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Bridget Jones, a UK maths tutor followed the #TextbooksCount debate on Twitter and has blogged her thoughts following the launch of the Cambridge Approach to Textbooks.
For some reason I hadn’t realised that there was going to be a seminar on this – I just happened to notice it on Twitter. Brilliant.
The 'Cambridge Approach to Textbooks' was launched in April by Cambridge Assessment.
I feel passionately about textbooks – mind you I love books so perhaps I am a little biased. We have bookshelves in every room – all overflowing. I tried culling them the other week – one book ended up by the front door to go to the charity shop and it still hasn’t made it there.
Pictured below is just a small part of my maths collection.
I also have my 'old faithfuls' – CGP AQA Maths Higher Level Revision Book and Bond 'How to do 11+ Maths' that permanently live in my tutoring bag for easy reference. They are well thumbed with an accumulation of coffee stains and cat paw prints! If I need to refer to something quickly ranging from what an octagon looks like to a graph of sin x – they fit the bill.
I love books (in case you haven’t realised that by now!). I love maths books – I feel really strongly that children in schools should have their own text books and that they should be allowed to take them home too! Surely that is fundamental and shouldn’t be open for debate? Some of the students I tutor say that occasionally they are 'allowed' to look at books in the lessons but have to hand them in at the end … What is that about?
I have been lucky in that I have been asked to review some textbooks – I really enjoy getting the chance to give feedback. It’s relatively easy to pick up on what works with students when you are with them one-to-one.
Learning Objectives in text books – hate them – as do my students. The objective is to get to the end of the section having learnt something – simple as that. Who wants to dissect it – I certainly don’t – nor do my students. You then get to the end of the section and have to say what you have learnt…. why? Publishers – please leave these out of your books.
A lot of my students these days do MyMaths at school – so my computer sometimes goes on during a maths session. Before I start waffling … I just want to say that I am not against computers – part of my degree is in computing. I am sure that MyMaths has its place, and a useful one at that. I do wonder about the merits of it for homework in place of 'old-fashioned' written homework. It unfortunately often becomes a tick box exercise with the student intent on getting as many green ticks as possible and a smiley face without really taking in the content. Isn’t there some research somewhere that suggests writing things on paper actually gets your brain to remember them better? It’s difficult to refer back for revision purposes – in fact it seems to me (but I could have got this wrong) that once you have completed the exercise it is difficult to see the work you have done and instead you are offered another exercise. Feel free to correct me those who know about it!
Back to textbooks…
I was thrilled to be asked by Galore Park to attend a focus group at their London office to give feedback on their new books. I genuinely was pleased to be asked what I thought – I firmly believe that publishers need feedback. I really like the Galore Park books – I have their year 4, 5, and 6 maths books as well as their 3 Common Entrance books.
They all come with separate answer books (to keep away from the students if need be). The answer books also come with photocopiable worksheets for extra practice. The books are easy to read with lots of practice and great examples.
I also like Hodder books – probably not surprising as they are all part of the same group. Their style appeals to me. They have great pictures such as the following one on how to draw a perpendicular bisector – something students struggle with.
They also don’t have learning objectives! I use their Mastering Maths KS3 Series as well as the GCSE a lot – what is not to like about a whole book devoted to Algebra!
Incidentally, Hodder have a great Loyalty Scheme.
My younger students really like doing pages in workbooks and have a genuine sense of achievement once they have finished the book. Schofield and Sims have some great ones. I particularly like their Understanding Maths Series. It’s great for helping children really get to grips with specific topics such as fractions or decimals… and more…
Bond Books – great workbooks for preparation for 11+. I am sure that all families preparing for the joys of 11+ must have discovered these and have sets of them at home!
Last but by no means least...
A GCSE student very recently asked me if I knew of some revision cards for Maths that he could carry around with him. I didn’t off the top of my head but I am not one to shirk a challenge. A bit of googling and I came across these fantastic revision cards from the Mathematical Association. I have now bought quite a few batches of these (I missed a trick here – I should be on some sort of commission!). They are approximately 13 cm x 8 cm and easily stored in index card boxes. I also give my students little folders to make them easy to carry around.
Quick Disclaimer: These are my own personal views. I have bought most of the textbooks myself and only received a few free copies. A free copy does not influence my comments.
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