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Math Textbooks a Textbook Example of Bad Textbooks

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the bottom-of-the-barrel dept.

Books 446

theodp writes "Over at Salon, Annie Keeghan does an Upton Sinclair number on the math textbook industry. In recent years, Keeghan explains, math has become the subject du jour due to government initiatives and efforts to raise the rankings of lagging U.S. students. But with state and local budgets constrained, math textbook publishers competing for fewer available dollars are rushing their products to market before their competitors, resulting in product that in many instances is inherently, tragically flawed. Keeghan writes: 'There may be a reason you can't figure out some of those math problems in your son or daughter's math text and it might have nothing at all to do with you. That math homework you're trying to help your child muddle through might include problems with no possible solution. It could be that key information or steps are missing, that the problem involves a concept your child hasn't yet been introduced to, or that the math problem is structurally unsound for a host of other reasons.' The comments on Keeghan's article are also an eye-opener — here's a sample: 'Sales and marketing budgets are astronomical because the expenses pay off more than investments in product. Sadly, most teachers are not curriculum experts and are swayed by the surface pitches. Teachers make the decisions, but are not the users (students) nor are they spending their own money. As a result, products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful.' So, can open source or competitions build better math textbooks?"

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It's not just the textbooks (5, Informative)

Vanders (110092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238681)

It could be that key information or steps are missing

Entire exams [bbc.co.uk] have been ruined by incorrect questions. Apparently, reading and writing is not a hard requirement for being a mathematician.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (2, Interesting)

aurispector (530273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238777)

After seeing websites like "khan academy" it may be that textbooks are obsolete. Why keep reinventing the wheel if there are excellent individual lessons available for free online? Clearly the textbook market is turning into a scam because of the disconnect between buyers and sellers.

Perhaps entities accrediting teaching institutions should begin accrediting textbooks - formalizing the process of textbook selection instead of pushing this crucial decision to the lowest levels.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238823)

Lectures are extremely inefficient. Just use the same textbooks as 30+ years ago. Pre-university mathematics hasn't changed that much.

The correct solution would be, of course, to adopt a more left-wing education model. Soviet mathematics education was excellent, because (i) the USSR was interested in academic success as a vehicle to national technological advancement; (ii) it was not tainted by privatised publishers and exam providers desiring quantity over quality. China is following a not entirely dissimilar model, and they're doing kinda OK. Even France, keeping firm the foundations of its Polytechnique model, laughs in the face of America with the quality of its mathematics curriculum.

Capitalism simply does not deliver good education. There is no profit in a swathe of well-educated people, only the minimum needed to keep remaining consumers in line.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238945)

Exactly, old textbooks do fine for lower/middle school ... and in college professors should for the most part write their teaching material and photocopy it.

When I was in college teacher written materials (dictates) were being phased out in favour of hard cover books ... and without exception the courses became worse for it!

Re:It's not just the textbooks (5, Informative)

MadShark (50912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239029)

Uggg. I had several teachers in college that wrote their own "textbooks" for their classes(electrical engineering). They were extraordinarily smart individuals, but their writing sucked. They were desperately in need of a technical writer and an editor. The ones that didn't completely suck were not any better than the normal books I had for my other classes.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239067)

This.

And this [textbookleague.org]

Re:It's not just the textbooks (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238951)

Just use the same textbooks as 30+ years ago. Pre-university mathematics hasn't changed that much.

This is really where the open source model should be shining. If you're buying books to 100,000 students, then really you should be buying the copyright, not paying through the nose for each copy. As an author, I'd happily take a $30K up-front payment to write a textbook and hand over the complete writes to the country's education system. Then can then do a big print run initially, and a smaller run each year to replace ones that wear out. If they need to make corrections, they can print errata pages for the existing copies and just fix them in the new edition so when the old ones wear out they're replaced with ones with the fixes. And, of course, since they own the copyright they can give students PDF versions to keep.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239175)

The problem is that method would make a lot of bureaucrats look useless Those bureaucrats are the people get to be wined and dined by the publishers before making the book-choosing policies.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (4, Insightful)

medcalf (68293) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239139)

Capitalism has nothing to do with public education in the US. It's a social-bureaucratic system with curriculum preferences driven by California and Texas.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (5, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239281)

The textbook providers are capitalist enterprises. The article correctly points out that their incentives are to do whatever it takes to sell books, not to provide the best possible books.

The fact that this even affects MATH texts indicates how pervasive and corrupting the process is. Unlike history and science, there is no need for the content to change from decade to decade. We could have optimized math texts long ago.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239169)

Lectures are extremely inefficient.

Just a quote (I'm in a quoting mood today):

People have now-a-days got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be best taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shewn. You may teach chemistry by lectures:-- You might teach the making of shoes by lectures!

(Dr. Samuel Johnson writing to his friend Boswell)

Re:It's not just the textbooks (1)

Lord_Jeremy (1612839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239231)

I remember my high school had to throw out a whole bunch of math textbooks and either buy the latest edition or buy a totally different series altogether because a student found a copy of the solution manual online and passed it around. Since practically every student in the classes that used that particular book suddenly started turning in the exact same "textbook" solutions to the homework, the teacher caught on immediately. Sadly, it made the book useless for assigning homework.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (4, Insightful)

fche (36607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239251)

"Capitalism simply does not deliver good education."

Where exactly is the capitalism in the current education system? Money flows are so disconnected from the ultimate consumers (students), that there exist hardly any market signals.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (4, Insightful)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239277)

Lectures are extremely inefficient. Just use the same textbooks as 30+ years ago. Pre-university mathematics hasn't changed that much.

Actually, it has. A couple years ago my high-school aged son was stuck on a math problem: Plot a linear approximation through a set of points. I didn't remember the exact technique so I looked it up in his textbook. "Step 1: Enter the points into a graphing calculator. Step 2: Press the 'linear regression' button."

