Learning List has reviewed over 1500 of the most widely used instructional materials, including hundreds of mathematics materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Over the last few years, we have observed general and grade-span specific trends that may be of interest to mathematics teachers.  This blog post addresses the attributes that apply to mathematics materials across grade levels.

Most materials, particularly at the elementary level, present highly visual content sequenced to support the progression in learning from concrete to pictorial to an abstract understanding of math concepts. Materials today address fewer math topics in greater depth to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Rather than teaching algorithms and rote memorization, the materials help build students’ conceptual understanding and proficiency in solving math problems. Manipulatives and models help students visualize complex problems and develop solution strategies.  Often frustrating to parents, materials teach multiple approaches with multiple entry points to solve problems.

With the goal of creating mathematical thinkers, materials focus more heavily on teaching mathematical practices and process skills than in the past. Practices and process skills are embedded throughout instruction with varying degrees of success.  Some materials still isolate them in a particular section of the material; others integrate the teaching and use of practices and skills throughout the teaching of content standards.

Materials use real-world problems and connections to careers that use mathematics (i.e., fashion designers, fireworks engineers) to connect to students’ interests and lives and engage them in learning.  Moreover, current materials tend to provide more instructional resources for teachers. They often provide background in the concepts and pedagogy critical to successful teaching and learning. They identify the misconceptions that students most commonly have and provide teaching strategies to address misunderstandings. The materials also support differentiated instruction by providing adaptions (e.g., interactive tutorials, video demonstrations) that help students with differing abilities and levels of understanding engage with the material and learn the mathematical concepts presented.

Selecting materials is an increasingly complex task. During her presentation at the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics conference in Oakland, California, this week, Learning List’s president,  Jackie Lain, will address some of the critical attributes to consider as well as some of the grade span-specific trends to be aware of when purchasing new mathematics materials.

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