When selecting a maths textbook, what should we look for?
Being the maths coordinator is a multi-faceted job that involves 101 things. Actually, what am I saying – 1001 at least!
A key part of the role is to audit what is working and what isn’t and this includes resources.
So when it comes to purchasing textbooks (normally a very expensive business) then you have to get the best fit possible for your school and to factor in quite a number of variables.
Selecting what you need shouldn’t be based on what’s the most popular or what your neighbouring school have just bought. Here are a few things to think about.
Nirmal (2011) says that the following are the qualities of a good math textbook:
- A mathematics textbook should be written in accordance with the aims and objectives of teaching the subject in that particular class.
- It should be well illustrated.
- There should be diagram and figures wherever needed.
- The textbook should be written in simple and understandable language.
- It should be free from mistakes.
- It should be written within the grasp of the children.
- It should provide sufficient materials to motivate the students to solve problems.
- The students should get adequate opportunity of learning through initiative and independent efforts.
- The problems should relate to the real life needs and physical & social environments of the learners.
- It should foster the right attitude towards self-study and self-reliance among pupils and it should be done by promoting project works, field works and laboratory works.
- It should promote the use of analytic, synthetic, inductive-deductive, problem-solving and heuristic approaches to teaching.
- The content should be up-to-date.
- The exercises should aim of all level of students. It should be challenging for intelligent students and should give opportunity for average & below average students also.
- It should satisfy individual difference in students and should meet the varying abilities, interest and attitudes.
- It should promote logical and psychological arrangement of contents.
- It should provide for practice, revision and satisfy the demands of examination.
- Also the textbook should be appealing and should have the necessary external qualities i.e., its get-up, paper and printing, etc., should be good.
And what about this impressive list of considerations taken from a source I’ve been unable to attribute other than here:
A teacher of mathematics, while selecting a textbook in mathematics, should look for certain qualities to be found in a good textbook. The following are the qualities of a good textbook in mathematics.
1. The appearance of the textbook should be appealing with an attractive cover page. The paper used in the textbook should be of superior quality. It should have quality printing and the binding of the book should be strong and durable. The printing should be bold and easily readable.
2. The textbook should be of latest edition with necessary modifications.
3. The textbook should be moderately priced and readily available in the market.
4. It should be written by qualified, experienced and competent teachers of mathematics or a committee of experts constituted by the state government.
5. The textbook should be written according to prescribed syllabus and every aspect of the syllabus should be adequately covered.
6. It should be in accordance with the aims and subjective of teaching mathematics in that particular class.
7. It should provide for individual differences. It should meet the needs of students of varying abilities, interests and attitudes.
8. There should be sufficient provision for revision, practice and review.
9. The textbook should relate the classroom learning to the real life needs and the physical and social environments of the learners.
10. The content presented in the textbook should be accurate and up-to-date. It should include the recent developments in the mathematics relating to the content dealt with.
11. The subject matter in the textbook should be carefully organized with reference to the logical as well as the psychological considerations which make teaching effective.
12. The contents of the textbook should have a direct, practical and social utility value.
13. The content should be organized in the increasing order of difficulty. Principle of vertical correlation should be followed to relate the present knowledge with the past and future.
14. The language used in the textbook should be simple and easily understandable and within the grasp of the pupils. The style and vocabulary used should be suitable to the age group of students for whom the book is written.
15. The terms and symbols used must be those which are popular and internationally accepted. All the terms, concepts and principle used in the text should be clearly and accurately stated and defined.
16. The presentation of the subject matter must be attractive and interesting with appropriate illustrations in terms of pictures, diagrams and figures.
17. The diagrams used in the textbook should be easily recognizable and geometric constructions should be in proportion to the measurements prescribed by the problem.
18. It should foster the right attitude towards self-study and self-reliance among pupils by suggesting project work, field work and laboratory work.
19. It should provide adequate opportunities to motivate the students to solve problems by presenting an adequate number of worked out problems constructed from daily life situations requiring the student to apply mathematical principles and formula for their solution.
20. It should facilitate the use of analytic, synthetic, inductive, problem-solving and heuristic approaches to teaching.
21. The textbook should contain some difficult problems or exercises to challenge the mathematically gifted students.
22. There should be well-graded exercises given at the end of every topic to satisfy the needs of all types of students.
23. The textbook should stimulate the initiative and originality of the students.
24. Oral mathematics should find its due place in the textbook.
25. The answers given at the end of each section should be correct.
26. It should offer suggestions to improve study habits.
27. It should satisfy the demands of examination.
What do you think is missing from this list and the one above it? Do they cover all bases?
How is diversity catered for in the above lists? Do we see any mention of bias, diversity, white privilege, poverty proofing etc? Can a textbook capture everything?
You can see that writing a textbook is a very complex task with many layers that can often go unnoticed.
When it comes to the actual tasks and activities in a textbook, most considerations given are the “usual dimensions of content, cognitive demands, question type and contextual features” (Gracin, 2016) but need to go further.
Gracin argues that we need to audit our resources and consider whether students have opportunities to represent, to compute, to interpret or to use argumentation. His analysis encompassed more than 22,000 tasks from the most commonly used Croatian mathematics textbooks in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade and found that “the textbooks do not provide a full range of task types. There is an emphasis on computation, while argumentation and interpretation activities, reflective thinking and open answer tasks are underrepresented.”
Do you consider the same when looking over the latest maths textbooks?