For better or worse, computers and powerful calculators are part of the curriculum. My younger son's Algebra 1 book has frequent "Spreadsheet Activity" and "Graphing Calculator Activity" sidebars.

Insert generic "In my day..." rant here. You could borrow the one used by my parents when my generation got to use 4-function calculators, or the one used by their parents when they got to use slide rules.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (5, Insightful)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238931)

The reason to keep reinventing the wheel is because reinventing the wheel costs lots of money.

The monopolistic nature of the public education system means that customer demands - the parents - can be ignored. So, we've got a textbook industry that can ignore cost and can ignore efficacy, since their customer is the school district, but can't ignore political fads.

If you want textbooks to get relentlessly better and relentlessly cheaper then the people who are urgently concerned about the safety and effective education of the kids - parents - have to assume direct control over education.

That's in the process of happening with the spread of charter schools, vouchers, parental trigger and tax credits but we're only just now getting to the point that those changes are starting to impact education. But another two to three years should see the monopolistic complacency of the public education system shattered as the nature of public education, and the costs of that nature, are more widely understood as they stand in contrast to the alternatives.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239073)

Yeah, the problem with the education system is there's not enough profit motive. The facts that education is always best in countries with a more socialist education model and reduction of quality of education in the US and the UK has coincided with a move to the right should be ignored. The free market is as a god and must be worshipped at all costs.

It's always been possible to go to private school: your parents pay for it or you earn a scholarship. I did the latter - all I had to do was work hard during and after school for a few months rather than jacking about. It's always been possible to be home schooled. The problem is not a lack of or neutered demand for good education. The problem is that there is no demand whatever for good education because society doesn't want it. What the country demands is ever more unthinking, pliable, robotic cogs, trained to do a few things well and everything else badly. And the current education model is delivering exactly that.

If I am a capitalist education provider then I want as many people as possible adopting my solutions, and I couldn't give a fuck how good they are because 100,000,000 idiots buying my product are better than 1,000 smart people (who aren't stupid enough to buy an education product from a business anyway). And FWIW I worked for a publisher-owned exam board for around a year, before I developed a moral compass. We knew exactly what we were doing. We loved people like you because you were essentially free advertising - the same sort of idiots who use phrases like "choice in healthcare" to mean "expensive, inaccessible private healthcare dominated by inefficient insurers".

Re:It's not just the textbooks (1)

jouassou (1854178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238789)

Apparently, reading and writing is not a hard requirement for being a mathematician.

Neither is artihmetic, as demonstrated by Emma King -- a theoretical physicist with both dyslexia and dyscalculia. If you've got a few minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching this [vega.org.uk] interview with her; it's quite fascinating to see someone incapable of basic arithmetic be so adept at abstract maths.

Re:It's not just the textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239207)

I doubt I'm nearly as good as here in math, but I was D in arithmetic and A in Algebra myself. I mix around numbers in my head all the time. Sometimes I completely invert numbers (eg. 12345 as 54321)

Re:It's not just the textbooks (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238847)

It could be that key information or steps are missing

Entire exams [bbc.co.uk] have been ruined by incorrect questions. Apparently, reading and writing is not a hard requirement for being a mathematician.

It has alaways been like that. I can remember back in the 70s we were given a previous year's GCE A-level paper for homework. There was one question that we all decided was impossible. The teacher agreed, but we had one genius in the class (who later got a full scholarship to Cambridge) who said "Sir there is a solution in terms of sets using number theory" and then wrote some stuff up that none of us understood.

History too (4, Interesting)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238717)

A great book, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" details the history textbook situation which is pretty bad too.

Re:History too (4, Interesting)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238771)

It's not obligatory reference, but I think it sums it up very nicely: http://xkcd.com/803/ [xkcd.com] . In one episode of myth busters they were making concrete airplanes. Adam made the strangest wing I've ever seen, but I think it could be inspired by such example like in this xkcd strip. And it didn't fly almost at all.

Re:History too (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238871)

It's not obligatory reference, but I think it sums it up very nicely: http://xkcd.com/803/ [xkcd.com] . In one episode of myth busters they were making concrete airplanes. Adam made the strangest wing I've ever seen, but I think it could be inspired by such example like in this xkcd strip. And it didn't fly almost at all.

Oddly enough, for appropriate large vales of the definition of concrete, a concrete airplane is not out of the question (Love MythBusters, missed that episode alas so i can't comment on their conclusion); especially if you include one of my professors comments tab a brick can fly if it has a big enough engine. Seriously, the ASCE Student Chapters have held concrete canoe races of rears; with some pretty impressive canoes that were very strong and lightweight; even while meeting the classic concrete "paste and aggregate" definition.

Re:History too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239025)

Love MythBusters, missed that episode alas so i can't comment on their conclusion

Bittorrent has all the episodes available with a few mouse clicks...

Re:History too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239263)

a brick can fly if it has a big enough engine

"with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. [ietf.org] "

T'was ever thus (4, Interesting)

SpinningAround (449335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238719)

'Sales and marketing budgets are astronomical because the expenses pay off more than investments in product.'

Ah, so textbooks are the same as 'enterprise' software then...

Re:T'was ever thus (1, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238857)

capitalism fail.

A Nation of Retards (1, Troll)

LeAzzholeChef (2576267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238727)

HOORAY FOR AMERICA... Cultivating a nation of retards and morons. LETS HEAR IT FOR OUR CAPITALISTIC EDUCATION SYSTEM.... Pushes the red button. *Instead of a nuclear explosion, we hear another speach of gaseous substance from out president condoning the practices of quantity over quality"

Re:A Nation of Retards (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239253)

As usual its not capitalism at fault its where capitalism and government collide that we have problems. We have private industry producing education materials and and public educational entities that have consistently worked over the past century and half to make sure it is far beyond the reach of accountability to those it serves.

