The Scott Foresman math curriculum from Pearson Education is a bright, colorful textbook based on something of a “new math” approach. The curriculum stresses “connections” with other non-math subjects. It takes the approach that an understanding of the “why” of arithmetic should be discussed and taught before or along with the “how” of working the problem correctly.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Some of the strengths of the 5th grade math are frequent assessments, many ancillary materials, and much color and creativity. The chapters begin with “Diagnosing Readiness” assessment sections, and each section within a chapter ends with a “Diagnostic Checkpoint” assessment. There are nine different Scott Foresman math ancillary books plus an answer key available as a ten book set or individually. The books have a lot of color in the headings and borders as well as many illustrations. Children are encouraged to creatively talk about explanations for why math works.
Some weaknesses in Scott Foresman math are that some teachers find the assessments a little too frequent. Others find there is not enough practice on each type of 5th grade math problem, and so the use of the ancillary materials is not “extra,” but very necessary. The layout seems crowded and busy, with the theme of primary colors and many illustrations prove rather distracting on the whole. The “connections” with other subjects seem a bit contrived (“writing in math,” “math and music”) and, again, somewhat distracting.
As to the emphasis on “why” versus “how,” some consider this very helpful. They say it makes the math meaningful for students, so they don’t become frustrated. Others consider it to be a weakness, saying 5th grade math students need to master how processes work, before they can really reflect on explanations of why it is so. They say students do better if they first work on developing accuracy and automaticity in arithmetic before they move on to more advanced reflections as to why it all works.
In another weakness, students are trained to rely on calculators even for mildly difficult problems.
TOPICS AND METHODOLOGY
The following topics are listed in the table of contents of 5th grade math:
Place Value, Adding, and Subtracting; Multiplying Whole Numbers and Decimals; Dividing with One Digit Divisors; Dividing with Two Digit Divisors; Data, Graphs, and Probability; Geometry; Fraction Concepts; Fraction Operations; Measurement; Measuring Solids; Ratio, Proportion, and Percent; Algebra: Integers, Equations, and Graphing
Scott Foresman math methodology combines facets of the mastery approach with some spiral review and “new math” elements.
STANDARDIZED TEST PREPARATION
Scott Foresman math incorporates special notes and practice of test taking skills frequently in “Test Talk” sections.
Although the sheer number of teacher manuals for one year can seem overwhelming (it’s four separately bound items for the 5th grade math level), it seems it is rather straightforward to implement compared to other Pearson offerings, which require whole seminars to teach teachers how to use the program.
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