Textbook alignment

Today I assigned myself the grand task of aligning the textbook we use for both of our classes to the state standards.  The district has provided a document that explains which standards each section of each book align to, but they failed to list those standards that are not met by the texts.  I took the task on in part because I thought it would be a good planning tool, and in part because I thought it would be a good excuse to spend a lot of time getting to know the standards. Thankfully I am student teaching, so I can take some time out of my day to work on this, instead of having to do later in the day when I should be sleeping, like a “real” teacher would probably have to do.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I noticed an interesting pattern when I looked closely at which standards were and were not being met by the textbooks.  After finishing an analysis of both the algebra and and advanced algebra textbooks, I found that for the most part, all of the state standards were covered.  But there was one major exception.  In both cases, neither text met the eighth standard: Reasoning, problem solving, and communication.  This is the standard that has a lot of do with making sure that students really understand the mathematics.  For example, one of the sub-standards refers to students being able to, “Synthesize information to draw conclusions, and evaluate the arguments and conclusions of others.”

Maybe I am being overly cynical, but it is hard for me to see this pattern and not wonder what motivates this choice.  Is it possible that authors just don’t know how to write a textbook that would be considered traditional, but still includes questions that make students have to think critically?  Does this mean that the traditional approach itself is flawed in some way?  Is there some kind of “neo-liberal” conspiracy to reinvigorate factory-style schooling in order to keep future generations from questioning their control?  Was is just an oversight?  That our state standards include reasoning skills is an indication that their importance is pretty well accepted.  Why, then, would a major textbook manufacturer ignore this set of skills?

Perhaps it’s that our edition is not written specifically for the state of Washington, and thus they left reasoning out of the textbooks in order to accomodate states that do not have these as a standard.  But given that the NCTM stadards have included communication for years, and the coming Common Core standards also include reasoning and critical thinking requirements, it would stand to reason that these would be better to include even if they aren’t always needed, rather than ignore.

I do not understand this choice.


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