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Algebra 1 - An Open Course: Open Textbook Component

The NROC Project

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2013 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.


This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2013. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
The National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) is a library of online course content for students and faculty. This review examined the open textbook that was developed as the text component to the NROC full, multimedia Algebra 1 program. Multimedia component use is permitted on the site for individual teachers or students, but institutions wishing to use NROC content must join a fee-based membership organization, the NROC network. Members of the NROC Network may leverage the media resources, secure assessments, and PD materials within their own learning management system. The open textbook may be used as a stand-alone book, but was not designed with that specific use case in mind. This should factor into the viewer’s analysis of the review results.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Focus: 1.4, Rigor & Balance: 1.0, Consistent Content: 1.14, Coherent Connections: 1.07, Reasoning: 0.62, Standards for Practice: 0.69.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (0.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 0.8, Key Area of Focus: 0.6, Instructional Supports: 0.2, Assessment: 0.2.
Unit 5

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.2, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 0.75, Deeper Learning: 0.0.
Unit 5

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Extreme (0.25)

This course is divided into 12 units with 1-3 lessons in each unit. The lessons are divided into 2-4 topics such as; Topic 1 – Rate of Change and Slope; Topic 2 – Intercepts of Linear Equations; Topic 3 – Graphing Equations in Slope Intercept Form; etc. Each topic begins with one or two learning objectives followed by a one or two page written explanation and one or more sample problems. Each sample problem is followed by a “Self Check” problem similar to the example for the reader to attempt. Answers to the Self Check are provided at the end of the lesson. Each lesson ends with a summary paragraph and a glossary of new terms.

The clarity of the written explanations is good and would be accessible as a review for students that have already taken algebra in previous years as well as new instruction for students that are verbal thinkers with strong linguistic skills and very good reading comprehension skills. For many, if not most, high school students the written explanations would not serve as effective instruction in the absence of separate teacher instruction and/or separate teacher-led lessons and learning activities which are not provided. Other than the self-check problems embedded in each written explanation, there are no additional exercises or practice problems that students can use to develop skills or extend the concepts through independent problem-solving. Other than the self-check problems there are also no assessments provided.

There is no support for differentiation or extension problems to encourage deeper thinking. There are also no activities or assignments provided that would involve students working in pairs, small group, or whole-class settings.

The course outline does align well with CCSS Algebra Content Standards though there are a few missing items that are not addressed. Some of these could be incorporated relatively easily by adding a slight extension to an existing lesson or in some cases adding an additional lesson in an existing unit. Lesson 1 in Unit 12, for example, covers natural numbers, whole numbers, and integers, as well as rational and irrational numbers. While it introduces and defines rational and irrational numbers and encourages students to compare this subset of the real numbers to other subsets, the lesson stops short of covering sums, products and differences of rational and irrational numbers as called for in CCSS. Adding a brief extension to the lesson or adding an additional topic addressing sums, products and differences of rational and irrational number would fit coherently into the existing topic outline and could easily address this deficiency. Addition of relatively few extensions and additional topics such as this would allow this course outline to be easily modified to provide full alignment with all CCSS content standards for High School Mathematics.

A much greater challenge, however, would be to provide full sets of practice problems as well as classroom learning activities for each lesson to facilitate student learning of covered topics and address standards for mathematical practice.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

I reviewed the on-line textbook materials of NROC Algebra I. I did not review all of the ancillary materials: problem sets, answer keys, rubrics, interactive features, videos, teacher materials, or student study guides. It was nice to see a text that seems to have been designed with the CCSS in mind rather than trying to force fit it to the standards after the material was already written. The text is written in a conversational tone, in grade appropriate language, without sacrificing any of the necessary mathematical vocabulary needed for the desired rigor. A careful study of Unit 5 showed it to in alignment with the focus and balance of the CCSS. The few practice problems that followed the examples fit well. I especially liked how each of the multiple choice answers was explained, even the distractors. I would enjoy looking at a later time at all of the other features this curriculum includes. I would definitely consider using this as a text in my algebra classes, perhaps even as the primary text.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The units are organized by a set of lessons, each generally with multiple topics (sections)

It is written in a “conversational tone”— designed for a student to read & do alone. There are no teacher notes.

