Expect To See A Lot More Of This

Jeanette Stein, on the difference between textbooks in the pre- and post-CCSS era:

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.

If anyone wants to send me a scan of a page pre- and post-CCSS makeover, I’d be obliged: dan@mrmeyer.com.

2012 Feb 29. Here’s a winner authored by Larson, via Greg Schwanbeck.

2012 Mar 05. Strong work published by Pearson, via Mark Watkins.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. When I was at my first company job, lo these many years ago, we could not buy a PC until IBM came out with one.
    (In a strange twist of fate, IBM pioneered work in MRI scanners, but trials could not start until GE was ready to roll, by which time IBM had killed their project.)
    School districts are way more conservative than companies in the USA, even the privately held small operations. We were hunting for a new textbook last year, and we found one, but nobody was willing to buy from an independent operation: they wanted a big name publisher. So the big names can continue to repackage under a different cover. No need for anything new, the market is captive.
    The new stuff getting into our schools is all teacher-created, smuggled in to the course, and is for sure not rewarded.
    Once again, thanks to Dan for what he created and published for free.

  2. I can’t say that I’m surprised. This is why we all appreciate the work that you do…you give people an alternative to poorly designed textbooks and curriculum. You have written previously about the textbook trying to serve as reference text and instructional material. I still don’t understand why we, as teachers, don’t simply rely LESS (if not altogether) on using the textbook to “teach.” As far as I know, there isn’t anything stopping us from still crafting an engaging, thoughtful lesson that stands alone from any textbook.

    Maybe people need resources for this? If so, here are a few that might help (and appeal to a variety of philosophies):

    1. http://www.amazon.com/Fostering-Algebraic-Thinking-Teachers-Grades/dp/0325001545/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330485072&sr=8-1

    2. http://www.amazon.com/More-Good-Questions-Differentiate-Mathematics/dp/0807750883/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330485105&sr=1-1

    3. http://illuminations.nctm.org/

  3. I’ve talked with reps from all the various companies about this.

    I’m speechless. How are these companies not getting crushed by something more innovative?

    To be fair, there hasn’t been enough time to finish anything elaborate, and one publisher told me flat-out they were waiting until they heard something more concrete on Common Core (like how exactly the assessments will go) before they go all-in on changing their texts.

  4. If the publishers were to incorporate the CCSS (for content) into their books this year, they would not be usable. Achieving the ambitious content standards in the upper grades is dependent upon the succesfull implementation of the equally ambitious content standards in the lower grades. The content standards (and texts will need to be phased in).

    To me the practice standards seem open to considerable interpretation. In the past, textbook publishers did an abysmal job of interpreting similar sounding NCTM standards.

    I don’t see the CCSS alone being a strong force for change. It all depends on what the assessments look like.

  5. Jason:

    To be fair, there hasn’t been enough time to finish anything elaborate, and one publisher told me flat-out they were waiting until they heard something more concrete on Common Core (like how exactly the assessments will go) before they go all-in on changing their texts.

    They can have that one way or the other, as far as I’m concerned, but not both. Say you’re waiting and wait. Or say you’re doing something and do something. But this business of saying you’re doing something while waiting will get no end of grief from me.

  6. As a K-12 Mathematics Consultant, I am not waiting on anybody for “the answer”…especially not the big textbook companies. I’m learning as much as I can via Blogs such as Bill McCallum’s “Tools for the Common Core” and creating my own materials. When I come across new materials stamped with the Common Core, I peruse it with jaundiced eye. In my experience, they get some things right, but many things continue to be same old, same old. I have never trusted a textbook to provide everything that I need to be a good math educator. That is only accomplished through experience, thoughtful reflection, and putting it all together in a way that those not as “math nerdy” as I am can understand.

  7. Dan: They can have that one way or the other, as far as I’m concerned, but not both. Say you’re waiting and wait. Or say you’re doing something and do something. But this business of saying you’re doing something while waiting will get no end of grief from me.

    The one who said they were waiting had very little claims of being Common Core compliant (I won’t name them here, but you can probably guess).

    Now that I think about it, the other publishers had that attitude too even if they didn’t say it out loud.

  8. Where’s the pre-CCCS on Greg’s? (or are you showing the post-CCCS?)

    And wow, the “why” part of the picture is mind-blowing. Of course! Polynomials are used all the time for skateboard participation! Silly me!

