Friday, March 6, 2009

What Teacher Resources Are On Mr. D's Bookshelf?

When I build materials for class, I draw from a wide variety of sources. Although I'm no fan of textbooks, I think they've come a long way in terms of their supplemental materials. For example, the 2007 Holt textbooks adopted by my former school district have a fairly thorough standard set of materials for every section of every chapter. There's multiple levels of independent practice, review, and ideas for the beginning, middle and end of a lesson. I use the textbook as a helpful guide when deciding the best sequence or as a source for some materials (albeit rarely).

I also do a lot of research online, but I'm growing more and more disenchanted with the paucity of free, quality lesson ideas and ways to find them easily. Most lesson plan or teacher resource databases either charge for access or aren't worth looking at. Perhaps one day I'll invest my time and effort into creating a high quality free database, but that's neither here nor there.

Let's get to the question at hand: what teacher resource books do I use the most? Here are the books that never stay on the bookshelf long enough to collect any dust:
  1. Algebra I Grades 5-8 (Skill Builders)- I like this small book because it provides a short set of straightforward problems and an example on every page.
  2. Algebra II Grades 6-8 (Skill Builders) - I just got this other book in the series, as I am now teaching Algebra II, but more than half of this material carries over from the Algebra I book. The benefit, of course, is that you have twice as many problems to draw from when putting together materials.
  3. Power Practice: Pre-Algebra, Gr. 5-8 - I use this mainly in the beginning of the year in Algebra I, when we're reviewing Pre-Algebra and other basic topics. It's a good resource for making connections to prior knowledge when introducing new, more challenging topics as well.
  4. Algebra (The 100+ Series) - I often find myself editing some of the questions or cutting down the thorough, extensive practice problems on each page, but it covers a wide range of topics in great detail.
  5. Geometry (The 100+ Series) - Basic geometry is a huge part of Algebra I in Texas because of the design of state standardized tests, but I've found a whole new life for it as I introduce trigonometry in Algebra II.
  6. Math Bridge: 8th Grade - This is by far my most used (and most effective) resource. It covers so many Algebra I topics clearly and in a variety of ways. including puzzles, word problems and challenging questions.
I know that these books all label themselves as grades 5-8, but those would have to be some of the most advanced 5th graders on the planet. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at this math stuff, but I wouldn't have been able to do half of what's in here when I was in Algebra I in 8th grade (mostly due to lousy teaching). These books are easily challenging enough for most 9th graders, and some of the topics broached within their pages are advanced enough for long after they've passed Algebra I.

Aside from my math books, I still draw inspiration from my favorite social studies resource, American Revolution (Hands-On History). I still create math-related versions of the study guides, posters and other creative projects from a book that served me so well when I still taught US History.

I hope you found this helpful! Please share some of your best resources in the comments.