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Mathematics textbooks

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Kpnuts75, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. Hi all! 
    I'm due to start my masters dissertation in September and considering researching mathematics textbooks in some way - not exactly sure of the direction yet. As a secondary maths teacher myself I've noticed a decline in the use of textbooks in the classroom - despite the huge amount of money we spend on new textbooks every time there's a change in specification etc so thought it'd be useful to look at the effectiveness of them and whether the money would be better spent elsewhere.
    At this preliminary stage I'd really appreciate people's responses to the following questions to help me clarify the focus of my assignment.

    Does your department primarily use a set of textbooks for the pupils to work from? 

    What are the limitations of the text books that you use?

    What would your ideal textbook include?

    Many thanks in advance for taking the time to respond! All responses no matter how short greatly appreciated.
  2. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    agree to some extent, but we have more than ten years for pupils to learn the Maths required. Many pupils clearly have not learnt or understood much of the material by year ten.
    Is that because they have to learn to much, or are incapable, or do not work hard enough, or are badly taught, or use bad resources........
    I have a vague memory of the cycle of learning involving being introced to a new subject, practicing, embedding, gaining confidence, then being ready to move on with confidence.
    the new approach seems to only address the first two steps.
    Not sure what the huge rush is, by the end of just KS2, pupils will have had approx 1200 hours of maths tuition.
  3. GrahamLawler

    GrahamLawler New commenter

    going back to the original question, as an author I am interested in 'tell writing maths books' and 'show writing' textbooks. It seems to me that too many books are 'tell' books where the author is demonstrating their knowledge and not helping the student learn. One area of investigation could be to look at the style of writing in the book and see how the author breaks the question down into a way that the student can see how the answer is achieved.
    The best examples I have seen for 'show' wriitng are Open Uni texts. they coach the student through the problem and are based on constructivist methods. It would be interesting to know if ' show ' writing ( as I try to do in my books , blush!) actually leads as I believe it does, to an increase in attainment. As a follow up study, maybe a longitudinal study into the students you teach now and follow them for 5 years to see what maths they use and still remember. Would be good for a PhD.
  4. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

  5. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    We may be closer than some might think - I agree with all of this; I'm struggling to think of a KS3 textbook series that does everything I want as all seem to be very keen on having pictures of "happy, culturally sensitive children" doing maths-y like things and no where near good enough in providing structured examples and enough practice (all too often there are 6 questions of a type with question 4 suddenly being a step change in difficulty).
    But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be used, that collections shouldn't be used nor that some aren't better than others. (The Maths Frameworking ones are about the best of a not-too-great bunch).
    However, most of the KS4 text books are very good - and I've often used GCSE books with KS3 classes.
    I almost agree with that, I do agree that "follow the book" isn't always the best way to learn about some of the practical subjects (but, be fair, the best books include suggested investigations and activities for practical topics anyway - those don't have to be ignored).
    It was in part a jibe at your "lazy teachers" comment, but the thing about textbooks is they will have been written by a team who had the time to consider the NC (etc.) objectives very carefully. Their output will have been carefully reviewed. Printing checked for errors and so on.
    Sure, we all know that still means they're not perfect*, but the idea that just because a group of experts who's sole job was to produce this resource don't get it all right that means almost any teacher who's actually busy teaching over 200 kids, arranging school visits, detentions, teaching the occasional cover lesson and so on can consistently do better is, well, a little bit disconnected from reality.
    *and, over time, the errors will get corrected when they're noticed in class.. Do all Tarsia puzzles get corrected (and, yes, I do know Craig Barton has ideas about deliberate errors being put into Tarsia files and the great lessons that can mean - but a Tarsia file with unknown errors is a liability).
  6. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Thing is, OU texts can assume a level of literacy (and, frankly, "interest") that KS3 texts in particular cannot.
    (And even with literate classes, haven't we all had the situation of the "I don't get it" and, while explaining "it", the child says "oh, hang on.. it's all explained on the page, isn't it! I hadn't read it.")
  7. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I don't see why we should have to buy textbooks and a licence for 10ticks... There should be enough practice examples in the book without having to use enough photocopying paper each year copying 10ticks to deforest a small country.

    Some (most?) of the KS3 ones are bl**dy awful. I can't think offhand of any recent KS4 book I've not felt was pretty good and the latest Edexcel look very good to me.

