My Relationship with Textbooks: “It’s Complicated”
My first several years of teaching I avoided the math textbook as much as possible. One year I even waited to hand out textbooks to students until the second quarter. I assumed (incorrectly) that using the textbook would make me a lazy, bad teacher. However, at the start of this year I decided to embrace the textbook for the good resource that it can be: a bank of practice problems not a replacement for my teaching.
Background: My Classroom
One other thing I’m doing this year is flipping my classroom. The flip, however, isn’t just lecture. I’m trying to challenge my students do problem solving through the vidoes, and I hope to show how I’m trying to achieve that in this lesson. For one thing, I provide guided notes for the students to fill out as they watch the lesson. I also don’t do every problem: I ask them to pause the video and try some in the middle of the video. To that end, I’m also using EDpuzzle which pauses the video and asks them questions that I’ve created at a variety of levels.
When we get back together in class the following day, the students are randomly assigned into groups of 3 or 4. Students spend about 10 minutes going over the notes and making sure each students’ notes agree with one another and that students understand the topic. After that students work on practice problems, from the textbook, on the same topic. 
So we’re chugging along and we get to the Unit Circle. This is the first lesson that I disagree with how Blitzer (our textbook) approaches it. I’ve had success with students in the past by teaching special right triangles first because students see them in the Unit Circle. So I decided to create my own “chapter” and left the textbook, like old times.
The link below is a short (<13 minute) video so you can see what the students will do for HW prior to class. But you should watch it because that’s the interesting part of my lesson. 🙂
Here’s the handout:
As you can tell from the video, I show students the special right triangles and where the values come from. My hope is that they use the Pythagorean theorem if they ever forget the shortcuts in the future, but most students will, unfortunately, probably forget that. I’m not sure how to share that with them differently. However I only give students a few points from the Unit Circle, and ask them to “figure out the rest”. If they can figure it out on their own before coming to class, and they understand the special right triangles, then I think that it will be more likely that the Unit Circle will stick.
Since I’ve deviated from the textbook here, I had to find practice problems online, but that wasn’t too difficult. Students will go to my website and simply click on the worksheet links (complete with answers) to practice this in class. I’ll only print out the sheets for those students who want more practice beyond class and have no internet at home.
I’ve assigned the video (only 2 students have watched it so far), but we’ll meet in class Monday to see how well they did filling out the rest of the Unit Circle.
Request for Feedback
How can I improve this approach? How can I teach special right triangles in the video so that they do more of the “heavy lifting”?
How are the quality of the questions in the EDpuzzle video? Are there others you thought of that I could do?
Is there a better way to approach the Unit Circle that you’ve seen/used other than special right triangles?
If you could answer any of the questions above, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you for reading! (and watching??)
 I still avoid it in Physics–I haven’t handed out a textbook in 3 years, with the exception of one student who begged for it. It didn’t help her.
 It’s also a good resource for ideas for 3-act lessons.
 I’ve seen some teachers teach how to read a textbook, which is a valuable skill, but one that I’ve decided pass on for now. I want my students to understand the math first and foremost. I’m still not sure how I feel about not teaching students to use a textbook effectively and efficiently.
 Because I believe that HW is practice, earlier this year (before I flipped), I don’t grade HW. Students also didn’t do the HW (with very few exceptions). Now, I still don’t grade that they watch the video, but I’m not afraid to email or call home if students are missing it chronically. Also when students get to class, they recognize that they’re responsible for learning the material at home, and so will work harder at the start of class to understand what they didn’t watch. It’s amazing how much more “HW” (practice) they’re doing now just because it’s happening during class.
 And if I’m on my blogging game, I’ll blog about how it went. Unfortunately it’s tennis season, so I probably won’t find time to soon.