Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach, Grades K–8, Second Edition


This must-have resource is widely acknowledged for helping teachers, coordinators, and college faculty deepen their understanding of the mathematical concepts they teach. Math Matters provides an in-depth study with 14 chapters covering number sense, computation, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, algebra, geometry, spatial sense, measurement, statistics, and probability. Over 100 activities give readers an opportunity to connect ideas, compare and contrast concepts, and consider how students understand the mathematics presented.

Suzanne H. Chapin and Art Johnson
376 Pages

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Author Bio

Suzanne H. Chapin is a professor of mathematics education at Boston University. She is interested in mathematics curricula, the education of the gifted, and how to further the mathematics achievement of economically disadvantaged students. Over the past twenty-five years, Chapin has directed many projects and written many books in these areas.

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Suzanne H. Chapin is a professor of mathematics education at Boston University. She is interested in mathematics curricula, the education of the gifted, and how to further the mathematics achievement of economically disadvantaged students. Over the past twenty-five years, Chapin has directed many projects and written many books in these areas.

Reviewed by Heather Taylor. From the January/February 2007 issue of Connect magazine. Reproduced with permission from Synergy Learning International, Inc., Connect magazine, copyright January/February 2007.

Math Matters: Grades K–8, Understanding the Math You Teach, by Suzanne H. Chapin and Art Johnson, is a comprehensive guide for all levels of elementary and middle school. Each of fourteen chapters in this second edition printing tackles a math topic (number sense, algebra, measurement, etc.) and introduces basic concepts, defines terms, and offers explanations that are clear and support confident teaching of that topic. Written for the busy educator, this is an excellent and easy to understand resource that can be used for quick reference questions as well as to fortify overarching ideas and understandings of the "big picture." Web resources are included.

Review by David Woodward of Boulder Valley Public Schools, Boulder, Colorado. From the August 2007 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, copyright 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. ( All rights reserved. For use associated with the Math Solutions website at only. This material may not be copied or distributed electronically or in other formats without written permission from NCTM.

Math Matters, from Marilyn Burns’s Math Solutions Publications, provides an in-depth analysis of elementary mathematics, from counting and number sense, through middle school mathematics. Each of the fourteen chapters thoroughly and thoughtfully examines one aspect of mathematics—addition and subtraction, fractions, algebra, and so forth—giving historical perspectives, a variety of representations, and ideas to consider while teaching. Interspersed throughout are activities that promote mathematical explorations and questions for further discussion. Even the most experienced teacher will gain an increased appreciation for the subtle complexities and usefulness of these fundamental aspects of mathematics.

This new edition responds to first edition users’ requests for more mathematics. Upper elementary and middle school topics are given more attention, and an entire chapter on rates and ratios has been added. Also included is a selective list of high-quality Internet resources for teachers and students. Although the mathematics is the main focus, the book looks at the ways that students approach the topics and includes helpful tips and models for addressing the content. The book was written to help teachers improve their own knowledge of mathematics; thus, it would serve well as an insightful guide for professional development, a wise choice for a book study group, or an excellent text for a teacher preparatory program. I definitely recommend this book as an addition to any professional library.

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Reviewed by Frankie Miller, Elementary Mathematics Content Specialist for Houston Independent School District, East Region, Houston, Texas. From the Winter 2007–2008 issue of Intersection, a newsletter of the ExxonMobil Foundation in cooperation with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Reprinted with permission from Intersection, © 2007, by ExxonMobil Corporation.

There is a call in this country to increase the mathematical knowledge of students. In order to do this, research says the mathematics curriculum should be one that is hands-on, focused on student understanding and problem solving through reasoning, communication, and numerical fluency. For any teacher of mathematics this is a daunting expectation. Not only do teachers of mathematics need to impart important numerical and mathematical ideas that incorporate a number of different strands (some of which they are comfortable with, some of which they are not), but they also need to be able to understand the mathematics concepts at a deeper level themselves. And then with current trends across the country in math education and research, they are now not supposed to be the “experts” imparting their vast knowledge to their students, but they must be able to facilitate their students’ mathematical learning, allow the students to construct their own meanings, and actually listen to the students’ mathematical reasoning and decipher if they are on the right track. HELP! What’s a modern mathematics teacher to do?

Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach, Grades K–8, Second Edition, by Suzanne H. Chapin and Art Johnson, is one of the best tools for teachers of mathematics to use to help deepen their understanding of the math they are expected to teach. Each chapter is devoted to a specific topic of the K–8 math curriculum with the intent of increasing the mathematical knowledge of the teacher and connecting current research to impact instructional practices. In the authors' words from the preface, they address what the teacher needs “. . . to understand in order to teach these concepts and skills well” and what can be learned “. . . from research about teaching and learning these ideas so that we can bridge the gap between research and practice.” These goals are prevalent throughout the book.

In each chapter various aspects of the topic are addressed, followed by a math activity that gives practice for each section. Also included is a section for reflection, Things to Think About, which has the reader not only reflecting about the way he/she thinks about the problem and their own mathematical reasoning that helped them arrive at a solution, but also about how students might attack the problem. In this part, the authors have included what the research says about the ways in which students might think about the problem. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the need for teachers, as well as their students, to make sense of the math they are charged with teaching and learning. They make the case for teaching students to reason about relationships and promote this thinking and reasoning through experience, discussion, and reflection. One of the major purposes the authors had for writing this book is to help teachers “. . . become more comfortable with the important underlying ideas” while prompting them “. . . to ask better questions of students, explain ideas more accurately or clearly, and stress important relationships and concepts.”

Teachers who are committed to using instructional technology with their students will find a listing of interactive websites that the authors have placed in their book. These are organized by chapter and are based on each of the topics touched upon.

As a math content specialist, I am always looking for books to recommend to teachers that will help them evolve into the teachers we need to impact our students today. Math Matters is just such a book. I have used it to supplement my training of Making Meaning for Operations (MMO), one of the strands in the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) series of seminars. During one session we deal with categorizing addition and subtraction problems. The section in Math Matters that deals with categorizing addition and subtraction problems closely aligns with the information given in MMO. As I facilitate future math professional development sessions, I foresee utilizing this book as a resource to guide my preparation.

This book is a clear, concise, useful resource for any teacher who wishes to supplement and deepen their knowledge of the mathematics they are required to teach. Math specialists and coaches will find they can use various parts of the book as a resource in preparing professional development sessions on math topics taught in the K–8 curriculum. What makes this book so powerful is the promotion of teaching mathematics for understanding through investigation-based instruction and constructivist activities. The methods and strategies for teaching math used in this book are connected to research-based best practices.

Suzanne Chapin and Art Johnson have met their goals of connecting the current research to best classroom practices, of helping teachers become more comfortable with important mathematical understandings, and of aiding teachers in formulating better questions that can guide their students to explain their ideas with a deeper understanding of the underlying mathematics. And why is this so important? Simply stated, because math matters!

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Math Matters is an essential and accessible book that serves all who teach or are about to teach K–8 mathematics.

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