Math Textbook Recommendations

PWCS recommended Mathematics textbooks to the school board on Wednesday night.  Here is a link to the committee report and recommendations.

Having read the report and listened to comments from individuals on the committees, we have few questions and concerns.

Elementary Recommendation

  • enVisionMath by Pearson Publishing

There were roughly 49 people on the elementary textbook adoption committee – 9 were parents and the rest were teachers or PWCS administrative and school based staff.  The committee reviewed three textbooks – Math Expressions, enVisionMath, and Math Connects.  The committee rejected Math Expressions fairly quickly, which left enVisionMath and Math Connects as the two real choices.  enVisionMath was selected by the committee.

Several parents and teachers who are contributors here were on the elementary textbook adoption committee.  Please bear in mind that this group originally formed because of our shared opposition to Math Investigations and most of our contributors are not supporters of Investigations or the instructional approach it follows.  Their “gut feelings” about the recommended text, which reflect that shared belief, are below.

enVisionMath, in our opinion, is better than Investigations, but only marginally so.   One of the comments the textbook adoption committee made regarding enVisionMath was that it was overly simplistic and lacked rigor.  Several teachers noted that they didn’t think the materials in the enVisionMath lessons would fill a 60 or 90 minute block and wouldn’t be enough for our students to develop the deep understanding we’ve come to expect from them.   While enVisionMath has materials to support struggling learners, the materials for more advanced learners were sorely lacking.  That meant that a large number of the lessons would need to be supplemented with other materials.  Those other materials will likely come from Investigations as every instructional unit in enVisionMath is linked to a corresponding unit in Investigations.  The use of Investigations to supplement enVisionMath was noted by the committee as a positive. So, while it may seem that Investigations is going away, it won’t be going far.  The committee made a conscious decision not to disclose this in the report to the school board.

So why was enVisionMath chosen over Math Connects?  Ultimately it boiled down to three key factors:

(1) enVisionMath better supports the inquiry based approach to instruction followed in PWCS than Math Connects.  That means that transition to a new text will be easier as our students and teachers are familiar with the style and manner of lessons they’ll find with enVisionMath.

(2) enVisionMath has exceptional on-line materials, especially their virtual manipulatives.

(3)  enVisionMath is linked with Pearson SuccessNet.  Its teacher support tools, like lesson planning and assessment, are integrated into SuccessNet and can be shared with other teachers and administrators.

There are a couple of open questions regarding enVisionMath which were not discussed by the committee, but should be addressed.  enVisionMath is a subsequent edition of the SFAW text.  PWCS rejected SFAW in the last math textbook review because it did not provide the depth of understanding our students needed.  The 2005 / 2009 edition of SFAW is one of four texts being evaluated by the US Department of Education’s What Work’s ClearingHouse to ascertain its effectiveness.  The most recent release of the study noted that SFAW provided the least academic growth from Kindergarten to Grade 2 of the four texts being considered.  Clearly there were deficiencies in the SFAW program which lead us to reject it and resulted in the poor results from the WWC study.  What changes were made from the 2005 edition of SFAW to the current enVisionMath edition that leads PWCS to believe those deficiencies have been rectified?

Middle School Recommendations

  • 6th & 7th Grade Math – Big Ideas Math 6 & 7 by Houghton Mifflin
  • 8th Grade Math – VA Pre-Algebra by Glencoe McGraw Hill
  • Extended 6th Grade Math – Math Connects Course 2 by Glencoe McGraw Hill
  • Extended 7th Grade Math – Mathematics Course 3 by Prentice Hall

There were approximately 24 people on the Middle School textbook adoption committee – 4 were parents and the rest were teachers or math specialists.  A couple of our contributors were on the committee.  Their “gut feelings” are below.

Middle School Math courses are kind of confusing to sort out which makes the committee’s recommendation somewhat confusing.  There are three general “math tracks” in Middle School which we’ll refer to as the regular track, the extended track, and the accelerated track.

Students in the regular track will take 6th and 7th grade Math in 6th and 7th grades, respectively, and Pre-Algebra in 8th grade.    These classes follow the VA SOLs for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.  Students in this track will not be able to take Calculus in High School. The committee selected Big Idea Math for 6th and 7th grade Math and Pre-Algebra for 8th grade Math for students in the “regular track”.

Students in the extended track will take Extended 6th and 7th grade Math in 6th and 7th grades, respectively, and Algebra I in 8th grade.  Eligibility for extended Math is based on the student’s SOL scores, grades, and teacher recommendation.  In general, students who obtain an Advanced score on the Math SOL in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades will be admitted into Extended Math.  The extended courses follow the VA SOLs for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, but compress them by eliminating redundant standards.  In general, 6th grade Extended Math will cover all of the 6th grade and half of the 7th grade standards while seventh grade Extended Math will cover the last half of the 7th grade standards and all of the 8th grade standards.    These students will take Algebra I in 8th grade and, depending of the courses they take in High School, may be eligible for Calculus in High School.

The committee selected Math Connects Course 2 for 6th grade Extended Math and Prentice Hall Mathematics Course 3 for 7th grade Extended Math.  Students in this track will use the High School Algebra I text when they take Algebra I in 8th grade.

Students must pass an exam to enter the accelerated track.  They will take Pre-Algebra in 6th grade, Algebra I in 7th grade, and Geometry in 8th grade.  Depending on the courses these students take in High School, they will likely take Calculus in 11th grade and something else in 12th grade (no one from PWCS or my local Middle School was able to clearly articulate a 12th grade High School Math path for these students).

Each of the recommended texts received state approval for grades 6, 7, and 8.  From the comments of committee members, the Big Ideas text appears to be the least rigorous and most inquiry-based of the texts considered.  Some committee members expressed the concern that students taught with this text would be unprepared for Algebra in 9th grade. What Big Ideas Math appears to have is extensive teacher support and on-line materials, and that, combined with the support for inquiry-based instruction, appears to be the primary reason the text was selected.

This leads us to  a few questions.

(1)  Why would students in the “regular math track” be given a less rigorous text than students in the “extended math track”?  Why not use the same texts in both tracks, if both meet state standards and support our instructional approach, and both provide the rigor and depth of understanding we expect from our students?

(2) Big Ideas is a very new text series.  So new that there is no research, either independent or internal, assessing the effectiveness of the instructional program.  Is is wise to choose a text series that is essentially untested?

(3) Why do the extended math classes have one text series in 6th grade and a different text series in 7th grade?  Wouldn’t there be value in using the same text series for extended 6th and 7th grade Math?

(4)  The elementary committee stated that it felt it was imperative that the same text series be used from Kindergarten through 5th grade. One of the texts was approved by the state for use in Kindergarten through 8th grade.  If there is value in using the same text from Kindergarten through 5th grade, isn’t there value in using the same text from Kindergarten through 8th grade?

High School Recommendations

Algebra I – VA Algebra I by Glencoe McGraw Hill

Geometry – Geometry, VA Edition by Pearson

Algebra II & Algebra II / Trigonometry – Algebra II, Va Edition by Pearson

Various textbooks were recommended for Discrete Mathematics, Statistics, Trigonometry, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus with the choice left to the individual school.  We don’t have any questions about the High School texts recommended by the committee.

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