Many students are starting the school year with new textbooks.

It’s a process that happens once every six years for each school subject. Schools might adopt new textbooks yearly, though they will be for different subjects.

This past year, Taylor School Corporation undertook textbook selection for math.

Textbook selection includes both a physical book and a digital platform. The online component is how student complete assignments.

Teachers first attend a textbook caravan. A cross between a book fair and sales pitch, teachers speak with representatives from textbook companies about what they’re looking for at the caravan and look at sample materials.

A textbook has to align with Indiana standards, if it doesn’t the book is most likely not considered, according to Taylor High School Principal Steve Dishon.

For high school, materials are also geared toward the SAT. For lower ILEARN, the state standardized test. Teachers research the companies that stood out at the caravan. Those that make it past this point are invited to meet with school staff, walking them through their materials.

The process is similar to how new materials are selected for the elementary and middle schools.

Taylor High School narrowed it down to two companies.

Parents were invited to give their feedback. Dishon said everyone from parents and teachers to administrators have a stake in the textbook process.

Textbook adoption usually doesn’t net a lot of parental feedback, but there is almost always some.

Taylor High School chose Carnegie Learning and its online platform, MATHia. The final step is school board approval, which was done in the spring.

“We chose a product that is very non-traditional in its approach to math,” Dishon said.

What makes Carnegie Learning non-traditional is how it presents concepts in a relevant way, the principal said.

For example, area is explained prior to introducing the formula to calculate it.

“We feel over time that kids have changed how they learn, and (we) don’t feel the same ol’ same would get us the results we want,” Dishon said. “It’s supposed to be more tangible than numbers on the page.”

Taylor High School math teacher Kim Doak said about 60% of class is dedicated to the textbook – which students can keep, write in and jot notes (students get new books each year) – group collaboration and understanding the bigger concept. The other 40% is independent work.

MATHia utilizes artificial intelligence to track how well a student understands concepts. Students can also receive hints while working through a problem.

All this information is available to the teacher, who can use the data to see where and how a student might be struggling, resulting in more targeted help. For those students who excel, the program will push their abilities.

“The software gives teachers a lot of good in-the-moment reporting,” Doak said. “A key thing we were looking was a low-floor, high-ceiling problems.”

The teacher said she liked Carnegie’s materials because they had similar lessons to ones she developed, but they were even more accessible.

“The lesson designs are the best I’ve ever seen,” Doak said. “I’m hoping students learn a lot and really enjoy math, maybe for the first time.”
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