Mathematics Methods for Elementary and Middle School Teachers is in its 6th edition, which made me hopeful of its value and use. Right from the table of contents, however, I found this text dense and somewhat overwhelming.
The authors seem to have taken an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach when deciding what to include. This does mean that there is a little bit of everything important in each chapter, including:
- the NCTM Principles and Standards,
- NCLB legislation,
- child psychology and development,
- learning theories,
- multicultural classroom issues,
- assessment strategies
- samples of student work,
- children’s literature,
- and even some mathematics.
In the past, I have taught at universities where preservice elementary teachers take both a math content for elementary teachers course and a math methods course; this book isn’t a strong fit for either of those courses. A book with this ambitious scope has better potential use at a school where preservice elementary teachers take only one course in how to teach mathematics (like my current institution), but this particular text is not one that I would use.
Examining the book for specific topics that a student might want to reference, one discovers a few more problems: there is no section on lesson planning, for example. The index is also not entirely accurate (Van Hiele theory, for example, is outlined in the book, but there is no reference to it in the index).
Although many activities are included in the text to give a starting point for teachers, many of them include “scripts” which to me are too heavy-handed. They provide somewhat unrealistic (or even inaccurate) views of the classroom to our university students. For example, on page 129 we see a sample student response of “4 red and 2 white makes 6”, providing an operational versus relational view of addition.
The formatting of the book is modest: black, white, and blue text and images, which is refreshing considering how visually overstimulating many textbooks are today. However, this simplistic formatting is taken towards unprofessionalism on the companion website. Throughout the text, the reader is directed to the website for additional resources to accompany each chapter. In the “Extended Activities and Exercises” section of Chapter 1 on the website, the formatting is rough and the site even includes scanned pages from the TIMSS study and handwritten items.
I examined a “WebQuest” for the Pythagorean Theorem. The file was a Microsoft Word document, which is useful for an instructor to modify; but as the document is little more than a draft, using the file would require many modifications.
The biggest disappointment for me were the manipulative templates available online, which include pages scanned from other books (you can see the reverse in the scan) and some which appear to be hand-colored. They are shoddy reproductions of something that is widely available. The video vignettes included on the companion website may have great potential, but I was unable to access them to evaluate.
Overall, I was disappointed with this text, and would not recommend it to my colleagues.
Christine Latulippe has nine years experience teaching courses for preservice elementary school teachers in addition to four years teaching middle school and high school. She is an assistant professor at Norwich University in Northfield, VT.