    At A level, they seem to be uniformly very high quality with perhaps the OCR MEI being best, but there's not a lot in it.
  8. Thanks so much for everyone's responses - please keep them coming, they're much appreciated.
  9. Personally I don't buy into edutainment. However, I do like to do different activities with students from time to time, because I think they can have educational value. That said, I love textbooks and I think they get a bad rep unnecessarily. It's one of those vicious circles; it seems that textbooks have declined in popularity because some people think students don't respond as well to them, but in using them less, they get less used to them and so then they do respond less well to them.
    There are many students who like working from textbooks, even in challenging schools, and they like the focus/structure it can give them.
    It can help with behaviour management as they can provide easy routes for differentiation (such as easily directing students to extension tasks, easier questions, or the answers, which can be particularly useful with difficult but bright classes). They can encourage students to be more independent. Books have been used for centuries for study, and when students do A-levels and degrees, they will almost certaintly have to use textbooks to learn, and if they haven't had a regular diet of them throughout school, they will be at a disadvantage.
    Of course textbooks differ in quality. I find that most textbooks will do most things well, but the odd thing will be particularly weak or strong, which is where having a range of different textbooks is helpful, where you know to do a particular topic using a particular textbook.
    It irks me when I see teachers printing off 10ticks worksheets or similar (as my colleagues do regularly) as it's such a massive waste of paper when there's a stockroom full of books which will perform the same task. Ditto worksheets. Worksheets are good when there's something to be filled in such as a puzzle, but if it's just questions, textbooks are normally better.
    I very rarely see textbooks doing the actual maths in the way I do it or lay it out, and so I use textbooks mostly just for questions, and I model how I want the students to do the work.
    It's difficult to find a consensus as with anything in teaching, there are many different ways of doing something and nobody can say with any certainty (not even Ofsted) what the 'best' way is for a particular combination of teacher/student/class/school/subject, which is where professional judgement comes in.
    However, very interesting topic for investigation.
  10. This alarms me. Given the constraints of assessment (100% written examination), do you not feel it is appropriate for students to do individual, independent written work to consolidate the whole-class teaching?
    Also if you are teaching any higher ability children, aren't you doing them a disservice by not allowing them to use textbooks and do individual work? I have tried doing many different kinds of interactive/fun tasks with a particular top set year 10 I've taught this year and while they tolerate them, they are very vocal in expressing that they like learning something and then practising it.
    Personally, my teaching is made up of the following and I like to vary the methods:
    • whole-class teaching (such as doing a Starter of the Day or activity on the IWB, or teaching a topic by modelling worked examples and going through theory, use of mini-whiteboards to answer questions)
    • pair tasks such as working on a problem together, problem-solving tasks like Mathematical Team Games, Tarsias, card sorts
    • individual practice - questions on whiteboard or from a textbook
    • puzzles - cross numbers, puzzle pictures etc. which are basically practise dressed up in puzzles
    I try and have a range of different styles to cater for all, but feel that just doing one style all the time is rarely appropriate. I have been described as being quite a progressive teacher who likes trying 'new' things but I will never say that lessons should always be full of fun activities. There is definitely a place for textbooks and individual written work, for all students. Higher ability tend to like it anyway, and will need to develop those skills for later study. Lower ability students sometimes like doing written work from textbooks, but usually like other types of activities too. It's important to develop as many different skills as possible in my opinion. This is the reason I don't give a toss whether my students are V, A or K learners, as the learning experience I give them will have elements of all three: if they are good at a particular element it will be useful for them, if they are weaker at a particular style, they should practice it to develop it.
  11. I was trying to make the point of teaching in terms of "instruction" in reply to another poster's point. I meant that when it comes to introducing new knowledge, I don't get students to read the instruction from a textbook.
  12. Last year I left a school that had phased out text books in maths. This was for 2 reasons - at GCSE because of money (we had about half a class set per class, so we had to borrow and swap and plan in advance if we needed to use it, and homework had to be photocopied) and and at KS3 because our new HOF disliked them, feeling it was better practice for teachers to come up with their own resources (though that didn't stop him chuntering away over the photocopying bill!).
    A few suggestions were made to create laminated reusable 10ticks sheets to cut down on photocopying (and I recall suggesting, "hey, let's print off a load of 10ticks sheets for each student and bind them into a sort of booklet? We could call it something like, um, a textbook? Or - we could just use the textbooks we have festering away in the cupboard instead?")
    The downsides of this setup were:
    a) for NQTs, who didn't have years' worth of ideas and PPT resources and general backup, the text book would have been a useful scaffold
    b) the parents disliked it - they wanted to know what methods their kids should be learning, they wanted to be able to help with homework but could only half-remember the techniques themselves
    c) the photocopying - no matter how whizz-bang your folder of rich tasks is, it can't be denied that sometimes students really do need to practise a technique!
    d) the teachers felt that they weren't being trusted to use or not use the textbooks intelligently as a resource as appropriate
    e) cover was harder
    f) homework was harder to organise, and see point c above
    g) if a student was off ill for a few lessons it was hard to get them caught up via email
    I'm in a new school now, where every student has a text book, and we teachers are trusted to use it as appropriate (well, fancy that!) - it is left to our professional judgement to decide when the text book will be beneficial and when it won't. We also have IWBs, mini-whiteboards, Tarsias, etc, and we all use whatever we think is best for our class on any given topic. And I still have a few favourite worksheets that I have made myself and used and shared many times, too.
    The downside of this is that the text books we have are KeyMaths (ugh) - so I have used it very little in the classes that have it. However we are phasing in the Elmwood one, and I am finding it pretty good.
    It has investigations, practice, methods for parents to use to brush up if they want to help their children. Weirdly, it has a few pictures here and there that don't tie in with the questions, but we quite enjoy that too, trying to make the link between a picture in the Y7 book of a couple with their hands around each others' throats and the questions on the page - now there's lateral thinking problem-solving skills for you!! Does it link to the data handling question on marriage, or the one about Coronation Street?
  13. GrahamLawler

