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Updated Jan. 15 2014: With little discussion, the State Board of Education unanimously approved 31 new K-8 and Algebra 1 math textbooks and other teaching materials aligned to Common Core State Standards at its meeting Wednesday and agreed to consider additional online materials if the Instructional Quality Commission recommends them.
One plus one still equals two, but quite a bit else has changed in the new math textbooks and instructional materials under consideration for California classrooms.
Common Core State Standards are the driver in these math texts and other teaching materials that the State Board of Education is scheduled to vote to adopt on Wednesday. That means the books have less emphasis on pages of math exercises that are common in current textbooks and more focus on abstract reasoning and understanding mathematical practices.
Students will learn to recognize patterns and how to apply them in different situations; they’ll have to figure out answers without neat formulas to plug into, and engage in classroom discussions about problem solving methods.
These are skills that people will apply throughout their careers, said Tom Adams, director of curriculum frameworks and instructional resources at the California Department of Education. “They’re often described as the habits of the mind for mathematicians,” he explained.
Another key change this time is that school districts are not beholden to the list of texts and materials the State Board approves. In past years, if districts wanted to buy materials other than those approved by the board, they couldn’t use the state funds set aside for textbooks.
Without Common Core, California would not be adopting new instructional materials for math for at least another year. It’s an expensive process, and in 2009, when the state was in the midst of the recession, the Legislature approved a moratorium on the development of new curriculum frameworks and instructional materials until 2013. Another bill extended that moratorium through July 2015.
Common Core couldn’t wait that long, and in 2012 lawmakers approved Assembly Bill 1246, allowing the state to move ahead with frameworks and textbooks for math and English language arts in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Money was still tight at the time, and publishers had to pay $5,000 for each textbook and related materials submitted in every grade in order to cover the $1 million it cost the state for supplies, travel and staff to evaluate the materials. More than 100 teachers participated in the evaluation of the materials the board is scheduled to review Wednesday.
The Instructional Quality Commission, which reviews the materials, received 35 sets of math programs and recommended 31 to the State Board.
The items are “a good mix” of online materials and traditional texts, said Bill Honig, chair of the commission and former state schools superintendent.
“The feeling was that many of (the publishers) did a good job of trying to incorporate those ideas” within Common Core, he said.
Patricia Rucker, the State Board member who served as liaison to the commission, said evaluators understood the stakes involved in selecting top-quality materials.
“I’ve never seen a more intense conversation about the frameworks,” Rucker said. “You’d have thought they were talking about dividing up community property” the way they were talking and arguing.
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