Private schools in most parts of this nation spending drastically less per student (even when adjust out the cost of special ed for they don't provide) than most public schools. They also achieve consistently better results. Now some of that can be ascribed to their picking their pupils and the usually superior social and economic backgrounds of those pupils; hover it does appear at least on the surface the more ideologically pure capitalist institutions do better with less than the socialized educational services that are provided.

A fully vertically integrated socialized education system might work well too, but we don't have one of those here in the US to look at; and looking at international ones would only add more difference difficult to control for.

So once again don't bash capitalism; its not at fault here. You only think that because of leftist propaganda. Clearly the fault lies with the way public education is being run. Its public education that is creating a market for second and third rate educational materials. Capitalists are merely serving that market. They have finite number of customers (public school districts), if those customers demanded different terms, and something better they'd get it. They don't because they be run be the inept; who were trained by the inept before them, and they don't like or want change; and won't have their ideas challenged by outsiders. The who institution of teacher education, license, curriculum development, degree requirements, etc is run like mid evil guild.

This applies to ALL textbooks (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238729)

This issue is found with all textbooks, and has always been a problem. Even in the 70s and 80s, pretty much every textbook I used in high school and university had mistakes, omissions, and unsolvable chapter-problems.

The difficulty with learning maths and sciences stems from the fact that they tend to deal with abstract concepts, procedures, and algorithms for performing mathematical calculations. In the age of calculators and instant-gratification web searches, not only aren't students willing to put in the time to learn "how" to do something, they aren't even interested in learning "why" they should do something.

Instead, they point to their computers and the web as being able to do the work for them, and question the sanity of learning "the old way" of doing things. If the only purpose of an education was to prepare people for the workforce, I'd agree with them -- but the point of an education is to learn how to learn, how to interpret, and how to understand material. An education isn't about the facts taught, but about the learning process that prepares you for a lifetime of learning as you deal with new technologies, products, and ideas during your time on this planet.

Re:This applies to ALL textbooks (5, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239075)

The solution is simple: use PDFs of public domain textbooks. If you like, order a cheap bound copy of the PDF to be made.

Basic math hasn't changed much in a century, and there are numerous old textbooks out there that are generally proofread better than modern textbooks. I have found the problems are often better structured and designed as well.

Sure, there are minor changes in terminology, which any good teacher can address. But we should do this even just to save the backs of young kids -- those old textbooks are small, short, and therefore light to carry, rather than a 700-page glossy book that weighs 10 pounds (why the heck do we need this for math textbooks?).

When I was in junior high and high school, I picked up a lot of such old textbooks at used book sales for nothing. I think I learned more from them than I did from my actual math classes...

Rushing?! For What?! (5, Insightful)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238731)

Its not like Math changes every year. The text book industry and publishers are just ripping students off every year. If they would just publish one edition of their text books, we wouldn't have this problem.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (5, Insightful)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238817)

+1.

There is absolutely no need for the textbooks to be revisioned as often as they are. Each year students are forced to purchase a new presentation of the same subject and material that has been available and defined for decades. I mean really, is there any NEW Calculus 101 research being done within the last 3 decades? Publishers ensure a new purchase every year by revisioning their books with no value updates. I think it amounts to industry abuse.

The problem is made worse by the rapid evolution of supporting software, hardware, and the operating systems they run on. I can't wait until our computer tools mature enough to be as least as stable, reliable, and long-lived to last through a four-year degree course without putting the user at a disadvantage near the end of the degree.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (2)

wrook (134116) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239037)

Fair enough, but educational techniques *have* been changing (albeit not at the rate of new textbooks). I teach English to Japanese students and while the English language has barely changed at all (at least the basics that I'm teaching), the techniques for teaching language are nothing like they were 30 years ago. In fact, I'm frustrated that textbook writers obviously haven't reviewed the research in learning and language acquisition recently (or more likely ever). I *want* new textbooks that at least try to use concepts like comprehensible input.

Having said that, there is a series of math textbooks from Saxon that apparently uses interleaving (spreading types of problem through the textbook rather than doing all of one type in one place, and then move on to the next type). I haven't looked at them, but if its true I applaud them for trying to incorporate new ideas.

In the end, I use a text book in my classes. The students are forced to buy it. Everyone gets their kickback and everyone's happy. Then I rewrite the textbook so that it doesn't suck (seriously I write 1000 pages a year). Kind of kills the photocopying budget, though...

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (3, Insightful)

roothog (635998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239171)

Fair enough, but educational techniques *have* been changing

Well, if you look at the trend in math, it's pretty clear that the changes have just made math education worse. Maybe what we need to do rather than create new texts and new techniques that don't work is resurrect older techniques and older textbooks that actually seemed to educate.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (4, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239209)

While pedagogical techniques have changed over the years, basic math hasn't. And old textbooks written, say, more than about 50 years ago, didn't have much "filler" in terms of pedagogical methodology.

You just have a very brief explanation of definitions and concepts, followed by a set of problems. The pedagogical method is left to the teacher to fill in, as it should be. No necessity for glossy photos of random non-math things or muticultural scenes in a math textbook, as we fill pages and pages with today.

Perhaps languages are different in this regard, although I have to admit I personally learned more about foreign languages than from any other book after I picked up a comparative grammar of six languages designed for language instruction that was published in the 1860s. The advances is elementary language instruction pedagogy, as far as I can tell, have mostly to do with replacing competent teachers who can speak fluently with lots of recordings that have to be cued to the textbook... which seems like the primary driving force for new editions of language books... but I'm no expert. (I am, however, a certified secondary math and science teacher.)

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238827)

You mean that version 8 of my calculus book didnt fundamentally alter the foundations of calculus?

Math textbooks are probably one of the few subjects, for all students before Jr year engineering/physics/etc, that would probably benefit from stability and fewer revisions.

I cant see how for HS the same texts from 1990 wouldnt be sufficient.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

Soporific (595477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239269)

I cant see how for HS the same texts from 1990 wouldnt be sufficient.

