fall and we wanted to choose a math program that aligns with the common core standards. I am interested to hear what you are thinking about the options out there.

    Kindergarten Kidlets

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    1. My plan is to compile all of these comments and the other data that I have received and write another post summarizing what I've learned. Thank you for your comment!

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  12. I have taught using three different programs in my teaching career.
    Scott Foresman, back in the day, great for practice not for differentiation. Maybe that's changed, who knows!
    Growing with Math, like Everyday Math. Hated it! The units were only meant to last for 2-3 weeks, and they spiraled too quickly.
    For the past 6 years I have been expected to use Investigations. It was great when I taught 2nd and 3rd grades, but for 5th it not ideal. The only part of it I use is the workbook for independent practice. Glad to hear your district isn't considering it. We won't be changing any time soon. Our district office curriculum team thinks its great. (* Sarcastic sigh inserted here.)
    Like others mentioned, I supplement, since our version claims to be Common Core Aligned, but they over exaggerated that!
    Hopefully your district will choose something great!
    EmilyK

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    1. Yeah, I wonder how much some of these textbooks are actually aligned to Common Core. How can any textbook truly be 100% aligned, like some claim to be. I guess with whichever book is adopted, I should expect to have to supplement like I have for the 18 years I've been teaching. Nothing new. I was just hoping that there might be some "magic" curriculum/textbook out there. Dreams :)

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  13. We adopted Scott Foresman Envision Series for Math two years ago. Last year I taught first grade. The series for first grade was awful. We have these HUGE workbooks ( no real textbook ) that has about 600 pages in it. I am not exaggerating. Our curriculum was not in the order of the book either. Can you imagine asking a first grader to turn to page 456? So you spend time pulling out the practice sheets and storing the humongous workbooks that won't even fit in the desks. Most of them time, I just used my own resources because it was a big waste of time and money.
    This year, I teach fourth grade. It is my first year in fourth grade. I taught first for the last nine years. The fourth grade has an actual textbook with plenty of practice problems and examples in it. I actually use the series much more in fourth grade than I did in first. Envision also comes with lots of online resources that I use on the smartboard. As far as Common Core... My belief is that textbook companies are going to make a lot of money by just adding those two words to the cover of their books with nothing different in the middle. :)
    Amy

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    1. We also use Scott Foresmn Envision Math. I teach 2nd grade and I love it!!! We also have the consumable textbooks. For the first four years that we had this series, we also had the huge books. However, I did not give the book to the kids, instead I tore out the unit (chapter) we were currently working on, punched holes in them, and had kids keep the entire unit in their binder. This year the came pre-torn and shrink wrapped. Each unit is wrrapped seperatly so it is very easy. I love all of the online resources. Also, we ordered tthe common core edition this year. I like it a lot! There are only 16 topics instead of 20. Also, it teaches all of the mental strtegie befoe you actully show the kids how to regroup. It has lots of math vocabulaary and problem solving. I LOVE it!!!! So far I haven"t had to supplement with any extra. I plan on supplementing after I finish all 16 topics. We are already on topic 11. Hope this helps!

      Jennifer
      Grade 2 Happenings

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  14. My school uses Envision Math. For K-2, there are "consumables" that are basically legal sized and folded in half, but no textbook. It takes a bit more organization on the teacher's part, but sending them home for parents to see was nicer than sending home a giant book, and I liked that the kids could write on them.

    Now that I'm in 3rd, we have the regular books. I honestly don't use them all that often because we have the digital component of the series. Every day starts with a short instructional video (not super interesting, but usually pretty good) and I stop along the way to encourage my students to share ideas with one another (a lot of WBT techniques work well during this!). My students/ parents can also view the videos at home in English and Spanish. Then, the guided practice and independent practice are available on the SmartBoard too- so we usually do the guided practice together, at least. The workbook has a page for each day. I do find that sometimes I wish we had more options for practice- there's 1 Reteach, 1 Practice, and 1 Enrichment worksheet for each, but if I need repeated drill of a subject like double-digit subtraction, I find myself supplementing with a previous series or online.

    The pacing is awkward. They expect us to do one lesson a day, but sometimes the lessons are things that I need to spend much longer or much shorter to truly teach to mastery. They do come with "center" activities, a problem of the day, a spiral review page, and a quick check for each lesson, as well. (They use bar models a little, similar to Math in Focus, but also encourage multiple different strategies.)

    I like the emphasis on number sense and understanding- for instance, they teach multiplication fact strategies in a really great way- but overall, I find that I need to supplement regularly and I can't fit in all of the things they think I should be able to fit in.

    In a previous school, we used Math in Focus. They brought all the grade levels into it at the same time, and it would really need to be rolled out one year at a time to truly work. It's a much smaller curriculum, meant to focus on deeper understanding, which is great- but in our school with high transiency, we felt there were just too many gaps and not enough review time. It does spend significant time on number sense, particularly in the lower grades, and I love the problem solving aspect- but I felt as though there were often 4-5 problems of practice for each lesson (for 2nd graders), and it never felt like enough practice for them to truly get it. We ended up using a standards calendar and using Math in Focus, our old curriculum (Harcourt, I think?), and online resources to develop our own lessons and practice. It just took a loooot of organization.

    If you end up not going for a curriculum, you should definitely look into purchasing some Marcy Cook math materials :) Sorry to write you a novel, but I hope it helps!

    Jenny
    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

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  15. I also recently attended the textbook caravan. Currently my district uses Everyday Math. The first year and a half, I could not stand it! However, it eventually started to make sense and, wow, have I seen progress! I agree that there is not a lot of practice and I do sometimes supplement. But as I teach each year, I find myself having to supplement less and less. It can be done in a workshop model. I think Beth Newingham has Info on her site for that. The company also provided a great deal of professional development for teachers. The biggest struggle is waiting a few years to trust the spiral. The other thing is that, like anything else, you have to make it your own. I hopeach my district decides to 're-adopt E.Math!

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  16. Real Math...especially common core math, can not be achieved by most of the textbooks currently in development. This is my second year teaching with the Core for Math. I design every lesson according to the standards. However, I think you have to be really comfortable in teaching the math to do that. We spend a lot of time looking at the math skills from a real world perspective. We share our discoveries using Edmodo. I also pull from some resources I have found from TPT and a few common core workbooks that are really good for reinforcing skills. While I have to tell you that my students are finally developing a love math, it has been a difficult adjustment for many of the parents. They want the traditional, lower level math problems that are in most textbooks. They can't see that by doing the real world math problems and applying the skills, the students are learning more than just solving a worksheet with problems on it. My advice for you is to look at the PARCC assessments that are coming in 2014 and recommend a text that matches how the kids are going to be assessed. The new assessments focus heavily on being able to apply the skills in real life math settings like comparing the number of people that different sporting event venues can hold. The kids will also be doing it online, so a textbook with a high level of technology and support for tracking data is important. Best wishes...I used to do that in my old district and I loved to see the new programs, but now I don't teach with the text. I would rather my district spend the money on iPads and apps for my classroom.

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