Math texts get mixed reviews
The Aspen School District’s new elementary-level math books received a mixed review before the School Board Wednesday.
Administrators, board members and educators discussed the state of the district’s mathematics curriculum – its effectiveness in captivating students’ interest and in exponentially expanding their knowledge.
The district introduced a new math textbook series for the kindergarten through the fifth grade recently. The texts have been received with varying degrees of praise and criticism, judging from comments during the meeting.
The “well-articulated scaffolded curriculum,” as one teacher put it, emphasizes basic facts and computation, as well as the integration of math and science “because math really is the language of science,” said educator Nan Woodson.
“We’re in the process of analyzing what’s going well,” Woodson said. “And we’re taking a look at what is the reason for the dissatisfaction,” with the texts.
The new texts’ focus on the “learning process” – the how and why of a given math problem – as opposed to straight memorization, was applauded.
“I like it because it’s very rich in language,” said one teacher. “It’s really challenging in the higher-level thinking skills, the problem solving.”
“I find that it’s weak in its strategies,” countered another. “It’s going to be difficult for the newer teacher who doesn’t have the depth of experience that some of us have had.”
“The parents are frustrated too, because they can’t do [the math] either, so there’s three levels [student, teacher, parent] of frustration,” noted another teacher.
Aspen High School math teacher Terry Orcutt discussed the various “tracks” that students will follow during high school. Because the high school offers about a dozen different courses, math students have the opportunity to tailor their course work according to their interests and abilities, and thus the issue of texts at the elementary school level does not pose a problem.
“At this level, the parents aren’t driving the bus anymore,” Orcutt joked, referring to the ability of high school students to elect courses, math or otherwise, that appeal to them.
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