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16 Sep 2005 - 18:12 Glencoe Pre-Algebra is supposed to be one of the two decent not-completely-fuzzy Pre-Algebra texts out there....but I just found this review, by an Amazon reader calling himself wiredweird that I thought was so funny I'm posting it here. (No idea whether he's right or wrong, though I'd bet money he's right about the page splatter):
It is hard to imagine a worse math book, except maybe the earlier editions of this title. This book demonstrates just about every bad teaching and typographic practice I know. Every page is splattered with colored text in a menagerie of fonts. Most pages feature irrelevant or misleading photos, perhaps several. There are dozens of distracting sidebars, many full of errors in fact. Just looking at a typical page, I feel my attention batted about in a pinball trajectory. Holding a thought for the length of a Glencoe page is quite a challenge. Math skills are cumulative; each new technique is founded on the earlier one. I can't think of a case where this book seems to sustain an idea for more than a few pages. Some students, through chance or a teacher's skill, may manage to glean some mathematical fact from this book. It will do them little good, though. The book's complete lack of continuity gives no reward for that success, measured in skills used later in the course. Students who can't squeeze understanding from this book - the ones it calls "alternative assessment" students - are very nearly abandoned, as far as any real education goes. Instead of being offered meaningful help, they are invited to draw pictures and write essays about their feelings. Such students are not only left in the dust, they are patronized and insulted in the process. I have examined earlier editions of this book, back to 1997. The only thing I can say in favor of it is that, in preparing the 2001 edition, some of the worst errors and blatant commercialism were removed. It improved, but its basic flaws remain. Do yourself and your math student a favor: find a different title. A little web searching will point you to sites that review and recommend better books, as well as more detailed analyses of this one. Or just pick another title at random - this is so bad that almost anything would be an improvement. (based on the 2001 edition)
I've just given wiredweird an honorary entry on Wit and Wisdom of Kitchen Table Math. He's also written a review of an interesting-looking book called Four Colors Suffice: How the Map Problem Was Solved by Robin Wilson.
Four Color Map Problem. Lucky for me there've been mathematicians around for lo these many years figuring this stuff out.
Glencoe page splatter
Doug Sundseth on ransom note typography
Tom Friedman piles on
distance tutors & mathematicallycorrect review Glencoe
page splatter and the frontal lobes
page splatter redux
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I know I just emailed you, but yeah, there are a lot of disconnected photos and graphics. I guess it's lucky that most kids don't ever bother to read their textbook. The homework, quizzes, and tests are mostly math, though. I do remember that. Now, how coherent the order of learning is, I don't remember. He sounds very interesting. -- SusanS - 16 Sep 2005
The fonts and colors thing is usually referred to in the page-layout business as "ransom-note typography". As you might guess, it's considered a mortal sin among professionals. -- DougSundseth - 16 Sep 2005
Susan, you're not going to believe it--check out Friedman's op-ed today! (I just wrote a post about it.) -- CatherineJohnson - 16 Sep 2005
Doug--what is this term??? Ransom-note typography??? That's incredibly cool???? (I'm thinking whether I need to take some time to write a Letter to the Editor--) So it's ransom-note typography because it's so hideously jumbled? Like in movies where the kidnapper has cut out different letters to make up the ransom note? That's really a term??? -- CatherineJohnson - 16 Sep 2005
"That's really a term???" Yup, and you have its history correct, too. In the past it was usually a sign that the designer had just gotten a DTP (desktop-publishing) package for the first time and could now change fonts trivially. Many seemed to believe that the possibility of using dozens of fonts created a requirement to use dozens of fonts. It's a sin because it makes the page hard to read and understand. Good page design should lead your eye to the most important items without your noticing. This isn't just true of textbooks. -- DougSundseth - 16 Sep 2005
Do you work in the industry??? I'm definitely going to quote this A LOT. -- CatherineJohnson - 16 Sep 2005
I'm a tech writer and technical illustrator now, and do some layout, but previously I was a catalog editor. At a guess, I've probably layed out 25,000 pages of text and graphics. Some of them have been pretty good, others not so much. When I was still doing catalogs, it amazed me what some of our customers actually requested. Some people don't even have taste in their mouths. -- DougSundseth - 18 Sep 2005