<<How many teachers out there try to each their students to be self-sufficient? Why can't the students be taught to read the book or books and learn the subject on their own? I have found that students who learn to read and understand the math text go way beyond the rest of the class. Has anyone done much with this?>>>
I expect to see a flurry of replys with the concern that it looks like you do not want to teach by doing the above. But... isn't that what learning is all about, becoming self sufficient. I think the fear is that we might teach ourselves out of a job if everyone could learn for themselves. The reality is that we could then communicate on a much higher plain with our students instead of being the givers of information. It also takes a lot of time and patience to accomplish self sufficience in students.
As an example I write a letter to my students before classes start and suggest they get the text and start reading the first chapter or two and work the problems. I try to be humorous and explain that I am not crazy but they may be for taking my class. I discuss they group idea a little bit and ask them to call me at home or school if they are concerned about my letter. I discuss the reason for trying the material before class and that this is the procedure I will try to use. I also try to make it clear that they do not need to become experts before class but that if the can ask good questions based on their homework then they will have a better chance to know the material by the end of class. If they come in cold they will leave only luke warm.
When I first did this I was terrified they would all drop the class. Who ever gets a letter from the teacher before school starts. To my relief and delight they loved it. Even though I was directiong them to get to work they liked the idea that I cared enough to contact them and offer help in advance. I aslo described all the math help options at school in my letter.
Finally when they get to class they have higher expectations about what I will do for them and if they look at the book they begin to get a better feeling about themselves. The group process is not lesse-faire but total involvement by the teacher.
I noticed this is my second post in a short time. Weonly have one line into the computer so when I get a chance (usually around midnight) I feel a need to maximize my use of the modem.