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Discussion: All Topics in Algebra
Topic: Algebra Textbook Recommendation

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Subject:   RE: Algebra Textbook Recommendation
Author: rg_4023
Date: Jun 29 2007
    I am a teacher of 8th grade mathematics, and have been in the field for some
30+ years.  In my own setting, we use the UCSMP books.  While I've just chanced
upon this discussion, and haven't had the time to digest it slowly, I would
nevertheless observe:

    a)  I believe the notion that "glitz" will enhance (or not)      the
efficacy of a textbook regrettably misses the point.  The glitz is there to sell
the books to Instructional Materials Committees that are as often as not
unversed in things mathematic ... they are not there to advance

    b)  The Saxon approach is not, I think, to be confused with teaching.  While
I can train a dog to fetch a newspaper for me, any discussion with it about an
article contained therein would (likely) be quite one-sided.  The "advantage"
this drill-and-kill method gives is the ability to assess easily and
accurately.  And with narrow, skill-oriented lessons, high scores on those
assessments can be achieved.  The disadvantage is that those scores represent
little more than mastering an algorithm ...  helpful for assessments, but
questionably so for actually learning mathematics (or for life, unless one's
chosen field is completing worksheets).

    c)  Yes, the problem is getting the students to do the reading.  Or the
assignment.  Since we have subscribed to Ken O'Connor's mantra that homework
must not be included in the scores that produce a student's grade (a philosophy
with which I am in entire agreement), my students submit roughly 10% of the
assignments I give.  
     [This is bemusing and befuddling to me.  I had a conversation with a
student who scored in the 60-70% range on most assessments,  whose anecdotal
and statistical evidence suggested a much higher achievement level.  I asked her
if she thought not doing her assignments was related to her low grades.  She
agreed that it was.  I asked if she and her fellow students completed their
assignments more regularly last year, when homework "counted."  She said yes.  I
asked why, and she replied that they did so because they wanted to get good
grades.  CLEARLY there is an inherent disconnect here.  At the risk of
hijacking, to some extent, this dialog, I'm compelled to put forth the age-old
question ... how do we get them to do their work???]

    d)  I think it necessary to issue a bit of a caveat when it comes to
homeschooling experiences.  Is it not comparing different fruits?  Is a
one-on-one environment not more likely to produce richer results regardless
of the medium used, provided the instructor actually understands mathematics?
When I have tutored privately my students invariably experienced greater
success.  The most important variable, I think, was the fact that I had that
student's full attention for a solid hour, not me or the materials I used.  

    I know that I can sometimes sound preachy, and for this I beg your
forgiveness.  This is a terrific forum, and the opportunity it offers for
rational discussion of serious topics is extraordinary.  

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