Because I hated math then, when I went to HS and never learned it well so I'm hoping they did something in the meantime to make it more palatable? ;)

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238843)

Exactly. The problem is not that there aren't good textbooks, but the teachers who only buy the newest shiniest crap. But when a teacher is incompetent then the book is the least of the problems.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239127)

Teachers never buy textbooks, they get them for free from the publishers for being a teacher and they simply use what they got this year because it was free to them.

Let's face the real facts here: arithmetic hasn't changed at all in the past 100 years. American History from 1500 to 1900 hasn't changed in the past 100 years. Newtonian physics hasn't changed in the past 100 years either. Unless you're teaching kids about quantum electrodynamics, then there's no reason to use a new edition of a textbook every year.

Okay... now there's the funniest part - fair use. Under Title 17 section 107, it is considered fair use (not subject to copyright) if the copying is done "for nonprofit educational purposes". So you can legally copy all your school textbooks and give them out for free since they are all for nonprofit educational purposes.

The textbook industry is a leech on the education system.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238887)

Problem solved:

ck12.org

Lots of free, online, modifiable textbooks...an amazing treasure trove....

Here's another example:

fhsst.org

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238929)

Its not like Math changes every year. The text book industry and publishers are just ripping students off every year. If they would just publish one edition of their text books, we wouldn't have this problem.

True, but there is no money in that. More to the point, you could use out of copyright texts for much of the basic high school curricula with some minor updates and have a decent textbook. That's why marketing and sales budgets are so high - you need to create a perception of need and thus demand to feed the system.

I have helped high school kids with math and physics, and usually wind up going back to basic principals so they understand what they are doing and then can solve problems. Even then, with an engineering degree I sometimes find some problems so confusing that I am not sure how to get the answer, and often find ones with the wrong answer. I shudder to think what kids do that don't have access to someone that actually understands basic math and physics.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239121)

True, but there is no money in that. More to the point, you could use out of copyright texts for much of the basic high school curricula with some minor updates and have a decent textbook. That's why marketing and sales budgets are so high - you need to create a perception of need and thus demand to feed the system.

In other words, They need the budget to subvert the operation of a free market.

Re:Rushing?! For What?! (2)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239189)

The reason they publish so many editions is to combat used textbook sales, especially in freshman and sophomore level undergrad programs. Professors sometimes write their own books as well, which are required when you take their course which is required for various degrees. A linear algebra course I once took was written by the department head if memory serves me correctly. The first edition had algebra misspelled as "algegra" on the binding. It understandably got a second edition. Too bad the book itself was quite horrible.

Of course when you continue through a math degree as I did they tend to use golden standard textbooks which haven't changed in years or decades receiving a new edition very rarely. By about my junior year we were using a lot of books from Springer which is a pretty decent publisher. Sometimes we'd use reference books from Dover which are mostly translated Russian and German texts that are quite old. Other courses such as differential geometry used "standard" textbooks like do Carmo's "Differential Geometry of Curves and Surfaces". I was even fortunate enough to have some really awesome professors. My differential equations instructor didn't even use or require the department's required textbook (some 50th edition book). Rather he taught from a bunch of his graduate textbooks which I actually bought after asking him.

That's not to say there shouldn't ever be a revised book. Errors slip through, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Sometimes a new edition would also benefit from recent advancements in the field. Though this is less of a concern in math as new advancements are generally way above the rigor of an introductory textbook in the subject matter. However, in areas such as computer science this could definitely be a good thing for students every once in a while.

I think it comes down to how much publishers think they can make off of students. A lot of undergraduate mathematics is required by so many different fields that it makes sense why they do this (to prevent used book sales and make more money). When you start to advance towards a graduate program the number of people who need to take those courses drops off a lot. Perhaps the relatively recent F/OSS textbook movement could help here, although I doubt it. When it comes to K-12 I'm sure the situation gets a lot more cloudy because of ever changing standards though. Then again a lot of schools have relatively little money, I know the high school I went to gave us extra days off and only had half of the lights on in the building because they couldn't afford utilities. So perhaps F/OSS textbooks would work really well here.

Wow. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238739)

Bad title a titular example of bad titles.

If the school has them at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238753)

I'm on my way out of teaching math, and the school I'm in doesn't have enough textbooks for the students to take them home at night. Which to my mind kind of defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. A lot of my learning in math class happened as I was struggling through the homework trying to make connections between the solution in the back of the book, the notes I had taken, the problem, and the worked examples in the textbook. To take two of those away, even if they're bad at times is just criminal.

look on the bright side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238779)

At least the children (and possibly, their parents) will learn how to solve unsolveable problems.

An example of a good Maths Text Book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238793)

Engineering Mathematics by K.A. Stroud.

Ken was my maths lecturer when I did my Engineering Degree at Lanchester Poly in the 1970's. I have a well thumbed signed 1st Edition.

Obligatory Feynman Writing On Textbooks (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238799)

Feynman wrote about the problems with textbooks and textbook selection [textbookleague.org] in the 60s. Sadly, I don't think much has changed. It might have gotten worse. I do hope that open source textbooks and book readers might help, eventually, if we can prevent the systems from perpetuating textbooks as revenue generation first and teaching aids second.

Re:Obligatory Feynman Writing On Textbooks (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239203)

And the sad thing is that Feynman's lectures have mostly been locked out of the classrooms despite being excellent introductory physics material. There are few good textbooks out there and it really is a shame that we're not even using some of the best.

Having Feynman's lectures during my introductory courses would have been a boon. Instead we got crappy state-sponsored books that barely taught anything.

Math vs. History (4, Interesting)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238803)

Math perhaps but anything with any political aspect will be fought over, i.e. Texas re-writing history textbooks in an effort to lesson the constitutional barriers of separation of church and state.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/17/AR2010031700560.html [washingtonpost.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html [nytimes.com]

At I suggest (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238829)

1. Life of Fred 2. Singapore 3. If you're going to go the traditional route, at least get people who know the subject and teach them to teach, instead of putting people who don't know the subject in front of the kids. Then the textbooks would matter less anyway.

