The Jungle

Annie Keeghan, in an exhaustive look at how the meat gets made in math education publishing:

The root of problem begins with this key fact: There are only a small number of educational publishers left after rabid buyouts and mergers in the 90s, publishers that all vie for a piece of a four-billion dollar (forbes.com) pie. In recent years, math has become the subject du jour due to government initiatives and efforts to raise the rankings of U.S. students who lag behind in math compared to 30 other industrialized nations. With state and local budgets constrained to unprecedented levels, publishers must compete for fewer available dollars. As a result, many are rushing their products (especially in math) to market to before their competitors, product that in many instances is inherently, tragically flawed.

[via Tom Hoffman]

Related: Thanks, Textbooks, my new favorite Tumblr.

Featured Comment

Jeanette Stein:

I have been able to look at the differences between the textbooks that our district bought and the CCSS textbooks by the same publisher. The only difference, other than Common Core stamped all over the cover, is that every time it used to say application it now says Common Core. They did not even fix some of the typos that were there from five years ago.

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school teacher, former graduate student, and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

12 Comments

  1. Tom Hoffman

    February 24, 2012 - 8:29 am

    I got that from my good friends at the Core Knowledge blog (who seem to be slowly realizing that punching hippies won’t solve their problems anymore).

  2. A.P

    February 24, 2012 - 8:55 am

    For bonus points, compare US textbook publishing with those from higher performing countries.

  3. Steven Peters

    February 24, 2012 - 8:56 am

    Did you want to include a link to Annie Keeghan’s article? I had to go to Tom Hoffman’s link to find it. It’ll probably be more and more buried as time goes on though.

    [Bummer. Thanks for the correction. –dm]

  4. Michael Paul Goldenberg

    February 25, 2012 - 9:50 am

    And do we all blithely accept the blanket statement that US students lag behind blah, blah, blah?

    I certainly don’t, and that changes not one bit my concerns about the poor quality of instruction, content, and resources (books being by far the major culprit, though as most people who follow my writing know, I’m happy to give Sal Khan and his imitators their fair share of blame: http://bit.ly/wHVqlI

    Core Knowledge? As in Ed Hirsch? Please, I ate recently. Always wondered how a guy with a theory of literary criticism that was refuted by the New Critics long before Prof. Hirsch came along to try to tidy it up and resuscitate it could be taken seriously as a maven about what everyone’s nth grader needs to know. He’s made a small fortune pawning that junk off on the parts of the public always eager to find out what some ‘expert’ thinks every kid simply MUST be exposed to in order to get on the Ivy League fast-track. And, as several anonymous would-be critics of my last blog post want to remind me, Sal Khan gets enough hits to warrant the McDonald’s Award for mathematics education. Given annually to the person who succeeds most thoroughly in reducing mathematics to fast food, the prestigious McDonald’s Award (aka “The Kroc”) is meant to honor the memory of the man who said, “The definition of salesmanship is the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way.”

    My point, of course, is that popularity and sales figures often are inversely proportional to actual value and quality. Few, if any, have ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence, taste, or acumen of the American public, whether the subject be entertainment, food, or learning mathematics.

  5. mr bombastic

    February 25, 2012 - 9:54 am

    The Singapore texts are extremely well done at the elementary school level, and are in English, but have a tiny share of the market. I don’t think the root of the problem is on the supply side.

  6. Scott

    February 25, 2012 - 10:54 am

    I feel part of the problem in the U.S. is the attitude of math as a set of magic spells. The general public freely admits “I was never any good at math,” while leaving the rest unsaid, “and I’m still successful.”

    “Back to basics” scared everyone into thinking there was this host of information that needed to be memorized. The public thinks of math as something separate from other subjects.

    I’m glad the Common Core standards include standards for mathematical practice. Those are the key standards to hit. Everything else is secondary. It will be interesting to see how textbook authors attempt to incorporate such non-specific threads.

  7. Fawn Nguyen

    February 25, 2012 - 9:44 pm

    So true, Scott. While people would not admit so freely about their inability to read or write, they feel it’s fashionable to admit their shortcomings in math. Ability grouping in math is a whole another debate especially at the middle school level. No one seems to mind that we have ability grouping in sports.

    I like the 8 practices in the CC. Already I found a new Glencoe Algebra 1 book supposedly written with the CC standards in my mailbox — money talks. I’m perusing the new Oxford IB Mathematics textbooks, and these look much better!

  8. Mr. K

    February 25, 2012 - 9:51 pm

    > glad the Common Core standards include standards

    I’m afraid the common core standards will eventually be defined by how students are evaluated on them. What the standards say are irrelevant – it’s how students do on the supposedly correlated tests that drives how instruction is done these days.

  9. Jeanette Stein

    February 26, 2012 - 6:03 pm

    I have been able to look at the differences between the textbooks that our district bought and the CCSS textbooks by the same publisher. The only difference, other than Common Core stamped all over the cover, is that every time it used to say application it now says Common Core. They did not even fix some of the typos that were there from five years ago…

  10. Chris Sears

    March 3, 2012 - 6:36 pm

    You see that in the computer homework systems as well. This fall I got the feeling that the tech people were building the systems as the students were working in them.

  11. Michael Paul Goldenberg

    March 4, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    I went to the post that inspired this blog entry only to discover that the network that hosts it, Diigo, isn’t accepting new members at the moment. Hence, I am unable to respond to a libelous comment about the CPM high school math books. Does anyone know if this is a very temporary situation or more long-term? If the latter, does anyone have direct contact info for Annie Keeghan? I’m very bothered that she let’s the comment go without question.