    GrahamLawler New commenter

    agreed but the point is that this styyle of writing is rare in school books. It actually costs more to do since it takes more paper. I try and use this style in my writing and the book I did with Arthur C Clarke has become very popular with parents, so it does work.

  14. gogojonny

    gogojonny New commenter

    The number one comment we get - it's very well setting a worksheet, but the pupil may not have copied down notes, may have been in a music lesson, they don't know what to do. Plus the sheet gets lost or eaten on the way home.
    I have long looked at MathsWatch CDs, internet resources (MyMaths etc), but you cannot beat sitting at a table with a book in front of you doing what you have been told to do. I think we forget that some pupils don't have computers, some may have one computer in the house and have to balance books on the side etc.
    As said above - teachers need to be trusted with textbooks. Not every lesson is a textbook lesson, but every homework should be book based in my opinion. Getting pupils to write down p54 1-10 in their diaries, is so much easier than a paragraph explaining how to do a worksheet.
  15. weggster

    weggster New commenter

    I'd agree with colleagues saying a good mix is the best.
    Textbooks, worksheets, mini-whiteboards, ICT, paired, group, individual, investigations, drills, inedpendent, collaborative, Tarsia,UKMT,10QQ, supermathsworld, mymaths etc etc
    A little bit of everything keeps the teaching (and learning) fresh.
    I'm often amazed how much I've forgotten to use for a while.
  16. euclidselements

    euclidselements New commenter

    Rather interestingly, the Ofstead report on Finnish pupils' success in mathemtics says 'Textbooks are the principal vehicle for delivering the mathematics
    <font size="2" face="Arial">(p19 point 28)</font>
    <font size="2" face="Arial">The report makes lots of positive comments about the textbooks. Well worth a read if you are researching textbooks, OP. </font>
    <font size="2" face="Arial"> </font><font size="2" face="Arial">I wonder if it is possible to get hold of a translation of one of these textbooks, my Finnish is not go good.</font>
  17. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    IMHO, the pressure not to use textbooks ("lazy teachers") is a significant part of the work-overload that is burning out many potentially good teachers.

    The endless pressure not to use a purpose made resource just makes no sense to me.

    And the queue for the department photocopier 5 minutes before lessons start is surely a symptom of a system gorn mad!

    (Let alone the cost of all these photocopies.. Even the kids protest the waste of trees!)
  18. euclidselements

    euclidselements New commenter

    This post makes a lot of sense to me. There are not enough hours in a day to make every lesson outstanding with resources that I have researched and created myself (and keep up with marking and ...). I would love a textbook that would allow differentiated work with rich problems and investigations and homework thrown in yet still support whole class teaching. The teacher in the Finnish video was allowed to leave the gifted pupil to reading ahead in the textbook and getting on with it while he taught the rest of the class. The pupils had their own copy of the textbook 'to keep' and it had homework tasks and all. I consider myself to be hard-working.
  19. euclidselements

    euclidselements New commenter

    You have a department photocopier?
  20. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    when i started this was the standard advice to a new teacher (no such thing as NQT when i started on a full timetable). Aim for half lessons standard, about a quarter showy and the remainder quiet and straightforward. Pace yourself by the lseeon, the day, the week and by a career. There was also an aknowledgement that pupils also needed some quiet lessons of just getting on as sometimes they were too high for excitement in the classroom (windy days, big sporting events etc etc)
    Now there is far too much expectation that we can all be super human all the time (what happened to the work life balance movement too?)
    How much longer before all PPA time is clawed back due to budgetary considerations?

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