Re:At I suggest (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238893)

1. Life of Fred 2. Singapore 3. If you're going to go the traditional route, at least get people who know the subject and teach them to teach, instead of putting people who don't know the subject in front of the kids. Then the textbooks would matter less anyway.

Good idea, but you'd actually have to pay them enough to want to take and keep the job. I've worked with school districts and many teachers, and when a starting teacher right out of school with a math / science degree can make 2x elsewhere - you do the math.

Or, as one teacher I know puts it - "You can tell the teachers whose spouse have real jobs by the cars they drive." Sad, but true.

Re:At I suggest (1)

dietdew7 (1171613) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239035)

One problem is that many public school districts aren't allowed to pay more for teachers with special skills. A starting math teacher has the same pay a gym teacher. It's been that way for a long time. In my opinion a qualified math or science teacher is worth more than a gym teacher.

Re:At I suggest (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239187)

One problem is that many public school districts aren't allowed to pay more for teachers with special skills. A starting math teacher has the same pay a gym teacher. It's been that way for a long time. In my opinion a qualified math or science teacher is worth more than a gym teacher.

Even worse, in some districts a gym teacher who is a coach makes more than a math teacher; if he is a winning football coach he can do quite well once booster money kicks in.

Can't figure it out? (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238835)

If you can't even figure out that you can't figure out a problem - because there is something wrong with the problem - then you didn't understand what math is all about. Hint: It's not about rote memorization of solution recipes.

Slashdot Subjects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238837)

Slashdot Subjects the Subject of Bad Slashdot Subjects

Feynman - Books and Covers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238849)

Does this remind anyone of the saga recounted in Feynman's "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" - reproduced here [textbookleague.org]

Things don't change.

Re:Feynman - Books and Covers (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238921)

But maybe they do...

From Feynman, "I'll give you an example: They would talk about different bases of numbers -- five, six, and so on -- to show the possibilities. That would be interesting for a kid who could understand base ten -- something to entertain his mind. But what they turned it into, in these books, was that every child had to learn another base! And then the usual horror would come: "Translate these numbers, which are written in base seven, to base five." Translating from one base to another is an utterly useless thing. If you can do it, maybe it's entertaining; if you can't do it, forget it. There's no point to it."

Perhaps in 1964 he was correct. I can tell you that as recently as last night I was refreshing myself on subnetting and had to convert between base 2 and base 10. Kind of interesting when you really look at it from his perspective in 64 and our perspective in 2012. It also illustrates the pitfalls in appeals to authority even if that authority was really smart.

Re:Feynman - Books and Covers (1)

MadShark (50912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239081)

So computer science, and electrical engineers should learn base 2, base 16, and maybe base 8. I would even go so far as to make everyone learn converting between base 10 and one other base so they learn the concept. 99% of people are never going to need to do base conversions, and of the remaining 1%, they are pretty damn unlikely to need to convert between base 5 and base 7. Humans work with base 10 for good reason.

Re:Feynman - Books and Covers (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239243)

Humans work with base 10 for good reason.

Yeah, you can always spot aliens by the way they count change in base 2*pi.

(Also, by the fact that they have pi fingers on each hand.)

Re:Feynman - Books and Covers (1)

PDF (2433640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239249)

Humans work with base 10 [ten] for good reason.

What reason(s)? All I can see are:

  • Because we have ten fingers and ten toes,
  • because ten is a product of two and five making division by these two numbers easier,
  • and simple momentum (it's too late to change now).

I personally think that hexadecimal is a superior system, especially for communicating with binary computers which use binary naturally. The only reason we can't use it is because we decided that ten was a great number base for some reason.

This is a definitely a real problem, but... (5, Informative)

kentsta (1624755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238855)

....as a former math teacher, I can assure you that teachers rarely get to make the purchasing decisions regarding textbooks. Teachers, even most rookies, can tell when a textbook is bad, but have to use what they are given for the most part. They are free to supplement the curriculum with their own created content, but of course they are expected to mostly teach the state standards with the given textbooks.

Re:This is a definitely a real problem, but... (3, Insightful)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238905)

I came here to say exactly that. I've never seen where a teacher in elementary or secondary schools has been able to select a book. The school itself doesn't generally get to select them either. The books are selected by the school board or their designees (often, in practice, by a group of folks in the school district office). From what I've read here (http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/02/12/182223/texas-textbooks-battle-is-actually-an-american-war) and on other sites, the books selected by the Texas board of education become a de facto standard for many places. I doubt there are many places - at least in the US - where an individual teacher has much voice at all in selecting a textbook for primary education.

Re:This is a definitely a real problem, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239157)

I think this is an American problem. I teach math at a European high school and the council of math teachers at my school are free to buy the books we want (within economic limits)

I could write my own book if I hadbthe time, but I find that there is a healthy competition among the publishers, so there is no need to wite my own book.

I knew the day would come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238861)

When I couldn't help my children solve "What is 1 + 1?" because the answer is "3". God bless America.

meals and free gifts - why is bribery accepted? (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238881)

products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful

Why are companies allowed to get away with bribing teachers into choosing their textbook? This article seems to be focused on K-12. So in the US at least, in many cases the money for those textbooks is public money. How is this any different than bribing an elected official to give your company a contract?

Re:meals and free gifts - why is bribery accepted? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239019)

products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful

Why are companies allowed to get away with bribing teachers into choosing their textbook?

None of the teachers I know ever got a free pencil, let alone lunch, form a textbook company.

This article seems to be focused on K-12. So in the US at least, in many cases the money for those textbooks is public money. How is this any different than bribing an elected official to give your company a contract?

It's called marketing.

