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Topic: Algebra Textbook Recommendation


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Subject:   RE: Algebra Textbook Recommendation
Author: Why Guy
Date: Jul 6 2007
I'm not sure anyone will care, but I have been asked by a colleague to make a
"contribution" to this discussion.  First, a "credential recap".  Public
Education for 35+ years, State Mathematics Supervisor for 5 years in Indiana,
Director of K-12 Mathematics for the Indianapolis Public Schools for 8 years,
Contributing Author in Secondary Mathematics for Houghton-Mifflin,
Addison-Wesley, and Scott-Foresman, and finally, Founder and Owner of
VideoText Interactive, a company which strives to "bring the textbook to life,
through technology".

Now for just a few observations.

1.  A quote from John Saxon's literature: "Do not try to teach your students to
think.  Practice, practice, practice.  Eventually they will get it."  I couldn't
disagree more.  I have two passions, which drive all of my work.  The first is,
I must make sure students understand "why" the mathematics is what it is.  Not
just why we "do" it the way we do, but why it even makes sense to CONSIDER doing
it that way.

2.  I never submitted any material for a text, with the student in mind, or,
(considering homeschooling or independent study) with the parent in mind.  I
always wrote for the teacher, who was supposed to have the background and the
expertise to fill in the "gaps and holes" we left in the text.  Of course there
were gaps and holes.  How can we anticipate the dialogue a student will have
with the instructor?  The textbook is a resource, primarily a source of
additional “examples”, a bank of exercises, and possibly a review of previously
encountered procedures.

3.  My second passion is to do everything I can to keep the student actively
engaged in the concept-development process.  There is no such thing as
"passive learning".  If you are passive, you aren't learning.  I never want
teachers doing the "error-analysis" of a student's homework or tests.  The
student must find the error, and additionally, must be responsible to "explain",
to someone, why the error was made.  That is the most powerful teaching tool we
can use.  Of course we never really provide the student with a “solutions
manual”, to aid in that analysis.

4.  As "certified" mathematics teachers, we have the potential of being some of
the most arrogant teachers in education.  We "know" a subject with which many
people have trouble.  And we don't often let you forget that.  When a math
teacher looks at my material (this actually happened) and says that it has the
most detailed conceptual explanations she has ever seen, and the most vivid
graphics clarifying the concept, and then says, "There's no way I would use this
in my classroom", that pretty much makes the case.  The follow-up was, "I will
never use anything in my classroom that can do a better job than I can."  Case
closed.

I have pontificated long enough.  If you have questions for this "arrogant ***
", I will try to respond.  If you want to examine my pedagogy further, my
website is www.videotext.com.  Don't bother with the Public/Private Schools
side.  It is basically undeveloped.  Needless to say, I am not looked on with
any great fondness in the General Education sector.  Honestly, I have very
little patience with a philosophy that believes some students are mathematically
inclined, and some are not.  Very simply, our students are a lot brighter than
they are being allowed to be.  Good luck to all of you who are laboring to make
sure your students “get it”.  You will probably not find a “textbook” that will
be much help.

The "why" guy

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