Resource Reviews 1/06
by Connect Staff
Lessons for Algebraic Thinking, by Leyani von Rotz and Marilyn Burns, provides a comprehensive exploration of why and how we can work with the very youngest students (K—2) to create understanding and skills that will mean greater abilities and comprehension in the students' later years. Sixteen classroom-tested lessons focus on various topics, such as repeating patterns, growth patterns, equivalency, and operations. A background section at the close of each chapter helps teachers to understand and feel comfortable with content. The appendix offers, "Mathematical Background," explaining key ideas to algebraic thought. A glossary follows it. This outstanding resource is part of a series extending through eighth grade; it provides excellent examples of best practice in mathematics education. 256 pages.
Young Mathematicians At Work series, by Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Maarten Dolk, includes several titles, namely Constructing Number Sense, Addition, and Subtraction (for children ages 4—7), Constructing Multiplication and Division (for ages 7—10), and Constructing Fractions, Decimals, and Percents (for ages 10—14). These books include connecting math and problem-solving, children talking with each other and teachers about how they formed their ideas, examples of students' work, and comparisons of the methods by which many of us were taught math 20—50 years ago and other (better) ways of approaching topics. Students' algorithms, use of materials, vocabulary, and communication are all vital and visible in these books. Each includes an accompanying CD-ROM. Failing the ability to sit in on the classes of the many master teachers featured, these books and CDs are the next best thing to being there. Approx. 180 pages each.
DELTA Institutes (Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, and Assessment), offered by Mathematics in the City, are three-day mini-institutes held on weekends throughout the school year. The Pre-K-3 materials are on early number sense, addition and subtraction, the grade 3—5 materials are on multiplication and division, and the 5—8 materials are on fractions, decimals, and percents. Some titles of the workshops are, "Using the Context of Soda Machines to Develop Division," "Using …Playgrounds to Develop Multiplication of Fractions," and "…Exploring Ages to Develop an Understanding of Subtraction."
Algebra: It Begins in Kindergarten is an Annenberg/CPB videotape that allows the viewer to see a group of classroom teachers working with children and, in a studio, commenting on their experiences with early algebra. The group is led by Monica Neagoy, a mathematics education professor from George Washington University. The participants present algebra as the study of variables and the representation of those variables in verbal, pictorial, tabular and graphical ways. Various examples of children's approaches are shown and discussed, including interesting mathematical storytelling by children. The video is based on a public television series for elementary teachers that aired first in Massachusetts. Because this is part of a larger series, Mathematics: What's the Big Idea? that allowed for call-ins from participating teachers, it is not as polished as some films. Both the teaching sequences and the studio comments seem candid and make today's viewer feel like a participant, too.
Algebra Survival Guide: A Conversational Handbook for the Thoroughly Befuddled, by Josh Rappaport, presents information in a very simple and non-threatening way. The book includes step-by-step instructions for operations, easy reference guides for procedures and terms, a board game and a poster with definitions and examples. There are also workbooks and a teacher's edition available. What is appealing about these books is that the author draws on a decade of tutoring experience and writes in a question and answer format, as if speaking with a student. However, some illustrations are so busy or difficult to discern that students who have problems with visual processing could become distracted or discouraged. Still, this is a thorough and well-thought out guide, perhaps most helpful to students, but also highly usable by teachers. 276 pages.
Improving Instruction in Algebra, by Margaret Schwan Smith and additional authors, uses a case study approach to explore opportunities for change in middle school mathematics teaching and learning. The cases are varied, well-written and present good opportunities for discussion in a professional development setting. The second part of the book provides suggestions for group leaders on how to use the case studies effectively, but this section can be just as valuable to any reader who has first read the cases. The book is one of three on middle school math within the much larger Ways of Knowing in Science and Mathematics series. You can view the whole series on the Teachers College Press website (see below).
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