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Discussion: All Topics in Algebra
Topic: Algebra Textbook Recommendation


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Subject:   RE: Algebra Textbook Recommendation
Author: reese
Date: Jun 27 2007
This series of postings has been the most informative discussions on Saxon vs.
reform texts that I have read. I have been especially impressed by the tone of
respect of other opinions and the tendency to  give personal experiences and not
generalize too much from those experiences.

autumdove's experience of success with Saxon is a simple fact that those of us
who don't advocate Saxon should recognize. Forgive me autumdove, but the
"reinventing" argument seems to me to be math wars rhetoric and is not as
informative to me as your personal statement of experience with the books.

In that context, I will give my own experience with Saxon. As a brand new
teacher in 1988, I was, as most teachers were, very surprised to discover how
little computational skill my students had.
A year later when I saw the Algebra 1/2 book by Saxon, I thought, "This is it.
No bells and whistles. A 'just the facts ma'am' kind of book that gives students
the practice they need." When I actually tried using it though, I found that
many students were bored and rejected doing the work. I have seen this
experience reenacted with Saxon many times over. Most recently, a local
alternative school, run by parents of minority students chose Saxon from a group
of books that I presented them with. It lasted 3 months before the
parents/teachers felt it wasn't working.

I would also mention that in the old days, when I was a Saxon proponent, I spoke
with John Saxon on the phone and he repeated the "secretary down the hall"
comment about who could teach it. I also knew that Saxon was referred to as a
"teacher-proof" textbook. Yes, that's an insult to teachers. But my feeling
is, if it works, who cares about my ego, or teachers' egos, or anyone else's.
The question is, does it work? I think the answer in the case of Saxon, is that
in most, but not all cases, it doesn't work for the most meaningful parts of
what makes teaching and learning interesting and important: reasoning,
problem-solving, engaging with interesting and broad ideas,  and acquiring the
life-skills related to mathematics, which are rarely merely procedural. As
friend of mine,a 34-year veteran math-teacher, says, "taking a derivative is
not a life skill. Recognizing patterns, knowing when rates and directions change
course and such, are life skills." I guess I would have to say that being
successful in university math courses if and when you choose to take them is
also a good thing. If Saxon helped you do that autumdove, more power to you. I
would not generalize past your own experience though. I suspect others drop out
for their many individual reasons, not because of their school math texts.

George Reese

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