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Is it time for maths textbooks in primary?

(146 Posts)
PastSellByDate Sat 22-Nov-14 09:30:59

Just saw this today:

As a parent - I would like text books (for one thing that's how I was taught) but with solutions to problems available, I can help my DDs understand their mistakes at the time (rather than feel I have to check problems without confirmation I have the correct solution, which I know puts many parents off interfering with maths homework) & I can also understand what's coming next (and support that at home - rather than vaguely understanding this term they'll be covering shape/ measurement/ calculation skills/ number facts - which says NOT A LOT).

One thing that did interest me about the BBC article was the fact that the government (?OFSTED) don't comment on/ validate quality of text books - it does seem rather a free-for-all and I'm not terribly convinced that most ordinary primary Heads of Maths are really qualified to make that judgement (yes as a teacher they can see what works best pedagogically/ structurally for their school - but I suspect assessing which mathematical approach is best would be problematic and I also wonder whether school budgets don't influence resource decisions).

Why exactly is it that the government - who seem very kind to prescribe elements of the national curriculum are less than keen to evaluate resources available to teachers/ parents? Should educational resources be entirely unregulated?

littleducks Sat 22-Nov-14 09:41:30

We had SPMG maths work books and textbooks when I was at school. Iv was good at maths and went levels ahead of alot of the class. It meant I could work at my own level happily.

I can understand schools not wanting to invest in textbooks when the curriculum send to be direct changing though.

Now it seems to be parents buying textbooks and workbooks and revision guides. The bookshops are full of them.

littleducks Sat 22-Nov-14 09:42:25

silly autocorrect

the curriculum seems to be always changing

Cherrypi Sat 22-Nov-14 09:45:44

Would make teachers' life easier as they wouldn't have to do so much photocopying/planning but they are expensive and the government change the curriculum all the time.

spanieleyes Sat 22-Nov-14 09:52:32

And the text books are never at quite the right level, or have too many/too few examples or move the children on too quickly/too slowly or use a different method to the one wanted or a hundred and one other problems!
We do have text books in schools, ones we dip in and out of as needed, ones that we can use when they match our learning and the needs of the children. But I have never found one that does everything I want it to do!

Smartiepants79 Sat 22-Nov-14 09:53:54

Well I work in a primary school. We have maths text books.
They're pretty good we think. Don't really send them home and they don't have answer in them. Used maybe once or twice a week.
Teachers don't choose just one approach, the children should be being introduced to a range of approaches and helped to find the ones that work for them.
Teaching staff are well qualified to asses the resources they use. Most reputable published schemes are written by highly qualified people. Schools choose which one suits them and them staff choose the best of that scheme and supplement it if necessary.
I'd rather have teachers choosing the resources than be told by the gonvernment what I had to use.

AsBrightAsAJewel Sat 22-Nov-14 09:55:25

My concern would be the lost of possible loss of differentiation (to explain in an overly simplified way - if I'm teaching addition some will have calculations to 10, others to 20, one group with numbers below 100, some doing column addition that doesn't cross place value boundaries and some crossing using carrying). Not sure how that would work in a single year groups text book.
I make work cards for the children to use in a similar style to text books (and occasionally a worksheet if a tasks needs careful scaffolding and I don't want the children focused on the actual recording) then I can personalise it to specifically what that group or even individual needs.
On a positive, enforced use of textbooks would save me several hours each week.

spanieleyes Sat 22-Nov-14 10:00:41

God, yes. Can You imagine the planning!
Open page 21, work through it, close page 21! Sorted!!
Instead I have to detail different learning objectives and success criteria for each group, differentiated four ways in my class plus individual learning for one child who has a statement and is still working at P scales. Differentiated activities to match, extension activities for each group to move them on further, TA input, vocabulary requirements and reference to IEP targets for the 9 children in my class on IEPs.
Hmm, perhaps textbooks would have some advantages, but for me rather than the children!

noblegiraffe Sat 22-Nov-14 10:06:19

Given the paucity of primary teachers with a decent background in maths, I think a government approved set of booklets like the old SMP ones (not one massive textbook as that would be too inflexible in a class with many different needs) could be very useful for ensuring that all primary kids are getting a decent grounding in the right stuff.

AsBrightAsAJewel Sat 22-Nov-14 10:08:10

When I was at school we were just given a text book and told to work through it at our own pace and put your hand up if you didn't understand something. Some would be on, for example, page 6 - addition, others on page 19 - 3D shapes, others raced to page 47 - telling the time. So the teacher didn't actually teach as everyone was on different concepts, they just helped if you didn't understand the text book.
When I arrived at my very first school as an NQT the teacher I was replacing as they retired used exactly the same method! Thank goodness those days are gone.

Lucked Sat 22-Nov-14 10:39:22

I think it would be good, I have always preferred well written textbooks to other forms of learning and it still stands me in good stead. At university we often got worksheets and books but even supplemented with my notes this wasn't enough to study from. In fact I still buy 'textbooks' to help with my current job. Yes I can look at journals etc but getting the basics right is the first priority.

