International Conference on Mathematics Textbook Research and Development 2014 (ICMT-2014)
29-31 July 2014, University of Southampton, UK
TEACHERS EDITING TEXTBOOKS:
CHANGES SUGGESTED BY TEACHERS TO THE MATH
TEXTBOOK THEY USE IN CLASS
Shai Olsher and Ruhama Even
Weizmann Institute of Science
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
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.
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),
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,
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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