Curriculum

Math Educators Tell Publishers What’s Needed

By David J. Hoff — October 10, 2001 3 min read

The next generation of math textbooks should cover fewer topics in more depth, offer teachers the tools to customize lesson plans, and try to reach students of varying ability levels.

Those suggestions came from educators, policymakers, and mathematicians attending a one-day mathematics “summit” here last week, sponsored by the nation’s textbook publishers.

“Please give us greater depth of instruction on fewer topics,” Barbara Montalto, the assistant director of mathematics for the Texas Education Agency, told the publishers. “Give us longer lessons linked together.”

The American Association of Publishers organized the meeting because math education has been one of the most controversial curriculum areas in recent years, noted Stephen D. Driesler, the executive director of the Washington-based association’s school division.

For instance, recent research from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, the most comprehensive international comparison of math education, suggests that American students spend too much time reviewing math topics they’ve already covered in previous grades, leaving little time to explore more sophisticated concepts.

That’s why Ms. Montalto told the textbook publishers that a book shouldn’t review what was taught to students the previous year. “Put it in an appendix or a separate book, only for the students who need it,” she said.

TIMSS researchers also concluded that American schools don’t do a good job teaching students the underlying concepts of mathematics, emphasizing instead repetition of math skills. (“Surprise! Analyses Link Curriculum, TIMSS Test Scores,” April 2, 1997.)

Several people at the meeting suggested that math textbooks need to do a better job addressing that situation.

Balance Sought

In recent years, advocates of traditional ways of teaching math that emphasize repetitive practice of skills and the mastering of algorithms have succeeded in revising standards in California, Massachusetts, and other states.

Some speakers at last week’s gathering suggested that publishers could walk a fine line between the two approaches.

One idea is that a publisher could produce a series of books outlining central mathematical concepts and principles that could be used for all students. Then a supplemental set of materials could “go beyond the standards” and include “all the fancy algebraic, algorithmic stuff that geeks like me enjoy,” said Joseph G. Rosenstein, a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and the director of the New Jersey Mathematics Coalition.

Publishers also should search for better ways to give teachers the materials they need to design their own curricula, added Mitchell Chester, the assistant superintendent for assessment at the Ohio Department of Education.

Speakers at the meeting said, for instance, that teachers would benefit more from a package of resources produced by the publishers than from just one textbook. Based on test scores and other information they have about their students, teachers should be able to make “decisions of where to go next in the curricula, rather than moving to the next chapter in the textbook,” Mr. Chester said.

Textbook publishers are gathering ideas for how to meet the recommendations offered last week. Most publishers will be revising their math texts over the next two years.

In 2003, California will add titles to its list of textbooks that it allows districts to buy with state money. With the largest market for schoolbooks, the Golden State drives what’s available in the rest of the country.

“There are some really good ideas,” Mr. Driesler said after the meeting last week in Washington, “and I’m looking forward to hearing back from publishers about their reactions to them.”

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
Educator Survey Results: Meeting the Demands of Hybrid Learning with eBooks
With COVID-19 altering nearly all aspects of daily life, including the way students learn, this survey sought insight from those on the f...
Content provided by OverDrive
Curriculum Opinion Eight Ways to Teach With Primary Sources
Four educators share ways they use primary sources with students, including a strategy called "Zoom."
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Curriculum The Dr. Seuss Controversy: What Educators Need to Know
The business that manages Dr. Seuss' work and legacy will cease publishing six books due to racist stereotypes and offensive content.
5 min read
A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair on March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator's legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children's titles including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" and "If I Ran the Zoo," because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would cease publication of several of the author's children's titles because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Steven Senne/AP
Curriculum Opinion The Overlooked Support Teachers Are Missing: A Coherent Curriculum
Here’s the research on how districts can improve instructional systems—which was already a challenge in the best of times.
Morgan Polikoff, Elaine Wang & Julia Kaufman
5 min read
A team of people work together to build a block structure.
Imam Fathoni/iStock<br/>