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International Conference on Mathematics Textbook Research and Development 2014 (ICMT-2014)

29-31 July 2014, University of Southampton, UK

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TEACHERS EDITING TEXTBOOKS:

CHANGES SUGGESTED BY TEACHERS TO THE MATH

TEXTBOOK THEY USE IN CLASS

Shai Olsher and Ruhama Even

Weizmann Institute of Science

Shai.Olsher@weizmann.ac.il Ruhama.Even@weizmann.ac.il

This study focuses on the changes teachers suggest making in math textbooks. The study addresses

this issue by investigating the changes the first year participants in the M-TET project suggested to

make in the math textbook they used in class, adopting Activity Theory as a theoretical framework.

The participants, nine 7th-grade teachers, worked in an online environment combined with monthly

face-to face group meetings and on-going consultation. Four types of teachers’ changes to the

textbook were identified: (1) Creating organizers to improve teacher work and accessibility to

parents, (2) Integrating technological tools for improving mathematics teaching and learning, (3)

Re-structuring textbook content presentation to better suit student learning, and (4) Adding materials

for students with low achievements. This study contributes to gaining insights into teachers' needs,

desires and aspirations about textbooks and the mathematics curriculum, and also revealing areas

that require professional development.

Keywords Teachers editing textbooks, Activity Theory, textbook development, collaborative textbook

editing, M-TET Project

INTRODUCTION

This study investigates the changes teachers suggest to make in the textbook they use in class.

The study is situated in the M-TET Project, which invites teachers to collaborate in editing the

textbooks they use in class and to produce, as group products, revised versions of these

textbooks (Even & Ayalon, 2014; Even & Olsher, 2014). This unique setting enables an

examination of the changes teachers suggest to make in the math textbooks from an angle that

has not been used in other studies on this aspect.

BACKGROUND

Research studies that examine the enacted curriculum suggest that in many countries

textbooks considerably influence classroom instruction: teachers often follow teaching

sequences suggested by textbooks, and base classwork mainly on tasks included in textbooks

(e.g., Eisenmann & Even, 2011; Haggarty & Pepin, 2002). Yet, this line of research also

reveals that whereas textbooks affect classroom instruction teachers do not necessarily

faithfully follow suggested textbook content, lessons, activities, pedagogical strategies and

For example, numerous studies show that teachers often do not cover in instruction all

textbook parts (e.g., Drake & Sherin, 2006; Eisenmann & Even, 2011; Tarr et al., 2006),

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omitting parts that appeared less central. For instance, parts related to topics such as data

analysis and probability (Tarr et al., 2006), or advanced or computer-based units (Eisenmann

& Even, 2011). Research also shows that teachers do not essentially follow suggested work

settings individual, group or whole class work (Drake & Sherin, 2006; Eisenmann & Even,

2011).

Studies that focused on deeper characteristics of the enacted curriculum produced intriguing

findings. For example, several studies revealed that teachers tend to lower the level of

cognitive demand in mathematical tasks (Brouseau, 1997; Stein et al., 2000). Moreover,

studies that examined complex aspects of the mathematics taught in class found discrepancies

between the mathematics in the textbook and the mathematics teachers addressed in class, for

instance, in the use of different representations (Even & Kvatinsky, 2010) or the type of

algebraic activity enacted (Eisenmann & Even, 2011).

As portrayed above, the literature about curriculum enactment is a rich and important source

of information about the changes that teachers make in the textbooks they use in class. Yet,

this information is restricted by the focus on curriculum enactment. Our study approaches the

question of what changes teachers make in textbooks from a different angle. The study is

situated in the M-TET Project, which invites teachers to collaborate in editing the textbooks

they use and to produce, as group products, revised versions of these textbooks (Even &

Ayalon, 2014; Even & Olsher, 2014). The study investigates the changes that the teachers

who participated in the first year of the project suggested to make in the math textbook they

used in class, adopting Activity Theory (Engeström, 1987; Leont'ev, 1974) as a theoretical

framework. Activity Theory was chosen because it attends to developmental aspects of

human practices and links between individual and social levels, thus acknowledges the

environmental conditions under which these practices take place.

