As the title suggests, this is a textbook to be used in instructing future elementary teachers. The book provides chapters consistent with what is taught in most elementary math concepts courses, covering sets, whole numbers, number theory, fractions, decimals, percents, ratio, proportion, integers, probability, statistics, measurement and geometry. This text could be used in a variety of elementary math education courses.
What is somewhat unique to this book is that the chapters are shorter and more centered on a specific topic, so that the book includes more chapters than many other text of its kind. As with other texts, the content is tied to the National Council of Mathematics’ Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, and Curriculum Focal Points. In fact, the standards are listed inside the front cover of the book as well as placed with specific content in the body of the book.
A feature of the book that should be helpful for teachers is the “reflections from research” that are scattered throughout the book. These provide the reader with statements from research that reinforce the variety of ways the authors are “teaching” the concepts. In addition, Mathematical Morsels are also presented on various pages in the text. These morsels tell cute stories related in some way to mathematics. Another unique feature of this text is that after each section two problem sets are presented. Answers to the first set are provided at the end of the book. This would allow instructors some flexibility in the work they assign to students using this text.
While I like many things about this text, I feel I must point out that although the authors show many ways to teach concepts, I would not truly consider many of them to be conceptual. The text does a good job of showing how to teach specific concepts, but still in many cases does not delve deep enough into the “whys.” For example, in the section on subtraction of integers, the authors show a couple of brief example problems using the chip model. However, these examples come with little explanation of why or how they used the chips as they did. Then the authors go directly into additive inverse, called adding the opposite, again without much explanation of why that works.
In my experience teaching math concepts classes to potential elementary teachers, they need much more explanation and they need to be presented with the “whys.” Students at this level tend to not understand math conceptually, and therefore are limited in what they can teach to their students when they get into the classroom. It is important that, instead of showing a lot of definitions, theorems and rules, we provide them with a greater understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts. While this text does provide some of that, I do not feel like it goes far enough in that direction to improve significantly on the majority of texts that are currently available.
Janet D. Wansick (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is an assistant professor of mathematics at East Central University in Ada, OK. She began her teaching career in the middle school classroom teaching 7th and 8th grade mathematics before moving to the high school and eventually to the college level. She works with numerous classroom teachers at all levels and conducts mathematics partnership workshops. Her research areas of interest include mathematics education, curriculum and pedagogy, and mathematical assessment.