I have 6^2 students. How many do you have?

When my daughter Sabrina was 2^3 years old, her grandfather would have been 3^4 if he were still alive. Unfortunately my father had already passed away on his birthday when I was 6^2 years old.

While the above paragraph is all true, I don’t know of anyone who writes or talks like this. No one writes or speaks of people’s ages in exponent form.

No one except in this 7th grade Pre-Algebra textbook that we’d adopted for our school five years ago. I was a big part of that “we” even though I don’t teach Pre-Algebra. I liked all the bells and whistles, like online textbooks and resources, that Glencoe had to offer over the other publishers. But bells and whistles might serve the teaching of physical education better.

These are just some examples in two sections on exponent rules.

On page 541:

Also on page 541:

On page 559:

On page 561:

To be fair, the textbook does offer questions where numbers are appropriately written in exponent form, including:

  1. area of continents
  2. mass of a molecule
  3. distance between planets
  4. number of cells in culture
  5. computer processing speed

But this beauty on page 521 leaves me breathless:

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14 Comments

  1. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    The answer to that last question is right there in the text. They raised 8•8•2•8•2 dollars. Duh!

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      :) Thanks, Christopher, for dropping in.

  2. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    When my high school threw out CPM 1, I refused to sit on the textbook committee. We adopted Holt McDougal…now no one wants to carry that big thing around AND everyone supplements the Hell out of it. Why, dear district and teacher friends, why not keep the lovely little CPM number with all the yummy problems and amazing professional development, and supplement the hell out of it?

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      I know of CPM through workshops, not too familiar with it though. I know we all need to supplement whatever textbook we’re using, but for textbooks to be as expensive as they are, it’d be nice to get some value. Thanks, Amy.

  3. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Are the “appropriate” exponential numbers in scientific notation? That’s the only appropriate time to use exponents in the real world, right? We would never say the distance to the Moon is 29^6 km, but 3.8×10^5 km would be fine.

    That’s really awkward wording!

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      They aren’t, Stephanie, and you’re right, scientific notation would be better. 70% of this book is awkward and contrived. Thank you, Stephanie.

  4. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I just wrote a post bashing textbooks, now you write a post bashing textbooks. Interesting.

    I wonder…aren’t all textbooks kind of silly like this? It seems that they are often trying to force this idea of “real-world” on every single topic, to the point where it doesn’t even make sense anymore. This has dog bandana written all over it.

    Can’t we just accept the fact that math is a context unto itself and we don’t need to write these silly problems. These books are trying too hard to make everything appear relevant to students’ lives, but I feel that these problems often have the opposite effect.

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      I like the dog bandanna. So what if it doesn’t have anything to do with triangles, at least the dog is cute.

      “These books are trying too hard…” That’s the part that bothers me the most. Pretense. And it’s insulting to the students. Thank you, Nathan.

  5. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they collected the money in 2 groups of 8 piles of 2 bags of 8 stacks of 8 dollars and that was the most convenient way to write down their earnings.

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Just maybe. Trying to visualize the groups, piles, bags, and stacks. Can’t do it.

      Thanks, Andrew.

  6. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, dear god…

    I’ve actually taken to calling out the text book in class when it treats my students like idiots. I think (hope?) it is a refreshing perspective for them and that it also reinforces that we aren’t learning math just to “do problems.”

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Good for you. Thank you, Tom.

  7. Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Fawn,
    The Chicago textbook edition has a great problem: Mayor Emanuel says the city will save: (43)100^3 dollars by closing 8^2 – 10 schools.

    • Fawn Nguyen
      Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      Blows my mind how many authors and editors thought this was okay.

      Thanks, Mary.

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