Education World
Back To Article
Middle School Physical Science Texts

In a recent Review of Middle School Physical Science Texts, eight nationally recognized physicists and educators critiqued some of today's most widely used middle school physical science textbooks. The comments below are representative of their findings.

Course 1, 2, & 3, Teacher Wraparound Edition, Glencoe/ McGraw-Hill, 1998

"This text contains a very large number of errors ranging from misleading statements and figures to incorrect science. The photos and other graphics are always very attractive, but they often do not illustrate the appropriate science."

"There are a large number of inconsistencies between the text material and the wraparound notes for the teacher."

"If one were forced to choose a book to use in middle school, it is a sorry state of affairs that among the most used books in the country this one would have to be it."

Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1996

"The most important conclusion of this review is that there are an incredible number of errors of scientific fact as well as things stated in such a way that they will produce confusion even if they are not technically wrong."

"The questions provided are often poorly worded, address material not covered, or require an answer that is parroted back from the text but certainly not understood."

"The pedagogical materials provided for the teachers are inadequate in a number of ways. Most importantly, many, many answers to the questions in the student text are incorrect. Secondly, there is no content information for teachers with weak science backgrounds."

Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., c. 1995

"In contrast to the Science Insights book, [the Addison-Wesley Destinations in Science sixth grade book] was quite good. There were some errors, but the serious errors were very few in number. There was little unclear text. A number of experiments are included in the text and for the most part they are good ones. The answers in the teacher's material were for the most part correct. There was some background science for the teachers, although not enough. The teaching tips are good and contain little educational jargon. In short, the physical science sections of this book ... could be recommended to teachers."

South-Western Educational Publishing (Everyday Learning Corporation), 1998

"The text material is contained in a 14-volume set of booklets ... that can be used in any order. The format is both convenient and interesting."

"Some of the early volumes are excellent. The quality does not persist through the final volumes (Even the index has multiple errors!), where we found that editorial people did the work. That a name is on a given volume does not mean the listed author made a contribution to that book (although in the early books that is more apt to be the case)."

Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1997

"For a change of pace we will use this book as an illustration of what the reviewers mean by 'the busyness of the book' and the overwhelming number of topics. Our comments apply equally well to the other texts, just as this book is equally rife with errors."

"There is an extensive introduction in the 'Owner's Manual' to help the teacher understand the philosophy of the book. There is also an extensive 'Assessing Student Performance.' There is an extensive section of constructivism. ... There are units, chapters, lessons, ScienceLog, explorations, assessment, special features, sourcebook, and annotations! ... there are home connection, chapter worksheets, unit worksheets, SourceBook worksheets, transparencies, Getting Started Guides, Assessment Checklist and Rubrics, Materials Guide, Test Generator, English, Spanish audiocassettes, Videodisc Resources, SnackDisc, and more!"

"After the first thirty-three pages, there is still more help! The teacher is exposed to ways to use themes in science, integrating the sciences, cross-disciplinary connections, science, technology, and society, communication science, journals and portfolios, concept mapping, cooperative learning, process skills, critical thinking, environmental awareness, multicultural instruction, meeting individual needs, materials and equipment, scienceplus, and the teacher's network."

"Just as the teacher is exhausted, there is a huge section on assessing student performance. ... The teacher is now on page 64 and really doesn't know what the book covers, just how to do it!"

"The actual physics [in the student edition] isn't too wrong. The order in which the concepts are introduced is. There is really no teaching of concepts. Students are supposed to explore and learn the concepts. More often than not, they will pick up incorrect concepts."

Merrill Publishing Co., 1989

"The book in general does not do a good job of explaining what is likely to happen in a lot of the demonstrations and experiments that it describes. Most teachers will not have performed a lot of these demonstrations and experiments and may have no idea what to expect, and they will have no idea whether or not they are doing it correctly. However, the level at which this book was written would be more appropriate as a resource for teachers and this is what we found most teachers using it for."

Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995

"The "Projects To Do" section for students comes before the ideas are even discussed. This is certain to be confusing."

"There are many interesting and enjoyable specific topics within each general unit of study. The difficulty is that they are not always pertinent nor do they teach science."

Prentice-Hall (Now Pearson) Many dates and variations

"We have found lots of errors. The number is overwhelming. What could possibly be wrong with the authors? Don't they know anything about science? This question necessitated our looking into the qualifications of the authors. The investigation into the background of the authors for these books was much more thorough than the other books reviewed. Conclusion: The 'authors' for the most part admitted that they did not write the book. A few reviewed and made suggestions, a few contributed essays, and a few did some other types of work."

"None of the listed authors should or could have written the book."

Scott Foresman and Company, 1991

"As is true of most elementary texts, the questions place too much emphasis on word meanings and not enough on understanding concepts. Occasionally students are asked questions which are beyond their experience."

"This book is an acceptable fifth grade science textbook. While not perfect, it contains fewer errors than many of its competitors. In addition, while clearly it is a textbook not a hands?on curriculum, it does have experiments in each chapter, which will help students understand the concepts being studied, and the experimental nature of science." Click here to go back to the story.

© 2000 by Education World®. Education World grants users permission to reproduce this page for educational purposes.