You are here: Home / The IPN / News / IPN Textbook Study: Quality and Effects of Mathematics Textbooks in Elementary School

IPN Textbook Study: Quality and Effects of Mathematics Textbooks in Elementary School

January 17, 2023

As part of the current discussion about the unsatisfactory results of the IQB education trend on the mathematics achievement of elementary school students in Schleswig-Holstein, education policy makers and the media are increasingly pointing to the role of the mathematics textbooks used. In this context, repeated reference has been made to the results of the IPN textbook study. The IPN emphatically welcomes that scientific results are used in educational policy discussions to make evidence-based decisions.

The IPN Textbook Study pursued two scientific goals, investigating four textbook series and longitudinal data from 93 school classes from 2013-2017. The first was to analyze whether the use of different mathematics textbooks leads to different developments in mathematics achievement, even if the school classes are taught according to the same curriculum. It turned out that this is indeed the case. Second, the question arose whether quality characteristics for mathematics textbooks can be defined and measured and whether these are related to the mathematics achievement of elementary school children. It was demonstrated that the quality of mathematics textbooks can be measured on a topic-specific basis (e.g., on the topic of "skillful arithmetic"). In addition, school classes taught with books of better quality showed better performance in the subject areas studied. However, it also became apparent that the books have different strengths and weaknesses.

The current discussion on education policy goes beyond the scientific results and includes pointed statements in its public presentation. For example, the textbooks used in Schleswig-Holstein are described as "deficient" or "ineffective" with reference to the IPN textbook study. From a scientific point of view, these claims can neither be proven nor disproven. In the study, for example, all school classes improved their mathematics performance regardless of the textbook, even if this was more pronounced with some books than with others. It should also be noted that the results of the IPN textbook study are already several years old and the textbooks studied have all since been published in revised new editions. There are also no scientific findings so far on how teachers can compensate for quality weaknesses in the use of textbooks and how teachers can be supported in this. This, along with other questions, will be investigated in a follow-up study starting this year.

In addition to this scientific question, for educational practice mathematics teachers must be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in textbooks and compensate for the weaknesses with supplementary materials. The IPN team will develop research-based approaches for this with cooperation partners and investigate their practical suitability.

Prof. Dr. Aiso Heinze