How about no textbook at all? (5, Interesting)

portforward (313061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238883)

My son's elementary school uses "Math Investigations" which is part of that "new math". You know, the type that believes that it isn't necessary to learn multiplication tables, or that your really only need to learn a few fractions: 1/2 1/3 1/4 and that is it. Oh yeah, and you shouldn't "stack" numbers while adding. He doesn't have a text book. He only brings home photocopied worksheets.

I complained to the teacher. They referred me to the principal who referred me to the district's elementary math education supervisor. Long story short, when schools say they want parents involved, they are lying. That is the last thing that they want. They want you to chaperone field trips. They want you to help fund raise. But when you want to actually input on the fundamentals of education, they shut you out. Even though you might have been a physics major and tutor, and brought peer reviewed research sponsored by the Department of Education pointing out that their particular math curricula has students score lower on standardized tests they imply that you don't know what you are talking about.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239053)

My son's elementary school uses "Math Investigations" which is part of that "new math". You know, the type that believes that it isn't necessary to learn multiplication tables, or that your really only need to learn a few fractions: 1/2 1/3 1/4 and that is it. Oh yeah, and you shouldn't "stack" numbers while adding. He doesn't have a text book. He only brings home photocopied worksheets.

I complained to the teacher. They referred me to the principal who referred me to the district's elementary math education supervisor. Long story short, when schools say they want parents involved, they are lying. That is the last thing that they want. They want you to chaperone field trips. They want you to help fund raise. But when you want to actually input on the fundamentals of education, they shut you out. Even though you might have been a physics major and tutor, and brought peer reviewed research sponsored by the Department of Education pointing out that their particular math curricula has students score lower on standardized tests they imply that you don't know what you are talking about.

That's because you started at the wrong end of the equation when trying to solve the problem. Teachers are forced to teach from a schools defined curriculum, deviation from it results in problems for them, even if they are actually doing better at teaching. Bringing in a bunt of research is one no use because they can't change the system easily; even if many are in agreement with your points. I know teachers that constantly complain about why the district forces them to do and how it impacts real learning; but any complaints would at best fall on deaf ears or at worst result in retribution. For what they get paid that don't need to waste their time or suffer for trying to fix things.

You need to convince the school board, and bring enough other parents (voters) along to get attention. School Boards only fear losing an election; actually doing things to help educate their students is a secondary consideration at best. Even better, get some support and run for the school board.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239077)

It isn't necessary to learn multiplication tables. They are an utterly useless thing to learn. I never learned them - or more importantly, I never learned them by rote. The critical moment for me was well after I'd muddled through 4th grade and started messing around with BASIC, and thinking about how numbers relate to each other. Once I realized the 9 times table must always just be the 10 times table minus the multiplier, I suddenly found I was able to remember or quickly do all the others since the principle is the same, and more importantly the method was universally helpful: find a simpler problem that's easier to do.

The "math investigations" sound awful, but far too many people get hung up on rote learning multiplication tables as though it magically confers mathematical understanding, whereas it does no such thing, and insistence on it is exactly the type of thing which is to the detriment of actually teaching mathematics.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (3, Interesting)

rcoxdav (648172) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239147)

I would like to disagree with the premise that not learning math facts is not important. As a person who has taught College Algebra to many adult non-traditional plus traditional students, I saw a very large correlation between those that did well and those that had the basic math facts down. The problem is that they may get the algebraic concepts without a problem, but get hung up on the arithmetic, and therefore still do not get problems correct. I know it is a correlation, not a causation, but at least from my observations the fundamentals and knowing the tables are important.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239259)

Yikes. The reason you learn the multiplication table is because all other problems can be reduced to adding up a few multiplication table entries, so if you know the table by rote you can solve those problems extremely fast.

The idea is that while you -can- solve those problems by just using addition over and over and over, you'll save many hours of your life by just learning the table properly rather then calculating it slowly each time you stumble over a problem.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239149)

>> the type that believes that it isn't necessary to learn multiplication tables

Somehow your school district seems to have confused daycare for school. You might be better off just moving or paying for private school if possible.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

guises (2423402) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239211)

When they say that they want parents involved, they mean at home. More than anything else, a child's education is dependent on parental involvement at home - reading to them, helping them with their homework, encouraging them to take school seriously, etc.

Curriculum decisions like what you describe are a long and intensely bureaucratic process. If you live in a smaller town with a school district of manageable size there's a small chance that they might listen to you but it would take years to implement anything new and parents are generally only interested in what's happening to their own children right now. They usually don't care about what happens to other people's children down the road.

As for "new math" - memorizing multiplication tables imparts no understanding. I'm not familiar with "new fractions" but let me point out that most children hate math and treating it as an endlessly repetitious chore to be memorized is a large part of the reason why.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

rocker_wannabe (673157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239219)

They want parent involvement until it steps on the toes of some overpaid PhD who thinks there is some clever way to make math easier to learn so all the test scores will go up. When a parent actually pays attention to what's going on and realizes there's a problem, the school system closes ranks to protect the idiot.

The solution, if you can do it, is homeschooling.

Re:How about no textbook at all? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239255)

My son's elementary school uses "Math Investigations" which is part of that "new math".

Wonder if that's the same "new math" I got when I was a kid.

Open sourse would be awesome for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238891)

Reading what Richard Feynman said about the way Maths textbooks are written and selected is so depressing. Not only would the questions be better proofread if more people had imput, but they could be put in a kind of a context that might make kids who have the potential to love maths actually see the point in it, and how it's like a game and a set of puzzles. Not just a bunch of meaningless formulae that you have to work through like a chimpanzee.

Is a Yelp for Textbooks Needed? (2)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238901)

Investors valued Yelp restaurant and other reviews at $1.47B [wsj.com] . How much is being spent on textbook reviews?

Re:Is a Yelp for Textbooks Needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239233)

Well, that's kind of what Amazon.com is. ;) The problem, who do you have posting the reviews? Ideally it would be people who are qualified, and not only are pedagogues themselves, but people who research how successful different methods are. That's an expensive proposition. You can't really trust students (at least certainly not at the high school level) to review these things beyond issues like 'lots of mistakes,' or 'pretty pictures.'

