Is there a Need for Math Textbooks or are we better off without?

 My past post about moving to programs-agnostic raised quite a debate among many of my smart friends in education.  And, as you might imagine, not all agreed with my post.  Many did agree, however.
it seems the best argument to maintain the practice of a single textbook (or eText) adoption is to rely on the efficiencies, deep expertise, and “guaranteed” alignment to the Common Core that the more formal curriculum writers provide.
But, on the other side of this argument is, for me, a more compelling argument, with multiple points:
1.  Maybe it is not a case of whether to use or not use, bought materials in Math, but how to navigate multiple providers, using teacher-developed curriculum maps as the lens for what/when to use already-owned or subscription and pay-per-use materials and learning activities.
2.  Have you ever heard of a textbook or other education company that swears it is “aligned” to the appropriate state standards?  I have not!  rarely do we check to find out whether they really are aligned to anything.
3.  Sure, big and small curriculum companies might be more efficient at developing curriculum maps, pacing guides, learning schedules, and the like, but when teachers participate in developing these, there is often greater buy-in to actually using what was developed.  Above all, when the teacher closes the classroom door–(s)he has pocket-veto.
4.  If you develop curriculum maps in-house and purchase materials across a variety of vendors from outside, there is a checking to ensure that all standards, sub-standards, skills, and strategies are well-provided for.  Checks and balances, eh?!
At Distinctive Schools, we are in our first year of acting out the latter argument above.  Our work is not perfect, but I am inspired by the passion, quick adjustments, and standards-focus our teachers and teacher leaders are exhibiting in our shift to Distinctive Math for the Common Core.
The Byron, MN school district has gone a step deeper, and has apparently ditched Math textbooks altogether, built their own curriculum and materials, and have used a Flipped Classroom to launch their new approach to the work.  More about Byron and their Flipping in a subsequent post.
Happy to keep debating this issue, as it is an argument we must have nationally.

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