Like many school districts throughout the state, the Morgan School District is struggling with finding a math textbook option that aligns with common core standards.
With the state unwilling to approve a math text, in the only state in the nation trying the “integrated math” option, and only holding a draft of state standards, Utah math teachers find themselves in an awkward position navigating the textbook dilemma.
“It is a fairly complicated issue in the state of Utah,” said Jeremy Floyd, a Morgan High School math teacher.
By refusing to approve a book Utah schools can use that matches the core, the state has left it to individual school districts to fend for themselves, “Some of the first books were thrown together,” Floyd said.
North Summit used a McGraw Hill “Utah” version that Floyd says is missing things and causing that district to struggle. That book has been discontinued.
Weber School District adopted a book, then two months later adopted yet another book. Another two months later, they were embracing another book, Floyd said. Now, they have approved six different textbooks that teachers can use for math.
School districts in Provo, Jordan, Granite and Logan wrote their own books. Since they used state money to do so, other districts must be allowed to view them.
“They are full of holes,” Floyd said.
Davis School District’s answer was one base on technology, where every student must have an electronic device in their hands to participate in math class.
Floyd said this electronic approach is one the Morgan School District should be prepared for, although it may take years.
“Textbook publishers are going on line,” he said. “The pendulum is swinging that way.”
In fact, the wave of the future may be online math books with video tutorials and a hard copy workbook, Floyd said. In some cases, hard copy math textbooks may simply be unavailable while teachers steer their students to online resources.
While it may be the wave of the future, school board members noted that not every family has Internet access. Therefore, teachers must have at least a handful of hard copies of textbooks to check out to students upon request.
Superintendent Doug Jacobs said public libraries could fill that gap. But Board Member Ken Durrant said that may not help after the library is closed.
Of the 45 states that adopted common core state standards, Utah is the only one to embrace “integrated math,” instead of the more traditional math pathways,
Floyd said. Instead of algebra, statistics and geometry taught in separate, distinct classes, all are taught concurrently throughout a student’s education. The integrated math approach is similar to that used in Asia, Floyd said.
Board Member Neil Carrigan said Utah students don’t have the cultural expectation to do homework up to five hours each day like their Asian counterparts.
State core standards online are still marked as a “draft,” making educators wary that standards could change quickly which makes it impossible to purchase math textbooks that are typically used for years at a time.
While standards are changing, textbook publishers are scrambling to find their niche and migrate instruction materials online. Teachers are resorting to creating their own worksheets or downloading them from online freeware.
“It seems we are spending a lot on paper and toner because teachers are preparing their own worksheets,” said D’Lynn Poll, Morgan school district business administrator. “The schools spend between $6,000 to $8,000 just on paper and toner a year.”
In the middle of the change, parents are too often left out in the cold, some school board members said.
“It is a scary thing for parents not to have a book,” Board Member Jody Hipwell said. “Are we not informing our parents enough?”
Floyd said educators could improve communication with parents.
The school board asked Floyd to return to their next school board meeting to discuss math textbook options for the Morgan district.