Middle school – and for the purposes of this article, we define it as sixth, seventh, and eighth grades – is a time when it is possible to thoroughly engage young people in learning. The catch is they have to see it as fun.
Once upon a time, the goal of textbook authors was to present facts accurately to a specific age range. Writing style was secondary, if style was even allowed. Today, textbooks are written in a style that keeps not only the age of the target audience in mind, but their psychological developmental stage as well. Middle school children’s minds are more open to unorthodox presentations of information. Learning materials need to reflect this. For example, the series of middle school mathematics books by Danica McKellar is written to middle school girls. The books are edgy, slightly sarcastic, entertaining, and they engage their target audience right from the titles.
Mathematics can be presented in an entertaining way, using a variety of styles of books: middle school math picture books, middle school math novels, middle school math books online, and middle school math literature. The television series, “Numbers” can also show how math can be applied to everyday situations to help make more sense of what goes on around us. The more middle school children can see the connection between mathematics and how it applies to “real life,” the more engaged in the subject they are, the more they pay attention, the more likely they are to continue to make mathematics part of their studies as they advance through high school.
Both teacher and text must capture the attention of the students. Language arts and mathematics, which includes arithmetic, may be the most important subjects for young people to learn. These subjects exercise both sides of their brains, but they have to be paying attention first. The middle school years are a perfect time to use both language and an attitude to present important math concepts.
Following is a list of the top ten math textbooks available through Amazon(www.amazon.com), ranked by user reviews. Some of these books are available in hardback, paperback, and electronic (kindle) form. Each book addresses some aspect of middle school math in an entertaining way. The emphasis of the list is on comprehensive middle school mathematical concepts. All of the books listed are available on Amazon: www.amazon.com
No book that rated fewer than four (4) stars, based on reader reviews, made the top ten list.
Middle School Math Course 1 Student Ed 2002 (Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley)
Math book straightforward enough that students can learn from on their own.
Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss
Middle school math presented with personality. Ms. McKellar is a celebrity who has both beauty and brains (summa cum laude in math from UCLA) and has a high level of credibility with middle school girls.
Math on Call: Handbook (Softcover) Grades 6-8 2004
A reference book for schools and libraries.
Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
Clearly defined target audience of middle school girls. This book uses real-life situations (baby-sitting, shopping), which make concepts easy to understand.
Spectrum Algebra Workbook, Grades 6-8
Ties algebra to real life.
Hard Math for Middle School: IMLEM Plus Edition
Takes a creative approach to problem solving and presents it in a clear, logical manner.
Spectrum Math, Grade 7
Another Spectrum book, also tying math to real life. An answer key is also included with this book.
McDougal Littell Middle School Math: Student Edition Pre-Algebra 2005
Well-organized with smooth transitions between chapters. Linked to a number of online tools that can be used to help with learning.
Holt Middle School Math Course 2, Grade 7 Student Textbook
Considered well-organized, easy to use, and has the answers to the problems in the back of the book.
Challenge Math For the Elementary and Middle School Student (Second Edition)
This book explains math concepts in an easy to understand and entertaining format using cartoons and drawings. Answers are included in the back of the book.