  9. Nate Garnett

    March 1, 2012 - 8:18 am -

    I agree with Elaine’s timely comment. I am a first year teacher, and I ask my students to use their books mainly as a door stop this year. It has taken a ton of work, but I believe I have given them better problems, better modeling and a better foundation this year.
    The problem is (and I can relate to this as a student) that some students prefer to read and figure this stuff out on their own. My style has missed the mark for these students who need a text to fall back on. Of course I think “well, they have the book”, but many students won’t crack it open unless we require and grade whatever they are cracking it open for, possibly for good reason- they don’t know how to use a text, they can’t access it, I don’t reference it.

  10. Perhaps the pages are so similar that Jason didn’t even notice the difference.

    The part that baffles me most is why books print the CCSS standard in the student textbook. What kid would care about this? Shouldn’t this just be in the teacher edition?

    It drives me crazier than an SWBAT.

  11. The standards have very little to do with “how” to teach, they specify the topics to teach. They don’t even specify order or how to connect them. Why is it surprising that these large books already had enough “stuff” in them to “meet” the standards?

    The CCSS are hardly standards in the sense of measuring quality. In fact, they don’t even match the use of the word in other areas of life. We don’t label eggs “Grade A” because they come from a Grade A chicken or even a Grade A farm. We label the egg “Grade A” because the egg itself is Grade A. Likewise, actual Algebra standards would consist of thoughtful exams and meaningful cutoff scores, not a list of topic titles.

    Since the invention of algebraic notation and cartesian coordinates, elementary algebra and its application to problem solving hasn’t changed at all. Providing a list of topics and suggested sequencing is the easy part and hardly guarantees success. That will be up to the students mostly and the teacher secondly.

  12. Juliana Jones

    March 2, 2012 - 12:27 pm -

    Are any of you applying for the opportunity to be part of the drafting of California’s math framework in regard to the common core math standards?

    This example from Dan is of course NOT a good example of what the Common Core Math Standards are about. We cannot believe that it is. We must reject this. It will be HARD work to make the changes and provide the quality professional development to truly embrace the changes that are possible for us. The work to implement the common core must be grass roots, and the teacher voice MUST be heard about what we want.

    And we don’t want our current standards repackaged by textbook companies who (in my opinion) are not concerned with the actual teaching and learning that they greatly impact. We, as professional, high quality teachers, understand that the Common Core will not be an easy implementation and we will have to grow and learn. We want to do this.

    States may be afraid to do the hard work that will be necessary. It won’t involve just matching current standards with the new. It is unclear if California will have the courage to work on this and make significant changes (which we could). We have an opportunity to teach math the way we want to teach it through the Common Core… let’s not allow this to pass us by.

  13. David Wearley

    March 3, 2012 - 7:08 am -

    While a curriculum would be great, I would really appreciate materials that offer more clarification and ideas on how to implement the standards. NCTM put out some great material in support of their standards. The book on proportional reasoning revolutionized the way I thought about the subject and how I assess student understanding. Some of the CCSS are so vague and open for a lot of interpretation, which can be good, but can also leave a lot of people feeling confused and angry. Also, dropping the standards on all of the grades all at once, without much training or curriculum, is not a very intelligent way of shooting for success.

  14. In response to David Wearley, I think that we will see good resources, such as the book you mentioned on proportionality developed, being developed gradually over time.

    I follow the Bill McCallum’s blog “Tools for the Common Core”. Bill was one of the writers of the CCSS math standards. He and his colleagues are working hard to develop good resources.

    In the Tools bar at the top of his blog, there are several great resources. Check out the “progressions” documents, which take a specific topic and discuss how the CCSS sees that topic unfold over the grades. If teachers understand the progressions, then differentiation follows easily. If you know that a topic progresses A -> B -> C ->D and a some of your students don’t understand B, then trying to teach them D will not be fruitful. As a former high school math teacher who had no idea how to teach fractions to students who came in with no understanding, this resource would have been very helpful to me.

    Another promising resource that can be found under the Tools on this blog is the “Illustrated Math” project. In this resource, you can find tasks that “illustrate” specific standards. The project is underway with some of the standards filled in, but like anything that is of quality, there is not a rush to get them all filled in, although that is the eventual goal. The invitation is open for anyone to submit tasks, with the prize of $200 for tasks that are published. However, the tasks are carefully juried, which ensures that the illustrations that you do see have been well thought out and revised when necessary for a quality final product.

    This careful development is not the way book companies are doing it. They are in business to sell books and their goal is to be the first to get “Common Core” stamped books into the hands of teachers.

    As a K-12 math consultant, I am continually perusing and personally jurying every resource that I can find, with the goal of best serving my clients. I see a lot out there that is not good, but I also see some good stuff…most of it free and on the internet.

