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Middle Grades Mathematics Textbooks

A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation


There is ample evidence that too few young people emerge from the school systems of this country well educated in science and mathematics. Whatever the case in other countries, the science and mathematics literacy called for in Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1989) still evades us in the United States. While there are undoubtedly multiple and complex reasons for this, and no simple remedies, the instructional materials used in the schools are a substantial part of the problem. As Project 2061 has found, and recent data from the Third International Science and Mathematics Study (Schmidt, McKnight, & Raizen, 1997) demonstrate, most curriculum materials suffer from a lack of coherence and focus. It would be a great advantage to educators if they could have ready access to reliable information on how well available textbooks support the specific understandings and skills in science, mathematics, and technology that constitute science literacy.

While publishers and other curriculum materials developers are eager to claim that their materials are aligned with benchmarks and standards, few such claims stand up to careful scrutiny. And rarely are school districts, schools, or individual teachers able to devote the time and resources necessary to judge the alignment themselves.

Because there has not been a solid, widely acknowledged conceptual basis for evaluating textbooks, the process has been largely cursory, impressionistic, and unreliable. Now, however, it is possible to evaluate instructional materials systematically in the light of what is to be learned. This is so for two reasons: the emergence of content standards and benchmarks bearing on science literacy, and the development by Project 2061 of a trustworthy procedure for assessing the effectiveness of instructional materials in addressing those standards and benchmarks.

This publication is the first in a planned series of reports on evaluations of mathematics and science textbooks, including those that are most widely used in American schools, using the Project 2061 curriculum-materials analysis procedure. Support for this first phase of work has been provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

This volume is intended to help mathematics educators make better decisions about which middle grades textbooks would most effectively help their students improve their achievement in mathematics. The results of this evaluation can also help educators use textbooks more effectively by identifying areas where supplemental materials or staff development may be needed.

Part 1 focuses on the overall findings of an evaluation of 13 middle school mathematics textbook series and compares the ratings. Part 2 provides background about Project 2061 and how the textbook evaluation was done, including a discussion of the unique features of the analysis procedure. Finally the limitations and constraints of the analysis and their impact on the results are discussed. Part 3 presents summary reports for each of the textbooks that were reviewed.

In addition to the summaries that are presented here, Project 2061 has complete technical reports for each of the textbooks. The technical reports, which are available for purchase in CD-ROM format, provide detailed data that include the ratings on the specific criteria that form the basis for the summaries in Part 3 of this volume.

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