Although the basics of traditional mathematics remain unchanged, the way students are being taught these fundamental skills is undergoing a transformation. On January 15th of this year, the State Board of Education approved the use of thirty-one new math books for use in California classrooms. The new textbooks are designed to promote Common Core State Standards. Many schools across the country have adopted this innovative teaching technique. According to the State Board, additional online materials will be considered if recommended by the Instructional Quality Commission.
Common Core teaching differs from traditional teaching methods in several ways. Instead of focusing on endless pages of mathematic exercises, the Common Core textbooks concentrate on teaching mathematical practices and abstract reasoning. While traditional textbooks encouraged students to use concise formulas to find an answer, the new math textbooks teach students to recognize patterns and to determine how they can be applied in various situations. The books also encourage classroom discussions where problem solving methods are shared. Teaching experts agree that learning these skills is crucial for the development of a mathematical mind.
Another important change in the use of textbooks in California classrooms involves the list of approved materials and texts created by the State Board. In previous years, school districts were restricted to choosing from the State Board approved list when purchasing textbooks and teaching materials. If the districts chose to purchase materials that were not on the approved list, they were unable to use state textbook funds. This is no longer the case.
Purchasing new textbooks and updating educational materials for the various school districts across the state is an extremely costly process. During the recession of 2009, the state Legislature approved a moratorium on the purchase and development of new instructional materials and texts until 2013. Since then, another bill extended the suspension until July 2015. Without the approval of Common Core materials, California students would be expected to use the old math materials for at least another year.
In 2012, California lawmakers approved a bill, Assembly Bill 1246, that would allow the state to move on with the development of new textbooks and materials. The new materials could be purchased for English language arts and mathematics, targeting students in Kindergarten through eighth grade.
More than one hundred dedicated teachers, known as the Instructional Quality Commission, participated in reviewing the new materials. Thirty-five sets of mathematic programs were received and thirty-one of those were recommended to the State Board. The academic team understood the extreme importance of selecting the best quality materials. The total cost for supplies, staff and travel arrangements during the evaluation totaled $1 million dollars.
A former state superintendent and chair of the commission thought that the chosen materials represented a healthy mix of traditional texts and online materials. The evaluators determined that many of the publishers did well in combining the ideas and topics.
Most California educators are passionate about teaching. They are focused on giving their students every advantage possible when it comes to furthering their education. The California State Board of Education feels that implementing the Common Core program into new math materials is a great way to instruct students and to maximize their education.