Algebra Textbooks Evaluation


Instructional Criteria

The criteria for making judgments about instruction were derived from research on learning and teaching and on the craft knowledge of experienced educators. Sources included Chapter 13, "Effective Learning and Teaching," of Science for All Americans; Chapter 15, "The Research Base," of Benchmarks for Science Literacy; Research Ideas for the Classroom: Middle Grades Mathematics, (Owens, 1993); and Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, (Grouws, 1992). From these and other sources, 24 criteria—arranged into seven categories—were selected to serve as a basis for the instructional analysis. (Read about the curriculum analysis procedure in detail)

Category I: Identifying a Sense of Purpose. Part of planning a coherent curriculum involves deciding on its purposes and on what learning experiences will likely contribute to achieving those purposes. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material conveys a unit purpose and a lesson purpose and justifies the sequence of activities.

I.1 Conveying Unit Purpose

I.2 Conveying Lesson Purpose

I.3 Justifying Sequence of Activities

Category II: Building on Student Ideas about Mathematics. Fostering better understanding in students requires taking time to attend to the ideas they already have, both ideas that are incorrect and ideas that can serve as a foundation for subsequent learning. Four criteria are used to determine whether the material specifies prerequisite knowledge, alerts teachers to student ideas, assists teachers in identifying student ideas, and addresses misconceptions.

II.1 Specifying Prerequisite Knowledge

II.2 Alerting Teacher to Student Ideas

II.3 Assisting Teacher in Identifying Ideas

II.4 Addressing Misconceptions

Category III: Engaging Students in Mathematics. For students to appreciate the power of mathematics, they need to have a sense of the range and complexity of ideas and applications that mathematics can explain or model. Two criteria are used to determine whether the material provides a variety of contexts and an appropriate number of firsthand experiences.

III.1 Providing Variety of Contexts

III.2 Providing Firsthand Experiences

Category IV: Developing Mathematical Ideas. Mathematics literacy requires that students see the link between concepts and skills, see mathematics itself as logical and useful, and become skillful at using mathematics. Six criteria are used to determine whether the material justifies the importance of benchmark ideas, introduces terms and procedures only as needed, represents ideas accurately, connects benchmark ideas, demonstrates/models procedures, and provides practice.

IV.1 Justifying Importance of Benchmark Ideas

IV.2 Introducing Terms and Procedures

IV.3 Representing Ideas Accurately

IV.4 Connecting Benchmark Ideas

IV.5 Demonstrating/Modeling Procedures

IV.6 Providing Practice

Category V: Promoting Student Thinking about Mathematics. No matter how clearly materials may present ideas, students (like all people) will devise their own meaning, which may or may not correspond to targeted learning goals. Students need to make their ideas and reasoning explicit and to hold them up to scrutiny and recast them as needed. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material encourages students to explain their reasoning, guides students in their interpretation and reasoning, and encourages them to think about what they've learned.

V.1 Encouraging Students to Explain Their Reasoning

V.2 Guiding Interpretation and Reasoning

V.3 Encouraging Students to Think about What They've Learned

Category VI: Assessing Student Progress in Mathematics. Assessments must address the range of skills, applications, and contexts that reflect what students are expected to learn. This is possible only if assessment takes place throughout instruction, not only at the end of a chapter or unit. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material aligns assessments with the benchmarks, assesses students through the application of benchmark ideas, and uses embedded assessments.

VI.1 Aligning Assessment

VI.2 Assessing through Applications

VI.3 Using Embedded Assessment

Category VII: Enhancing the Mathematics Learning Environment. (Because the criteria included in Category VII were not scored numerically, ratings for them are not displayed on the summary charts elsewhere on this web site. A summary of analysts' comments will be provided in the narrative report for each textbook.) Providing features that enhance the use and implementation of the textbook for all students is important. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material provides teacher content support, establishes a challenging classroom, and supports all students.

VII.1 Providing Teacher Content Support

VII.2 Establishing a Challenging Classroom

VII.3 Supporting All Students

Continued: Idea Sets Used to Evaluate Algebra Textbooks