METHODS

Participants in the study were the nine 7th grade teachers who participated in the first year of

the M-TET project, and the project team. The teachers worked in an online environment

combined with monthly face-to face group meetings and on-going consultation. Data sources

included the project website (the edited wiki-book version of the textbook with its editing

history and discussion pages), video-documentation and field-notes of the monthly

whole-group meetings, interviews with the teachers at the end of that year, individual papers

written by the teachers as a final assignment, and a research journal written by the first author.

Analysis of the textbook editing activity focused on the changes suggested by the teachers.

First we identified the changes by analysing actions and their goals (in terms of Activity

Theory). Next, we characterized the dynamic work process, the engagement of the

participants, the tensions, and the product, drawing on the Expanded Mediating Triangle

(Engeström, 1987).

RESULTS

Our analysis revealed four types of change that the teachers suggested making in the

textbook. In the following we describe, for each type of change, the goal, characteristics, and

challenges that the teachers faced.

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Creating organizers

The goal of creating organizers was to improve teachers' work and accessibility to parents. It

is demonstrated by when asked at the end of the year to describe an

important change made:

A need that rises strongly from this book is to make it easier for orientation, to ease the

this as the main problem of this book. That it is flooded and teachers that don't prepare

themselves in advance drown in it and get lost (Bar, Final interview, 22.08.2011).

Creating organizers involved: (a) improving accessibility to content highlighted in the

textbook, (b) marking the textbook core, (c) adding meaningful unit and lesson titles, and (d)

creating a table of contents for practice exercises. When working on creating organizers the

teachers faced several challenges. For example, whereas all teachers agreed with the

suggestion to mark the textbook core, there was not an agreement on how to go about doing

that. Several teachers wanted to set criteria before marking the core. Yet, other teachers

advocated marking the core without any prior constraints. This disagreement was not

resolved during the whole year, and the debate on how to work on marking the core continued

to influence the means by which this action had been carried out.

Integrating technological tools

The participating teachers integrated technological tools into the textbook in order to convey

the unique advantages technology could bring to the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Among these advantages the teachers indicated: independent work of students, expanding the

variety of tools that could be used for calculation and illustration, and enhancing student

interest. For example, when describing a change she incorporated, one of the teachers wrote:

"The educational applets I integrated bring the student to focus on the learning assignment,

meaning that the student will think and the computer will calculate" (Tal, Final assignment,

3.7.2011).

Integrating technological tools involved: (a) integrating tasks with online feedback, (b)

integrating and creating online applets, (c) adding presentations, and (d) adding links to

games. Most of the challenges that the teachers faced when working on integrating

technological tools into the textbook were related to technical issues. For example, dealing

with off-the-shelf products that could not be modified to fit teachers specific aims. Such a

product was, for instance, a quiz applet that the teachers wanted to integrate into the textbook

in order to provide students with automatic online feedback. Yet, the applet they chose gave

inappropriate feedback for zero and negative numbers. In order to use such tools and avoid

inappropriate responses, the teachers altered textbook tasks.

Re-structuring textbook content presentation

The teachers made changes in the structure of textbook content presentation in order for it to

better suit the way they believed students learn. For example,

Assignment 3 t easy for students

seemed easier. This is why I changed the order of assignments 3 and 4. What stood behind

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my change in this lesson was arranging the assignments by the level of difficulty

Another participant thought there was no need for a change as the assignments were

already ordered by the level of difficulty (Dana, Final interview, 22.08.2011).

