A well-selected textbook in mathematics can become a foundation for positive educational outcomes. Even though students in higher grades and college may use various sources for learning a subject, in elementary school, young learners use textbooks as their primary reference. Therefore, the choice of books for teaching children in K-5 is a crucial matter. Since standards of learning are reviewed frequently, it is vital to review textbooks to make sure that they adhere to the new requirements. While newer editions of books are preferred, some older textbooks may be relevant even after 20 years. The present paper offers an evaluation of Mifflin’s math textbook Math Steps: Level 4 considering the Virginia Department of Education (VDoE) standards of learning.
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Math Steps: Level 4 by Mifflin (2000) is a standard textbook that was used in the US in the early 2000s. The hard copy of the book has 315 A4-formatted pages with clearly identifies sections. The book is divided into units and lessons, which may be helpful both for teachers and learners. Every unit starts with a letter to the family with recommendations about how parents can help their children at home. The textbook focuses on multiplication and division of whole numbers and solving problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals. Miffin (2000) also aims at explaining the basics of probability, statistics, and graphing, while continuing to develop proficiency in measurements and geometry. The book also includes a table of contents, glossary, and table of measures. The book has no clearly identified philosophical perspective. However, it may be concluded that Miffin (2000) supports realism since the education process focuses on the mastery of facts and necessary skills through demonstration and recitation. In summary, the textbook is comprehensible and adequately written for the target audience.
The primary strengths of the textbook are its logical structure and adherence to the standards of education. Even though some of the requirements have changed since the early 2000s, the primary competencies remain the same. According to VDoE (2016), there five goals for students in the fourth grade: “becoming mathematical problem solvers, communicating mathematically, reasoning mathematically, making mathematical connections, and using mathematical representations to model and interpret practical situations” (p. 4). Miffin (2000) adheres to these requirements and provides problems that develop the skills mentioned above. Moreover, the introduction of these skills is consequential with appropriate explanations using language that can be understood by fourth-graders. There are also instructions for family members who can assist the student at home. In short, despite being rather old, the book still adheres to standards of education, which makes it useable for developing basic skills in mathematics.
The book neither allocates enough time for translating the acquired skills to practice nor does it provide references to other resources to compensate for the matter. VDoE (2016) puts a particular emphasis on developing the ability to resolve real-world problems and problems that model real-world situations. Miffin (2000) focuses on theoretical knowledge and provides little possibility for the students to apply their skills to everyday situations. Miffin (2000) also did not consider adding references to other textbooks that include real-life problems. The issue was not addressed since the book was written to adhere to different standards.
The book should focus on providing knowledge that can be translated into practical use and introduce morality. The benefits of applicability of knowledge are evident to all the teachers. If children can use the skills acquired in classrooms to solve everyday problems, the lessons become more engaging, and students become more willing to participate in-class activities. Therefore, the first recommendation is to increase the number of problems that describe real-life situations. Additionally, the book should aim at promoting morality and ethics in problem-solving. For instance, problems may discuss if something should be done from not only the mathematical stance but also considering moral rights and obligations. Even though this may be difficult to do in a math book, Miffin (2000) may consider adding a biblical worldview to address this problem.
The benefits of biblical worldview are widely discussed in modern society. According to Sperling (2017), Christian schooling fosters spirituality, promotes excellence in education, and provides positive role models. In other words, faith-based education stimulates children to think about the morality of matters. According to the biblical worldview, mathematics is a road to wisdom since it is said: “so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, The New King James Version). The verse makes it clear that mathematics is the foundation of knowledge. Therefore, the discussed textbook would benefit from the introduction of the biblical worldview.
Even though the book was published in 2000, it can still be used to teach mathematics in the fourth grade. The text adheres to the majority of standards described by VDoE (2016). As a way of improvement, more real-life problems should be discussed to increase the applicability of newly acquired knowledge. Additionally, the textbook would benefit from the introduction of biblical worldview since it would encourage the children to consider the morality of problems.
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Mifflin, H. (2000). Math Steps: Level 4. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Sperling, M. (2017). Benefits of a faith-based education. Web.
Virginia Department of Education. (2016). Mathematics: 2016 standards of learning. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Education.