Letters to the Editor

Good math books need good teachers

When Oak Harbor School District finally selects replacements for elementary and middle school math textbooks, it is paramount not only to choose good instructional materials, but, also, that they are actually used properly in classrooms by all teachers.

In 2001, we ended up with selections that are two of the most discredited math curriculum choices in U.S. history. As a parent of a student who has been allegedly “taught” with those Discovery-based textbooks, I can tell you first hand they were/are a lousy idea.

In Washington state, the “Where’s the Math?” organization (www.wheresthemath.com) has championed selection of solid math textbook choices. Based on their analysis, only four of the six district finalists are recommended, and two are NOT recommended. Recommended are (Elementary): Glencoe McGraw Hill’s “Math Connects” and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s, “Expressions”; (Middle School): Holt McDougall “Math” and Glencoe McGraw Hill “Math Connects.”

Solid textbooks do no good if they sit on the shelf unused by teachers and students. The teachers’ union current contract states: “Employees shall be guaranteed professional freedom in classroom presentations and discussions and may allow discussion on political, religious, or otherwise controversial material ...” It’s not clear if such academic freedom means teachers must use district-selected math textbooks, or whether or not teachers are actually expected to teach math or may simply encourage students to “discover” math.

We’ve already experienced teachers using bad curricular materials and using less effective “Discovery” teaching methods. Bad textbooks and bad teaching methods need to be 100 percent purged from our classrooms.

Bill Burnett

Oak Harbor

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