Re-structuring textbook content presentation involved: (a) arranging tasks by the level of

difficulty, (b) placing practice exercises immediately following the related lesson, (c)

grouping exercises by content, and (d) changing the numbers in examples to be different than

those in tasks. Unlike the case of creating organizers, there was not a collective agreement on

some of these suggestions for re-structuring textbook content presentation. For example,

grouping exercises by content revealed a fundamental difference of opinions among the

teachers. Some teachers suggested grouping exercises by content, in a number of places in the

textbook, to enable students to anticipate what is expected of them. This view was not shared

by some of the other teachers, who thought that students should encounter mixed types of

exercises, as one of the teachers said: "I don't think that it is necessary to group tasks of a

certain type in a special place..

Hadas, wiki discussion webpage, 18.12.2010). These discrepancies of approaches

continued to manifest throughout the year.

Adding materials for students with low achievements

The teachers felt that the textbook did not adequately address the needs of students with low

achievements. This feeling is demonstrated in what one of the teachers said during one of the

monthly meetings: It is very difficult in a large class that almost all of it is comprised of

students with low achievements... I need to thin out a lot, to filter and to take out the core

)Bar, monthly meeting, 24.5.2011).

The changes teachers suggested making in the textbook to better suit the needs of students

with low achievements involved: (a) adding support in selected assignments, (b) adding

preparatory exercises before starting a new topic, and (c) editing textbook units and offering

them as an alternative parallel track for students with low achievements. Initially, the teachers

started adding support in textbook assignments and preparatory exercises to address the needs

of students with low achievements. These actions encountered an opposition, led mainly by

one teacher. This teacher claimed that not all of the assignments in the textbook need to be

addressed in class if they are too difficult for the students and thus, there was no need to

change anything in the textbook. One of the teachers, who saw great importance in adding

materials for students with low achievements, continued to look for potential solutions.

Eventually, an accepted solution was developed after several months. The teachers decided

that materials for students with low achievements would appear in separate pages, not altering

the original pages of the textbook. This led to the editing of special units, based on original

textbook units, which were added as alternatives to the original textbook for students with

low achievements.

CONCLUSION

The unique setting of this study teachers editing the textbook they use in class contributed

to gaining new insights regarding the changes teachers suggest to make in textbooks.

Focusing on the changes teachers suggest when they edit the textbook instead of using it in

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class revealed the special attention the participating teachers gave to increasing the

accessibility of the textbook contents. Yet, increasing the textbook accessibility was not the

sole focus of the changes that the teachers in this study incorporated into the textbook. In

addition to working on the textbook accessibility the teachers attended to several other

aspects they thought were important. They invested a great amount of effort to integrate

technology into the textbook, re-structured the textbook content to better suit student learning

(as they conceive it), and worked on making the textbook fit for a broad population of

students, in this case by adding materials for students with low achievements.

This study contributes to improving the ability of the research community to study from

mathematics teachers' wisdom of practice, and also reveals areas that require professional

development (e.g., student learning). In addition, this study could assist professional

about textbooks and the mathematics curriculum.

References

Brousseau, G. (1997). Theory of didactical situations in mathematics. Dordrecht, The

Netherlands: Kluwer.

Drake, C., & Sherin, M. G. (2006). Practicing change: curriculum adaptation and teacher

narrative in the context of mathematics education reform. Curriculum Inquiry, 36(2),

153-187.

Eisenmann, T., & Even, R. (2011). Enacted types of algebraic activity in different classes

taught by the same teacher. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education,

9, 867-891.

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to

developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Even, R., & Ayalon, M. (2014). Teachers editing textbooks: Transforming Conventional

Connections among Teachers, Curriculum Developers, Mathematicians, and Researchers.

These proceedings.

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approaches address in probability lessons? Educational Studies in Mathematics, 74,

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Even, R., & Olsher, S. (2014). Teachers as participants in textbook development: The

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Haggarty, L., & Pepin, B. (2002). An investigation of mathematics textbooks and their use in

English, French and German classrooms: who gets an opportunity to learn what? British

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Leont'ev, A. (1974). The problem of activity in psychology. Soviet Psychology 13(2), 433.

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