This is the year that our school gets (has) to choose math textbooks for the next 7 years. Even though our school is on so tight a budget crunch that my wife, who teachers in the middle school, was denied a pencil sharpener (true story), we have tens of thousands of dollars coming from the state which if we don’t use, we lose. And even though I’d rather get technology, supplies, or pencil sharpeners than textbooks, as a Precalculus teacher, I have an option of about 3 or 4 textbooks which are the only direction we can send that money. Blah.
I use very little textbook in my teaching because I find most textbooks to have this issue, but I feel a duty to select a good textbook because I may or may not be teaching at this position, or even this school, for the next 7 years, and so I want something that my successor can fall back on, especially if they are a 1st year teacher.
So I made a Google Spreadsheet to analyze which textbooks would be good for me, as a Precalculus teacher who is following the previous teacher’s curriculum (now my principal!). And by “good for me” I mean “good for my students.”
I was shocked by the significant difference between explanations of various textbooks, as well as how good this one “Thinking Mathematically” by Blitzer textbook is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover all of the topics covered by my curriculum, but that won’t be too much of a problem next year as I rarely use the textbook anyways, even for practice problems. Two things impressed me about this book (not to mention the raving Amazon reviews)–the first is how every chapter, even every section doesn’t start with definitions or even a “this is what this section covers” as so many do. Instead, every chapter starts with a story, which the author then relates back to the mathematics. This is how I would like to teach math one day, and I could even assign textbook reading for homework with a book like that!
The second thing impressed me was how the application problems weren’t totally lame. The first application problem I flipped to was talking about “opium production in Afghanistan”–that definitely catches a HS senior’s attention better than your typical “you want to see how many outfit you could wear with your 3 ties, 2 socks, and 5 button downs…”.
What I find strange is how the Blitzer Precalculus book is not “adopted” by New Mexico, so we can’t use state funds to purchase that book, and I think that would fit the curriculum better, but beggars can’t be choosers.