The sections have narrative explaining the skill or concept, with a small set of worked example problems. Generally only considers one approach to solving problems. Each unit includes a unit recap (very short summary of each section) and a glossary.

There is a very limited set of self-check multiple choice problems in each section of a lesson and at the end of the unit. These have answers, as well as explanations for why an answer was correct or incorrect. There is no opportunity for students to engage in any of the mathematical practices. They are mentioned in the alignment document, but not in the units and there is little evidence of any tasks that would provide opportunity for any perseverance in problem solving, constructing viable arguments, or critiquing the reasoning of others.

There is some evidence of coherence, by connecting ideas to prior knowledge (solving equations leads to solving inequalities, graphing one variable inequalities is related to graphing two variable inequalities.) and by providing concrete examples for abstract ideas, such as the Addition and Subtraction Properties of Inequality.

Missing standards: N.RN.3, N.Q.1-3, A.SSE.1b, A.APR.3, F.IF.2, F.IF.7b, F.IF.7c, F.BF.1b, F.BF.3, all of S.ID

Extra standards: The earlier units contain quite a bit of grade 8 content from the domains Equations and Expressions, Functions, and Geometry.

A.APR.6, A.APR.7, A.REI.2, A.REI.7, F.BF.2, F.BF.4a, G.SRT.8, G.GPE.5, S.CP.2, S.CP.8, S.CP.9

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

This curriculum is divided into minute objectives taught at a basic procedural level in isolation from each other. Each lesson follows the same general template as in lesson 5.2.1: Solving and Graphing Linear Inequalities in Two Variables which includes three sections with written explanations and examples.

  • Section 1 has three examples of graphing a single variable inequality; one on a number line, two on the coordinate plane (one bounded and one unbounded).
  • Section 2 has one example of graphing a linear inequality in two variables and then has a multiple choice "self check" question. The question asks what y≥x looks like and contains four graphs to choose from. As with all "self check" problems in the curriculum the answer is found at the end of the lesson.
  • Section 3 has one example of applying a two variable inequality in context.
  • The lesson is then over. Only one practice problem, in the form of a self check, is given.

The CCSSM shifts in focus, coherence, and rigor are not evident in these lessons. The course appears designed after the manner of a supplemental math reference book. With so little expected from students it is unclear how they would become engaged in the work. While many aspects of the CCSSM standards appear in the curriculum, it never quite addresses any standard completely. For example, one of the most basic clusters, “Understand the concept of a function and use function notation,” cannot said to be addressed because functional notation is nowhere to be found and neither are sequences defined recursively. I would not use this curriculum.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

At first glance it appears that this curriculum was designed to read like a novel. Few distractions, fancy graphics or colorful pages exist to divert the reader from focusing on the overall content. However, the content itself is lacking in rigor and depth.

Out of the 21 main content components established for the CCSS Algebra course for PARCC, only six are sufficiently covered. There is no mention of exponential functions and no comparison of linear, quadratic, and exponential functions is present. No relevant statistics content is brought up and function notation is only briefly discussed. Much of the content that is covered is lacking in rigor.

In unit 5 on linear inequalities, for example, only half of the lessons address CCSS-M content. No application problems exist that encourage students to persist in problem solving. Students are not told to write or speak about their understanding. Not enough practice problems exist to develop procedural fluency.

The curriculum needs further augmentation in assessment, practice problems, and meeting the needs of struggling and accelerated learners.

Bringing this curriculum into alignment with the CCSS-M would take tremendous amounts of work. The standards call for a significant shift in how mathematics is taught to students. This curriculum is designed with the old way of doing business in mind – direct instruction with little emphasis on developing reasoning or utilizing the mathematics practices which are necessary to help students arrive at the level of depth that is required. It seems that this curriculum was not designed with the CCSS-M in mind.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.