Have you ever wondered what makes one textbook different from another?

I’ve managed to be on several selection committees for high school math books over the years and I never saw a lot of variation in the approach taken by the major publishers.

And it turns out at the elementary level, they’re all about the same in terms of doing the job, helping students learn.

As the federal What Works Clearinghouse rolls out long-awaited ratings on the effectiveness of math programs for the elementary grades, one trend is becoming clear: Most major commercial textbooks can’t yet muster the proof that they are any better than their competitors at improving student achievement.

Of four reviews published by the online clearinghouse since September, only one elementary school math program has received even a qualified nod from evaluators for its research record.

It’s interesting that the two largest markets for the books, California and Texas, stipulate that the materials must be “research-based” but don’t require any proof from the publishers.

So, if there’s no discernible difference between any of the books, why pay all that money for the hardback texts?

Math is such a basic subject that it would be a great place to start building online, open source textbooks that could be used – and improved – by any school, public, private or home.

I’d bet you’d wind up with a better product at a fraction of the cost.

textbook, math, publishers