The bright and colorful Scott Foresman math from Scott Foresman uses what some term a “new math” approach. This means that an understanding of the “why” arithmetic works is stressed before or along with the “how” to do it correctly and the curriculum stresses many “connections” to other subjects. Frequent quick assessments keep teachers abreast of student progress, such as “Instant Check System: Diagnosing Readiness” regular “Diagnostic Checkpoints.” There are also helpful comprehensive reviews and test preparation sections.
The curriculum includes many ancillary materials such as reproducible masters that can double as workbooks, teacher support such as Teaching Tools Masters book and Assessment Sourcebook, as well as Answer Key. Two more ancillaries that provide additional support are Every Student Learns and the Home-School Connection book.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The 4th grade math textbook from Scott Foresman math is strong on color and variety, not so strong on drill and practice. For teachers, the variety of ancillary materials can be a real strong point, making up for the lack of drill and practice in the textbook. On the other hand, the imperative need for extensive supplementation can be seen as a weakness of the primary textbook.
The color and variety; the “connections” with other subjects such as “writing in math,” “math and science,” “reading for math success,” and even “math and music” seem somewhat contrived and a bit distracting. The 4th grade math layout feels crowded and busy, with insufficient white space.
Some schools of thought consider the emphasis on “why” to be a strength in Scott Foresman math. Students become frustrated with math, they say, when they do not understand why it works the way it does. Other schools of thought consider the “why” emphasis to be a weakness in Scott Foresman math, since “why” is usually best understood in the context of reflecting on “what.” These schools of thought say that students need to develop some adeptness and automaticity with basic computation in elementary school before they are asked to consider “why” questions starting perhaps in middle school.
A final weakness is students are encouraged to what is perhaps an excessive reliance on the calculator.
TOPICS AND METHODOLOGY
The following topics are listed in the table of contents of the 4th grade math:
Place Value and Money; Adding and Subtracting Whole Numbers and Money; Multiplication and Division Concepts and Facts; Time, Data, and Graphs; Multiplying by One-Digit Numbers; Multiplying by Two-Digit Numbers; Dividing; Geometry and Measurement; Fraction Concepts; Fraction Operations and Customary Measurement; Decimals and Metric Measurement; Graphing and Probability
The methodology incorporates elements of spiral review with elements of mastery programs, along with a “new math” mix of creativity and connections and thinking about “why.”
STANDARDIZED TEST PREPARATION
Scott Foresman 4th grade math teaches test taking skills through special side bars called “Test Talk.”
The teacher requirements appear to be straightforward. The number of teacher manuals (four spiral bound volumes for just one year of 4th grade math) can be daunting, but the Scott Foresman math is notable in that it does not appear to require seminars to teach the teachers how to implement it.
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