Friday, September 21, 2012

Teaching Textbooks

   I have been homeschooling for 17 years now, and I have seen and heard of a lot of higher math programs.  I've read the discussions on the different merits and approaches of various publishers, as we all search for that perfect algebra program!   Over the years, I find it interesting to hear the diverse reactions and responses to the many different programs out there.  And I've come to the conclusion that, like almost any other subject curriculum, finding a math program that suits your student, especially higher math, is a very personal opinion that is influenced mainly by the success of our students.   Another interesting observation is that if a student is going to do well in math, he/she will do well no matter which publisher you go with.  And if a student is going to struggle with math concepts, the same will be true, no matter which publisher.  While the approach, or scope and sequence, or presentation may vary, I think the end result is basically the same.

  Over the last 15+ years, I have heard moms "swear" by a certain math program, only to hear another mom completely reject that same program, faulting the curriculum for the student's struggle.  I have heard one program highly criticized by one mother, and the same program highly praised by another.  So, it seems to me that like our individual students, who all learn so differently, there are many math choices out there to choose from, and we should find one that is the best fit for our learner, knowing that some students are just not "math minded" and will struggle no matter which one we go with.

I have heard challenges regarding "college prep" quality or the accusation of being remedial attached to Teaching Textbooks.  Due to that stigma, I shied away from TT for many years, until my homeschool household became busy enough that I was looking for a mom friendly way to accomplish our math goals.   I began doing some research on math programs, and I was encouraged by what I found.  Now, let me say here that I am not pushing TT as the "best" math program.  In fact, like any of the others, some may not care for the way some math concepts are taught. That is a fair reason not to use it.  But I don't think it should be rejected because it is deemed remedial or sub-standard. 

 I know I have written about this before, but I'll recap what the authors say about the scope and sequence of the program.  Most math publishers are marketing to many different public and/or private schools.   Because each school district covers different math concepts in any given grade, the publisher includes EVERY topic in their math book, hoping to be chosen and purchased by each school district.   The school district then uses the chapters that teach their chosen topics for that school year/grade, and skips the chapters that covers topics they are not incorporating into that grade.  This explains why we remember skipping around in our books or not finishing a book when we were in school. (Even our colleges still do this.. they pick and choose topics/chapters from a textbook.)  Homeschoolers buy these same textbooks, and we work frantically, trying to finish every chapter in the book! 

 The authors of Teaching Textbooks, decided to instead spread out the scope and sequence of math topics and just cover a more reasonable amount of topics at a gentler pace, yet still covering it all over the series of grades.  This is why if you compare a certain grade of TT with another publisher, you will get the idea that they are not as thorough.  But what is missing from one grade, is being purposely postponed until another grade.  

 In my personal research, I still read mixed reviews on TT, just like any other curriculum.  But I am personally aware of several families who have students that have tested quite well on the SAT or CLEP or other college entrance exams, who worked through the TT high school math.  So, the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes.  Just like any other math curriculum, some students will perform well in college courses, and others won't.  But that probably has more to do with the student than the math curriculum used. 

 So, why consider TT?  Because it makes completing higher math easier on the PARENT.    My heart is burdened for the many homeschoolers who put their children in school, often because of science or math.  That just isn't necessary.  Teaching Textbooks makes it possible for the parent to slip in and out of the course, as needed, without having to keep up along the way, which is often just too time consuming.  This curriculum takes alot of the anxiety out of teaching math, and if a curriculum can offer that, and hence help us resist quitting, then it has much value in my opinion. 

 And if you are still concerned about the quality of the math taught, I figure that most often, we are trying to complete a graduation or college entrance requirement, and these courses adequately do that.  If our student is going on into a math major, they will be prepared enough to do so, and they will have plenty of opportunity at the college level to complete oodles of math courses.

 On a side note... the lower levels also take ALOT of the stress out of teaching math.  I hear from a lot of moms, who tell me that tears are often a part of their math time each day.  TT almost eliminates that problem, because the frustrations just don't seem to build between parent and child. 

 The one draw back to TT is the price.  However, you can look for them used, and get a good savings, and usually resell to purchase the next grade.   homeschool classifieds is a good place to buy and sell used curriculum.  Do be aware though, of the newer version 2.0 for some courses.  Reselling the older version is becoming difficult, and finding the newer version used is also difficult.  So, one must decide what is the better investment for your family and budget.   

  There are other dvd based math programs as well, such as Math Relief, which is another wonderful, traditional algebra program.    But TT is just a little more techy and has just a few more ease of use options, so that as long as it is working for my student, I will probably stick with TT... for my PARENT/TEACHER benefit, not because it is better math. 


No comments:

Post a Comment