Sunday, February 26, 2012

Are (K-12) Math Textbooks Getting Worse?

Dan Meyer complains eloquently that paper can't do what screens can to help students enter into a problem-solving process. It's not about the books getting worse, but about other options getting better.

Folks who want us to teach in a conventional way decry the 'reform' math texts that have been coming out for the past few decades. I generally disagree, but I've seen some folks I respect complaining, so I listen and try to learn.

I'm trying to escape from textbooks, but that takes years of experience, and lots more support than elementary teachers get these days.

Here's an entirely different take on the textbook question, from inside the publishing industry. It's a bit scary how badly schools are being used and abused in the quest for more profit. (Of course, there's also lots of money to be made by the publishers at the testing end of the schoolroom, too.)

[Edit on 2-27: Here's another post about publishers making money off education. More of a rant.]

Scary stuff.

There is so much that schools could be, but right now they are being shackled, and are not providing healthy environments for kids and their learning.


  1. Fascinating, Sue, thanks for posting this. I know one publisher that is very committed to writers who are "teachers or those with a background in education and publishing to produce their materials" but I didn't know it was becoming so rare. The article is partly fascinating because you can figure out exactly who she's talking about by some of the hints she drops...and those are some of the "big names" in the publishing industry. I do know that it sometimes feels like publishers are trying to buy teachers with "stuff" bags or books or other goodie items. I always think that teachers see right through the stuff...but maybe not?

  2. This is a very on-topic post on Aljazeera about recent raids on free book sites:

    We need an educated world.

  3. There you have it. Inevitable consequences of working with involuntary clients.

  4. "Involuntary client" is a legal term for clients who don't choose to be clients. Like school kids - they don't make the choice about the whole endeavor themselves. They also can't refuse any parts of the service, such as books or teachers. This coercion leads to all sorts of consequences. For example, the quality of service inevitably suffers, because there are no natural checks and balances.

  5. I can't speak for too many textbook publishers, but for the last 9 years I've used McDougal Littell and Glencoe, and I'm so tired of them( Word problems are forced and the rampant use of names like Monya, Kishi, Vinh, Lakeisha is just silly. I don't know about other teachers' 6th graders, but mine have a hard enough time finding percents that they don't need to practice THIS problem: 451 is 75.2% of what number?


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