Eye opener (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39238915)

"It could be that key information or steps are missing, that the problem involves a concept your child hasn't yet been introduced to, or that the math problem is structurally unsound for a host of other reasons.' The comments on Keeghan's article are also an eye-opener "

Let's find out!

Teacher's (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238919)

The real problem is the complete lack of qualified teacher's. A teacher needs to be a true master of all subjects so regardless of a text book the teachers should work with numbers like a mathematician. Bad text books can be overcome by excellent teaching and from what I remember my teachers were jokes. Don't blame the text books blame the unqualified teacher's.

Re:Teacher's (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239173)

The real problem is the complete lack of qualified teacher's. A teacher needs to be a true master of all subjects so regardless of a text book the teachers should work with numbers like a mathematician. Bad text books can be overcome by excellent teaching and from what I remember my teachers were jokes. Don't blame the text books blame the unqualified teacher's.

My experience as a student and an adult who knows many teachers, is the cover the full spectrum - some really great, some that need to retire or move on, and most somewhere in between. They work in a profession where someone else defines what they must do, (the curriculum) how they will be assessed (students passing standardized tests), and students (and parents) who often are only interested in a grade, not actually learning the material. For this, they get paid a pretty low wage especially if they are actually good at math and science and have a degree to back that up.

In addition, as more opportunities opened up for women; many who would have only had teaching (or nursing) as viable career options rightfully went into other fields where their abilities would be recognized and rewarded far beyond what teaching offered; removing a large segment of potentially excellent teachers from the pool. Many of the good teachers I know would not let their kids go into teaching because they know what awaits them. There still are new teachers that do so because they really love teaching, unfortunately most become jaded and abandon the field for far more rewarding careers without the BS that accompanies actually trying to teach. Until we actually value teaching as a profession we'll get why we are willing to pay for; an dteh teachers will continue to be a convent scapegoat for everything that is wrong with our educational system.

Finally, when you have a potential presidential candidate from a major party calling our current president a "snob" because he dared suggest that getting some post-high school education is a good idea and needed to get the skills required for most good jobs, and deriding the idea the education is needed and should even be avoided because it's all about liberals brainwashing our youth, I fear for the future.

Anecdotal evidence: I know someone who spent 30+ years training auto mechanics. He once told me at the start of his career he could take a kid with some mechanical aptitude and turn them into a decent mechanic who could make a good living and career out of it. At the end of his career, he said even a high school eduction was not really enough - there was so much advanced math, electronic theory, and computer theory that unless you had a solid education in this areas you were lost. What started as a basic trade school evolved into essentially a technical school associate degree level education; the point the President was actually making about the need for post-high scull education.

Feynman ran into this problem (4, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238943)

At one point he was invited to sit on the committee that chose which textbooks to use for the California school system. He was unhappy with every single book he reviewed and made copious notes that he brought to the committee meeting.

It turned out that basically nobody else on the committee bothered doing more than skimming through the books, and in one case a book that hadn't even been written yet got a good score, something like 7 out of ten -- it was part of a 3-book series and it got slightly better scores than the two that were actually available to review!

PS: It's not "most teachers". Most teachers don't get any input into which books their district (hell, their state[1]) uses. That was a cheap dig, and politically motivated; OP is contemptible.

[1] Lots of states will just use whatever California uses, or whatever Texas uses.

Re:Feynman ran into this problem (2)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239061)

PS: It's not "most teachers". Most teachers don't get any input into which books their district (hell, their state[1]) uses. That was a cheap dig, and politically motivated; OP is contemptible.

[1] Lots of states will just use whatever California uses, or whatever Texas uses.

In my high school, the teachers were involved in selecting books. At least the experienced teachers were. The newer teachers had to go with the decision made by the others.

Then the district started phasing out the older teachers and began adopting "whatever California uses". In four years, the district went from being in the top 5% of the state to barely being in the top 50%. I suspect it was more due to the change in teachers rather than the change in textbooks.

Re:Feynman ran into this problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239101)

I agree with the fact that teachers rarely get any say on textbooks used in public schools. Our elemntary school teachers were devastated by our district's choice of math books, but the administrators/school board ended up choosing the cheapest textbook series due to budget cuts. Our kids will have a nightmare in math when they try to move on in their studies.

Not impressed. (0)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238947)

Keeghan doesn't name names and doesn't give any examples. She just panders to populist "This Is What's Wrong with America" notions. She's too close to the industry to actually write an exposé, much less offer any proposal for overturning the status quo. Her article comes off as a nostalgia piece for the mythical "good old days" of textbook publishing, where her career started. Any comparison to Upton Sinclair is unwarranted.

The value of a good editor (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238957)

As someone whose published works have benefited from the collaboration with an outstanding editor, I feel for all the editors and writers out their that care about their craft. A writer creates a raw product, a good editor turns it into a work of art. When my editor was let go due to "financial constraints" I realized that the publication has begun the death spiral; and made sure my editor and I stayed in touch so I we could work together at some point in the future.

Like those SAT prep books (1)

zalas (682627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238959)

Years back, I remember working through some of those SAT prep books for the math section. Seemed like every one of them had at least one error in the solutions, with Barron's seeming the best and stuff like Kaplan's having many mistakes. Well, obviously I was bored, so when my answer didn't agree with theirs, I wrote proofs proving their answer was wrong.

A Nugget of Hope: Retired Ph.D.''s (2)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238971)

From a commenter: "The Internet is going to change textbooks forever. When retired Ph.D.'s in physics and mathematics and chemistry and biology can write a book and publish it online - without help from today's publishers - students win, elementary schools win, middle schools win, high schools win, colleges win."

