As educators reviewed the choices for math textbooks for grades K-8 on Tuesday, there’s the inevitable cliche: They aren’t the textbooks like parents and other adults received when they were kids.
“It’s not a plain, old workbook,” said Dr. Randy Stowe, the Aiken County School District’s director of administration. “We’re got some new trends we have never seen before. So much of the material is online, so it’s bound not to be traditional.”
Such “caravans” from book publishers have been visiting communities through the state. Aiken County hosted representatives from other counties, including Barnwell and Lexington. District officials will decide on the publishers.
School districts had gone without updated textbooks for several years because of state budget cuts during a recession. The S.C. General Assembly ordered some new series in 2011, including language arts/English books. Stowe is hopeful that will happen again this summer.
“We were in dire straits last year, dealing with reading books that were falling apart,” he said. “Now, it’s time for new math books.
It’s even more important that the new books will address the new national Common Core standards, said Sharon Kahl, the district’s professional development facilitator. The current standardized test (PASS) in South Carolina will move to a Common Core battery of exams in 2015 that are more stringent.
“We just want students to be prepared,” said Stowe.
The presentations Tuesday were as much about instructional programs as the textbooks, he said. All the texts have ancillary materials – including workbooks, pre- and post-tests and tutorials. All of them are now available online.
“Some of the texts are ‘consumable,’ in that they are paperback,” Stowe said. “Manipulatives in the classroom used to be things like blocks,” he said. “Now they’re virtual blocks. The kinds of presentations were very different, looking at all the new ideas about getting students interested in complex concepts. It’s fascinating.”
Students can access at home all the course material, which includes other resources such as YouTube and podcasts provided through the publishers, along with the primary sources.
Stowe recognizes that some students are caught in the digital divide, not having the Internet available at home. All the schools will work on that issue; those students could work online in the school libraries. For some courses without a main text, the publishers indicated they could provide paperback versions if needed. Some publishers could offer CDs that students could take home with the same information, said Stacey Salley, an instructional specialist.
Such processes have already seen successful ventures, said Stowe. Last summer, students who enrolled in summer school to take credit recovery classes took workshop-type practice and tests online and did well.