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Deb Russell

Textbooks: Is There a Need?

By April 4, 2010

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Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about whether or not we require math textbooks anymore.  Cash strapped schools often resort to using whatever textbooks are available. Is this a good thing? I don't think so. However, when you ask why, the answer you get is that each student doesn't have a computer. Hence, there is a need for each student to have a textbook.  When you need to learn something, what do you do? If you are like me and many others, you simply look it up online.  In fact, I have access to a plethora of math textbooks but still go online when I have a specific item I'm looking for, and my textbooks gather dust, regardless of the information they hold. If you have differing opinions, I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, I truly believe that textbooks will soon become obsolete. Leave your texts behind and check out our online tutorials.


April 5, 2010 at 9:56 am
(1) Terry Stickels says:

This is regard to your comments about not needing math text books in the future. While it may come to pass that someday there will be no math texts, I can think of at least a few reasons why this may not be the ultimate solution.

While it’s true the internet offers ready access to individual math topics, once you’re on a particular page reading about that topic, you are closed off from any point of context on how this topic relates to others that preced and follow it ( for the most part) . For example, what preceded this chapter or section? Is it relevant to helping me learn about the current topic? Are there hints in the last section that can be applied to what I’m studying now? Maybe it’s worth the time to flip through the preceding chapter. Just as important, with a text, you may have jotted down impotant notes on a page or pages for reference. ( Yes, all students should write in their books – especially math and science. It is a valuable learning aid). Another important consideration is sometimes you can find things FASTER in a book than online. As a society, we are so locked in to thinking anything online is better and better technology, but it isn’t always so.

With a book, you have a history of a subject in front of you. It has a panoramic view of a discipline with your current topic being part of that set. You can put things into context that offers a beginning, middle and end – so you can see how things fit together. One could make a case that using texts might offer a better opportunity for critical thinking than online because of this. It is at least worth considering.

In discussing this subject with teachers and professors, they also offer two reasons to like books over strictly digital not often discussed when the subject of texts vs. online comes up: many people like the feel of books better and they travel better for some. Don’t discount people’s preferences for feel and comfort.

I had an intersting discussion with a publishing representative about this topic recently. She stated in her state there is no curret effort on the part of school administrators to do away with books, math or otherwise. She reports that school book sales remain as they have for quite few years. I state this because the question begs – why?

She wasn’t sure why and I have not a clue. I think it might be interesting to ask math teachers and professors what they think. I also think students’ opinions should be sought.

In any event, I’m sure we are going to hear more and more about this topic in the near future.

Thank you for this opportunity to be able to write about a subject that may become more important than we ever imagined.


Terry Stickels

April 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm
(2) Amber Weatherly says:

Another reason students may not trust the internet and need textbooks is that the answers online aren’t always right. For example, the first 2 questions (and maybe others, I stopped reading) on the 8th Grade Word Problems are wrong….

April 11, 2010 at 10:48 am
(3) pat says:

Not every student has access to a computer. Also, as an adult I know many times I get on the internet to “work” and because of all of the information presented or all of the options made available, find myself either lost in the information or straying to other areas not related to my original purpose for being there! With a book right in front of you, you have one main focus.

April 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm
(4) Ron says:

What a terrible shame it would be if we no longer needed or used the written page.
Those of you who will not understand this concept, will also not understand the need to explore the moon, the oceans bottom or the importance of exploring and learning of one’s ancestors.
How can one explain the excitement one gets from hold a book and turning it’s pages, all those wonderful words in print!
All I can say is the world would be a much poorer place if we did not have books to hold and read, ie text books….

April 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm
(5) Angela says:

I believe that the use of textbooks in fact fails to meet the needs of all learners. In any given class students have different learning needs – for some students the textbook content will be perfect, for others boring and for the rest just too hard.

I would be happy to see textbooks disappear from students hands and for teachers to get down to the business of meeting all student needs, not just those in the middle.

April 12, 2010 at 12:38 am
(6) Phil Gould says:

It shouldn’t have to be either/or. Books and technology should be able to peacefully co-exist and even compliment each other. Also, as ubiquitous as the internet has become, there are still great places to study that don’t have access.

April 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm
(7) Terry says:

For me, textbooks are invaluable. I write in the margins, solve problems in spaces available, step by step, so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel when I re-visit that material at a much later date. For me, these are reference books that are used frequently. In short, I interact with my textbooks. The internet has its benefits, but I still print out the information so I can digest the material as I’m accustomed to. I consider the internet as an enhancement to the textbook. I also realize that for K-12 students, writing in the book is not an option.

April 13, 2010 at 6:26 am
(8) ray tortor says:

I think textbooks are invaluable. As someone wanting to study again, I’ve just revisted my Scottish Higher marths books and have revised so much that I had forgotten. I cannot see how teaching is possible without god textbooks, and the ones I used in the 1970′s were I think the pinnacle of excellence – Scottish Maths Group published by Blackie and Chambers (books 8 & 9), they even touched on complex numbers! I’m so glad I kept them.

April 13, 2010 at 6:32 am
(9) ray tortor says:

Sorry for the typos in last message, my keyboard sticks.

April 14, 2010 at 9:01 am
(10) Adolf Heil says:

I think books help students stay focused. I have noticed in my classrooms that with access to the computer I repetitively have to remind my students to “stay focused”. On the other hand, books are very heavy to carry in the backpack and so are not always very practical. I say let the geeky students use computers and the disordely ones must study from books.

April 16, 2010 at 7:19 am
(11) nontembeko tom says:

I think we cannot really do away with textbooks,we should keep our textbooks as source references.In our country not everyone has access to computers even though the government is trying to provide schools with these facilities.I cannot compare the use of technology and that of textbooks as I myself have never been exposed to teaching a class using computers. I say let us get everyone on board first then we can discuss if we can discard the textbook but I do not think it is a good idea.

April 27, 2010 at 6:01 pm
(12) Miss Beadle says:

We need to modernize our schools and our teachers! High schools don’t even use books any more. It’s all packages downloaded from the internet. Let the kids bring in their laptops, i-phone, etc…and work directly online. Save the environment! They will enjoy Math class much more and stay very concentrated on their assignments!

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