With a textbook it is easier to go back if you realise later that a skill hasn't been mastered. Worksheets usually have the answers on them once completed so can't really be redone. Also agree that you can look forward and understand what level and depth of work will be required.

mrz Sat 22-Nov-14 13:21:35

There's an interesting article about differentiation on the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics website
"I think it may well be the case that one of the most common ways we use differentiation in primary school mathematics, which is intended to help challenge the ‘more able’ pupils and to help the ‘weaker’ pupils to grasp the basics, has had, and continues to have, a very negative effect on the mathematical attainment of our children at primary school and throughout their education, and that this is one of the root causes of our low position in international comparisons of achievement in mathematics education."

AsBrightAsAJewel Sat 22-Nov-14 13:34:26

Interesting, mrz, so what is their solution?

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sat 22-Nov-14 14:03:03

I don't think I've read it, but I'm guessing it's getting rid of setting and using mixed ability teaching. Which I don't think the OP is going to approve of.

There might be a good point about the quality of text books available but I'm not sure that has much to do with the problems we have with maths in this country. It just means that teachers are less likely to use a textbook as one of their many tools.

AsBrightAsAJewel Sat 22-Nov-14 14:07:19

I have had bad experiences for my DD when living overseas of a one-size-fits-all text book approach in a mixed ability class. If the children didn't get it - tough, it just meant they would fail the year and have to repeat it.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sat 22-Nov-14 14:41:46

It's a case of how you do the mixed ability teaching I think. Works well in some areas and not at all well in others i.e the US, for exactly the reasons you've just described.

TheFirstOfHerName Sat 22-Nov-14 15:03:33

In primary, I don't mind that my children are just given worksheets, even now that I have two children in Y6.

In secondary, my children (Y10 and Y8) definitely need textbooks. They also need access to the answers when revising. Sometimes their homework is to revise the last three or four topics they have done, for a test. The only sensible way to do this is using practice questions and then marking their own answers to learn from their mistakes.

The GCSE Maths textbook they are using wasn't provided by the school, so I have bought a copy.

TheFirstOfHerName Sat 22-Nov-14 15:07:58

In Y7-Y9, they used the SMP books. Same textbook for everyone in that Maths set.

In Y10, the teacher is following the scheme of work from a Rayner Higher Mathematics textbook (not provided) and they are then set homework from the accompanying homework textbook (provided).

TheFirstOfHerName Sat 22-Nov-14 15:30:53

Sorry, I meant STP (not SMP)

spanieleyes Sat 22-Nov-14 15:31:40

Which would be fine if we had maths in ability sets but my class ranges in ability from P scales to level 5A. There is no textbook I have ever seen that covers such a spread of abilities!

mrz Sat 22-Nov-14 16:14:39

"Teachers reinforce an expectation that all pupils are capable of achieving
high standards in mathematics

The large majority of pupils progress through the curriculum content at the
same pace. Differentiation is achieved by emphasising deep knowledge
and through individual support and intervention.

Teaching is underpinned by methodical curriculum design and supported by
carefully crafted lessons and resources to foster deep conceptual and
procedural knowledge.

Practice and consolidation play a central role. Carefully designed variation
within this builds fluency and understanding of underlying mathematical
concepts in tandem.

Teachers use precise questioning in class to test conceptual and procedural
knowledge, and assess pupils regularly to identify those requiring intervention so that all pupils keep up."

MilkRunningOutAgain Sat 22-Nov-14 16:48:17

Spanieleyes, at my primary back in the mid 70s, we used a series of text books, there was one for each school year. By what is now yr 6, a few kids were on book 4, a few on book 3, most just about finishing book 2 and some on book 1 still. So the spread of abilities was covered. There were 34 kids in the class and the teacher tended to teach about half the class, the Middle ability kids, for a while and then set them work, then spend most of the rest of the lesson helping the lower ability kids, though coming over to the higher ability kids if they had queries. She was excellent. The textbooks had loads of practise questions for each topic, if the teacher thought you had conquered the subject, she'd move you on to the next topic before you finished all the questions. But if you were struggling she made you do them over and over til you got it.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sat 22-Nov-14 16:58:37

That paragraph was the highlight of what was a not particularly well written paper, mrz.

After 20 pages I'm not sure what exactly constitutes a good text book or why ours aren't meeting that criteria. There is a vague statement about elements in the case study but it isn't clear exactly what it looked for in each of the books listed and it appears to be different things for different books. So different that I suspect a certain amount of bias may have come into play.

I've ended up with more questions than I started with. What I've learnt from the paper is that some high performing areas have text books and some don't. Some of those are government approved and some aren't. Some low performing countries use text books and some don't. Some of those are government approved and some aren't. Some teachers in high performing areas plan from the text book, some plan and use the textbook to support their planning. All the high performing areas looked at had a model of teaching based on the paragraph mrz outlined earlier.

It's not an overwhelming endorsement for text books and I still want to know exactly what the author thinks a good text book looks like and how those elements lead to better experiences for teachers and children.

Toomanyhouseguests Sat 22-Nov-14 17:12:31

Yes to textbooks, yes to experts vetting them first.

mrz Sat 22-Nov-14 17:17:05

That paragraph is the reply to asbrightasajewels question about the NCETMs definition of "a mastery curriculum" not about text books

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