The Math We Need to Know and Do in Grades PreK-5 offers a method for developing a grade-by-grade curriculum, accompanied by assessments to continuously measure progress. Solomon bases her work both on mathematics education research and on her personal experience; she follows a philosophy similar to that of NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. In addition to providing standards by grade, this book also offers suggested pedagogical practices for implementation.
Before delving into the merits of the book, I should warn that the title is misleading. The book does not actually mention PreK at all. Also, at the other end, it adds some description of math for grades 6-8. The consequences of this confusion should not be grave for most readers, but anyone focusing on PreK would be disappointed.
The heart of the book lies in chapter three, which provides innovative teaching methods for new or veteran teachers. Sections in italics show questions and steps to take in order to avoid simply lecturing. In order to promote student discovery, Solomon describes scaffolding experiences that build on students’ abilities. She also shows how topics relate to one another and points out when teachers should make these connections, usually providing explanations for teachers as to why each connection and topic is important. Aware of the need for teaching and using technology in school, she also provides useful techniques for introducing calculators as a supplement, not a replacement, in the classroom. Several of the connections and key points are ideas that do not come to mind at first thought, and thus will be helpful for teachers looking to develop their first curricula or to add something to their practices.
My biggest concern with this book is the structure. Solomon claims it is a straightforward guide, but in order to figure out which topics are to be taught in which grades, one must flip back and forth across pages and chapters. Chapter two’s organization is centered on topics, which are broken down by grade level, but all the practices are in chapter three with no reference to grade level. Presenting the information for each grade level at a time would have been more helpful to teachers, allowing them to find their grade and then see all the topics to be developed and introduced.
At times Solomon simply neglects to offer enough information for teachers. She introduces many science topics, but does not suggest how to best integrate these with the mathematics. Finally, at no time in this book does Solomon suggest approximate amounts of time to be spent on the topics. She claims that this will be different for each class and student, but some general ideas would still be useful.
In all, The Math We Need to Know and Do in Grades PreK-5 provides incredibly useful information. It is not quite as accessible as I would like from an organizational standpoint, but it is friendly, light, and easy to read. It would take a bit of effort to develop a curriculum from what Solomon gives us, but there are a plethora of useful sample assessments and activities as well as excellent strategies for guiding students to their full potential. The content is thorough, understandable, and progressive. Used as a reference for specific pedagogical ideas rather than read straight through, this book is terrific.
Megan Bovill is a native of Saco, Maine and is a senior Mathematical Sciences and Human Development major at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Upon graduation, she plans to teach elementary school.