Columbia elementary schools' new math texts chosen

Friday, March 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The textbook committee has made its decision: Columbia Public Schools' elementary math classes will now use texts called enVisionMATH.

The new mathematics textbooks for kindergarten through fifth grades will offer traditional and procedural focus as well as conceptual understanding.

Chief Academic Officer Sally Beth Lyon said enVisionMATH will provide lessons that help kids "get it," while also explaining how and why numbers work the way they do.

After hearing feedback from teachers, parents and the public, the Program Evaluation Committee for K-5 Mathematics recommended the enVisionMATH textbooks to Lyon. The evaluation committee for grades six through eight plans to make its recommendation in early April, said the school district's secondary mathematics coordinator, Chip Sharp.

The elementary committee evaluated all the materials based on the degree to which the material balanced mathematical proficiencies as well as the district’s Measurable Learner Objectives, which are goals for learning at each grade level. EnVisionMATH met about 75 percent of the learning objectives, Lyon said.

“We knew going into the search for instructional materials that we probably would not find instructional materials that would meet all of our Measurable Learner Objectives,” said Linda Coutts, the district's elementary mathematics coordinator. “This would be very much like (a university professor) who requires two or maybe three books for a course. In this case, there is no one book that covers everything you need to learn in the course.”

The remainder of learner objectives will be met using other materials depending on the particular objective.

“We may just write lessons ourselves to address the Measurable Learner Objectives, or we may use Internet resources or perhaps ask the publisher of enVisionMATH to help us write lessons,” Coutts said.

The committee used feedback from five community sessions and presentations from the curriculum's representatives to make its decision.

"I respect the process the committees went through and the public involvement," Lyon said. "I would have no reason to question it; I think they've done a very thorough job."

During the public sessions, community members were invited to peruse the mathematics materials the committee considered. Materials were divided by grade level for kindergarten through eighth grades. Participants were then encouraged to study and comment on the content, teacher edition, support materials and parent components for each curriculum.

“It wasn’t a vote by the community, but we looked at their concerns and positive comments,” Coutts said. “The real reason we went with enVision was that we wanted the material that best covered our objectives.”

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Lifelong Columbian March 20, 2009 | 7:16 a.m.

I visited the enVision website and found absolutely nothing about any textbooks. The core of this program seems to be focused on interactive learning via a PC and an Internet connection. I honestly don't think anyone involved with teaching today understands the concept that not every home has a PC and an Internet connection. So, what about all of the students who do not have access to the technology needed?

I learned math the old fashioned way and I am still convinced that our children do not have the same depth of knowledge in the subject. Sure, playing online games may seem like it has merit, but the old fashioned way works just fine and doesn't require technology. You would never guess that a statement like that would come from the IT Director of one of Columbia's larger employers, but it just did.

The simple truth is all you need to teach math is some good old fashioned flash cards, repetition based workbook and a good teacher. The last of which is the most important!

(Report Comment)
Robin Hubbard March 20, 2009 | 1:21 p.m.

So how much is this textbook that only covers 75% of the MLO going to cost us?

I am a member of the Math task force and wrote an alternative proposal suggesting that CPS write their own textbook and self-publish with a print-on-demand service for as little as $8 per book using the many already written lessons, worksheets, and resources freely available on the Internet.

Instead they are going to pay upwards of $300 a textbook and THEN (pay the publisher for missing content OR write their own missing content). POOR FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT!

The committee's recommendation is ill-conceived and not well-thought through.

Fortunately, it is just a recommendation and perhaps the leadership can take this opportunity to simply pay stipends to the teachers to research available content online for free and compile CPS textbooks for self-publication --- that is go all the way instead of part-way.

(Report Comment)

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