Don't blame just the publishers (2)

rcoxdav (648172) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238977)

I think part of the problem also is the ridiculous requirements put into textbooks by some of the states. Some locales have required multiculturalism parts of classes, even something like elementary school math, which should be pretty much a fact based class.

I live in Illinois, and I know my children's books are not up to the level of what I had 30 years ago. The books seem scatter brained with forced examples of what the states want put into the books. Also, the forced lack of focus on the fundamentals has gone a long way towards lowering the ability of students from the US to compete in a global academic environment, especially in the sciences and computer fields. Another item is what is wrong with timed drills, and letting students know that the world is not equal and that some people are better and faster in math than others. Welcome to the real world! I am not saying advertise who is the best, but don't stop doing timed tests and drills because some helicopter parent is complaining that their snowflake did not get the highest possible score. A friend of mine is a former principal at an elementary school, and he said that the biggest number of complaints he had were from parents who thought that it was traumatic for their children to not be able to complete timed math fundamentals tests.

Yes, the textbook manufacturers are sleazy and always trying to sell the new latest greatest edition, but don't forget some of the ever changing junk they have to put in to make the politicians happy in the big states (thank-you California and Texas). Let the experts decide what needs to be in an effective textbook, not the politicians.

Anthro too... (4, Interesting)

nblender (741424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39238997)

My wife used to teach an Intro to Anthropology course (among others) and each year was a new textbook, which she would get a week before class started in Sept. Towards the end of her teaching career, the textbooks were less complete than the previous year and each book came with links to a publisher's website of 'supplemental material' which was the stuff that was missing plus some videos and flash demos... The links were embedded throughout the book. At the end of that school year, the website 'expired' making that textbook useless to be replaced by the current years' textbook and corresponding website. Pure evil.

In addition, there were lots of errors in the chapters causing my wife to have to spend a great deal of time fact checking each lesson plan against the book.. Eventually, she stopped simply telling the students about the errors and issued a challenge for students to identify the errors in the book, and then next class they would discuss the chapter focusing on the errors... It turned into a great teaching tool while simultaneously demonstrating to students not to believe everything they read.

Re:Anthro too... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239105)

It sounds like your wife is ignorant. Who is she to question what Glorious Leader wants in our textbooks?

You need to slap some sense into your bitch.

Open Source textbooks (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239009)

While they could work, I have some doubts:

1. A key part of any good text is the flow - how do chapters interrelate and build on each other, i.e. what is the story line? That needs an editor in charge that makes and enforces decisions; something noticeably absent from most OS products.

2. The people with the most knowledge are often the worst to have explain a concept - things that are initiative and simple may be obscure and hard to understand for a student. Writing a good text book means actually explaining stuff in enough detail for the reader to understand, and putting in stuff you think everyone would know when in fact they don't.

Even with simple concepts there are often multiple ways to obtain the same solution - do you put them all in; if not how do you decide which ones to include?

At least with math, if you avoid any historical context you can avoid some of the challenges that history text books would have, for example, with political and social views and arguments thereover.

Back to an earlier time (1)

Ceiynt (993620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239021)

Why not go back to the math textbooks and curriculum that taught the men who put men on the moon? If the math was solid then, why is it not now? Do we have a new way to solve the problems now then we did back in the 30's and 40's? If high school still requires you to read books written in the 1800's, how is a literature textbook published today talking about it different then one from 1940? Is it not PC to use a textbook from that era? If the US was the leader in education then, go back to that type of education. This does not mean back to segregation in the school system. Other then the hard sciences were new discoveries can change the rules, why do the basic textbooks change that much?

Re:Back to an earlier time (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239273)

The textbook industry has convinced schools that it is better to use their texts because the pedagogy used in constructing the material is more sound and cutting edge with how children learn.

I think it is a bunch of crap . Teaching children to read about Math is something that I feel has been lost and is very important to learning math and the vocabulary of math. without that vocabulary, children have a much harder time learning.

I’ve pilot tested textbooks (2)

mr_rangr (311899) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239033)

I teach at the elementary level. I’ve pilot tested several textbooks in several curriculums. After using many publishers’ products, I’ve got a feel for what works well for me, and what materials I need. But what’s most important is how well the students work with the materials. If the students struggle with a pilot curriculum due to poor presentation, then that curriculum isn’t going to get my vote. And if there are mistakes in the materials, the sales rep is going to get an earful from me, but not my business (I hope).

Missed the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239215)

There are always going to be typos and problems like that with text books. If that was the main problem with textbooks that would be something that could be fixed with errata.

. I taught 5th grade math in the Washington DC area for 2 years and avoided textbooks (for all subjects) as much as possible. Kids learn math by doing math and making it relevant. Same with reading, and spelling.

Really parents and (American) society's attitude towards math is to blame in large part. PARENTS: teach your kids math--tell them that you love it--or at least point out how often you need it. Stop making the education of your kids completely the responsibility of the school system. There are so many kids who aren't being properly prepared for school, whose parents don't think education is valuable.

Teachers' salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239217)

I wonder if part of the reason teachers don't get paid a whole lot is because they produce an inferior end product? Why don't their unions enforce a higher standard, therefore justifying an increase in pay?

I know they could all just walk out at any time, leaving the nation's children uneducated, but then I suppose parents would start educating their own children. And if they did that, how could you justify taxing them? The system is flawed.

It's not just math text books (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239239)

I had a organic chemistry text book that had a similar problems. I remember one question where it asked a question that you had to know about aromaticity. That would have been ok except aromaticity wouldn't be introduced for another 2 chapters. (The only reason I knew about it was I had read ahead a few chapters before looking at that problem in the text.) Come to think of it they also introduced resonance structures as the very first concept then proceeded to completely ignore the concept. (It only came up at the beginning of my orgo II class. Why they didn't move introducing the concept to right before it was going to be used instead of where they did and everybody forgot about it I'll never know.)

idea (1)

BonThomme (239873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239275)

Maybe the government could hold a competition and offer $10,000 in prizes for the best textbooks?

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