Mass. High School Teachers Write Online Math Textbook
Townsend, Mass. — When math teachers at North Middlesex Regional High School had a hard time finding affordable textbooks that reflect the new statewide Common Core curriculum, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
Teachers in the North Middlesex Math Department, led by Chairman Ed Logiudice, produced their own textbooks when publishers’ offerings didn’t measure up or were too expensive.
And the texts are already being used in the classroom.
Logiudice said when he and the other teachers finalized their plans for moving toward the Common Core curriculum, which started this school year, they immediately began researching textbooks to align with what they wanted to do.
“We called every textbook company we could,” Logiudice said. “We had different professional development opportunities. We did not find a company that was making integrated math textbooks that reflected the new standards.”
And even if there was such a textbook, he said, they’re usually expensive. An average brand-new math textbook can cost well over $125, he said, and to get the number the school would need, it would cost nearly $45,000 a year for three years to swap out the old books with new ones.
“That’s about $135,000 worth of books I would need to purchase,” he said. “We’d be asking the district to sink all that money we knew wasn’t there to begin with.”
That’s where the idea came from to write their own books, a process that started last summer, he said.
“We write our own set of notes and homework assignments,” he said. “We basically turned it into a new online textbook. This year’s freshmen are the first class to use this model. We had made the decision this was the way to go. We knew we needed a textbook. A lot of us don’t really use our textbooks because they’re so old and out of date anyway.”
All the notes and homework assignments are printed out and given to the students, but they’re also placed on a web site all the students can access from any computer.
“In the department itself, it’s been amazing,” Logiudice said. “The amount of teamwork and collaboration we have is better than we could have hoped for.”
The team of teachers working on the freshman book, which is being implemented into the curriculum this year, meets weekly to write new chapters of the book, notes for each section and all the homework assignments.
The books for the sophomore curriculum will be implemented next year, and the material for the junior curriculum will be implemented the year after.
Logiudice said that under the new Common Core curriculum, the order of how material is presented is different than how it has been presented before. In the past, students have taken algebra 1, geometry, then algebra 2. After that, students would have a choice of other classes, including trigonometry, calculus and statistics.
The new curriculum incorporates many of the different principles of each aspect of math into the new classes. Logiudice said it’s about grouping similar topics together, not by course, as in the past.
The focus shifts away from just getting the right answer to the process involved in getting the right answer. Additionally, Logiudice said, there is a larger focus on writing about, discussing and experiencing the mathematical process.
Students are also assigned “real-life” projects to demonstrate their knowledge of all the concepts, Logiudice said.
“The students seem to love it. They’re beginning to see the connection with integrated math. ... We had trouble points at the beginning,” he said, due in large part because, as the transition started, students felt they had seen a lot of the material already.
“Their seeing it is better for them,” he said. “With parents, they’re always going to have questions about whether it is in the best interest of their kids. By the time these kids are seniors, they will see so much more than they would have otherwise.”
Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers said she’s impressed with what the teachers in the department are doing to continue to provide quality education in the face of adversity.
“They’ve taken this on, and it’s a testament to their dedication to this district,” Landers said. “Other districts have reached out to them inquiring about them.”