  15. Bowen, as someone who has worked on textbooks, I, too, have found it frustrating to put the standards in the student book. They are really there for reviewers with the idea that reviewers look more closely at the student text than the teacher edition.

    The CCSS didn’t prescribe an approach to teaching, other than to use the Mathematical Practices to allow for deeper learning. These Mathematical Practices were already being used (though, thinly veiled). So, to a textbook publisher, nothing has changed but the standard numbers. And, economically speaking, that’s all the textbook publishers could afford to change right now. Sales have dropped off significantly because schools just don’t have the money to buy new texts.

    Once an assessment system is agreed upon, you’ll start to see more changes in textbooks, but, even then, the changes won’t be huge. You’ll just see test-prep materials and/or questions set up to look like what will be on the test.

    If you want to see something new, you have to look at textbooks that aren’t from the major publishers. It’s the smaller publishers who will be willing to take a risk and make a change.

  16. I don’t agree that the Mathematical Practices are already being used much in most current textbooks. The MPs are supposed to be themes that run throughout entire textbooks, growing year-to-year. If those things are happening, they need to be brought to the forefront. Having taught from some of these books and having read many others, my opinion is that this is not generally happening.

    What I have seen is mostly a “throw the switch” mentality. In one well-known series, the “problem solving” label has been replaced by the “mathematical practices” label. Phil Daro (one of the lead authors of math CCSS) says that seeing specific problems labeled as the “mathematical practices problems” is an instant red flag that the curriculum does not properly value the MPs: it suggests the other problems don’t require any thinking!

    I think that a lot of these textbooks will have to start from scratch to really build a program that honors the mathematical practices. It took our group (CME Project) five years to write a high school series with mathematical habits of mind as the organizing principle. We’ve been thrilled to see the increased focus nationally on mathematical thinking skills, and a large number of school systems have chosen to adopt our books this year because of our philosophical alignment with the mathematical practices.

    Based on how long it took us, shouldn’t it take even longer to write a coherent, tested K-12 curriculum around Common Core? Instead we see these curricula “ready for Common Core” pushed out the door within six months. That’s just not possible.

    In the long term, I hope more high-quality new curricula are written. It is possible, students deserve it, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

  17. mr bombastic

    March 5, 2012 - 6:00 pm -

    @Bowen, You don’t think the Practice Standards are reflected in most textbooks, but some people do. Isn’t that an unresolvable conflict with such brief descriptions for the practice standards? Do you think maybe they were intentionally left so vague in order to avoid political fights?

    I happen to agree with you that most texts do not follow the spirit of the practice standards, but I can’t really point to any verbage in the standards to support that belief. It seems like just about anything would meet the “letter of the law” as far as the standards go.

  18. That skateboarding example always cracks me up. Later in the same chapter a seventh-degree polynomial is used to fit the speed of a swimmer.

    The issue around the implementation of the practice standards is a tough one. I don’t know how to resolve it well, and it can definitely lead to some standoffs. Reading through a traditional text’s new Common Core version at a conference, I asked them to show me any example or problem where MP #8 (“generalize from repeated reasoning) was emphasized. They couldn’t, and only pointed to a statement in the prologue that said all eight practices were “woven into every lesson”. All eight practices in every lesson, it’s a miracle… Or not.

    Your word “spirit” is well chosen. I think the authors of CCSS were generally careful to avoid prescribing specific teaching methods, but the overall philosophy comes through. If you have ideas about how to make it clear who is and isn’t actually aligned to the practices, I’d like to know because I’d like to be able to shout it louder than these “new” books!

  19. The EDC developed the “habits of mind”. If you look carefully at the wording of the “habits of mind” and the “mathematical practices,” you’ll see some replication.

    Of all of the texts available, it would seem any text developed in part by the EDC would be more closely aligned to the mathematical practices than any other text. But, @Bowen, I’m sure you are already aware of this.

    For people looking for primary and middle school texts, the EDC developed Think Math (GK-5) and CME2 (middle school).

  20. A correction: EDC did not develop the middle school program Shari mentions; there is no such thing as “CME2”. What you probably meant was “CMP2”, the Connected Math Program created and edited at Michigan State University:


    There’s definitely a lot in common between CMP2’s philosophy and CME’s. It’s a big reason Pearson decided to publish CME.

    I remember reading the CCSS first draft “way back in aught 10” and hoping it would catch on. It’s less than two years later… seems like it has ;)

    Anyway, more screenshots! I’ll see what I can track down.

  21. I stand corrected. I thought the EDC had a middle school math program, too, but now I’m not finding it. I see they have some projects in the works and some professional development pieces, but not a full middle s hook program.