Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Custom Built Text

I did something this week that I've never done before; I designed my own custom textbook for my Teaching Elementary School Math and Science course. I have used a wonderful textbook by John Van de Walle in the course for many years but I wasn't using all of it. The book costs an amazing $158 and so didn't want my students to spend all that money on a book  I only partially used. The part I didn't use was pedagogy or how-to of teaching math. For this part of the course I use the Bridges program which is used extensively in school throughout Vermont and the US.

What I did want to use was the pedagogical content knowledge or 'what to teach' section of the book as I feel very strongly that my students need to understand the math they are teaching even if it is something as basic as subitizing.

So after several emails with the very helpful Pearson rep I now have a custom made book that includes only the pieces I need and with a really neat Matisse painting on the cover. You can even see some numbers in the picture if you look carefully; math and art are so interrelated. The book will only cost my students $123 and will be completely up to date with Common Core info, unlike the used copies of previous editions that are available on-line. They can also get it conveniently at the college book store.

Subitizing, by the way is one of the "basics" of math. It is the ability to look at a number of objects and quantify them without having to count them. Many animals can do this, with crows being quite spectacularly good at it. Most people can subitize up to 5 to 7 objects randomly placed although it takes significantly longer to subitize quantities after 3. We arrange dots on dice and dominoes into patterns so that they are easier to recognize (or, perhaps, subitize). Double 6 dominoes are familiar but try looking at a set of double 12s; the 7 and 8 and 11 arrangements are quite a challenge.

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