The mission of Centripetal Press is to transform the way science and math are taught by producing materials and advocating teaching methods based on the core principles of Mastery and Integration, and by fostering the natural Wonder of scientific study.
Science and math education are in crisis nationwide. College freshmen increasingly need remedial classes before they can begin their college coursework. Educators usually take it for granted that students will not retain what they’ve learned more than a couple of weeks. Standardized tests govern the curriculum. And for years, the United States has been falling behind other nations in science and math.
There are many areas that need to be addressed to bring excellence back to science and math education. Textbook design is one of them.
So what’s wrong with textbooks today?
HEAVY, CUMBERSOME VOLUMES
Several unfortunate trends exist in textbook publishing today. The first is sheer size. As student achievement has dropped over the past two generations, educators have responded by calling for textbooks to cover more and more material, as if adding more chapters into books would solve the problem of students not learning what was there to begin with. It is a rare student indeed
who can master the content of a typical secondary science textbook these days. Students carry around these back-breaking books, racing through the content, and the Cram‑Pass‑Forget cycle continues.
It is common today for textbooks to clamor for the students’ attention with cluttered pages that imitate popular media. Commercial media are designed to distract and entertain rather than to encourage people to read and engage. Many textbooks are flawed because of their attempt to shout at students using similar tactics. The result is books that are full of distractions and that generally do not encourage students to concentrate on reading the text.
Similarly, many textbooks pander to youthful tastes with silly graphics, images of kids on skateboards, and childish attempts to seem ‘cool’ through style, fonts, and design. The irony here is that most students are aware of these pathetic efforts to get their attention, and they end up mocking their books and despising the educational system that does not consider them worthy of more mature curriculum material.
Some texts simply lack aesthetic sensitivity, apparent from their gaudy and overblown design. In other cases the ugliness is due to the use of primitive clipart or inelegant graphical features.
It is becoming increasingly common for the prose content to be written in English well below the appropriate grade level. Also, many texts bypass opportunities to enhance and integrate content with the appropriate mathematics and historical background of the topic. Even more troubling is case where chapter exercises do not call for analytical thinking or the kind of effort that effects real assimilation. Exercises that involve only simple matching, fill in the blank, or ‘busy-work’ worksheets end up teaching students to jump through hoops to get a daily grade rather than facilitate learning. To compound the problem, students may come to expect that this low level of effort is normal and be pleased with their skill at completing exercises that are hardly suitable for elementary school.
CENTRIPETAL PRESS – THE NEW ALTERNATIVE
So what do CP textbooks do to address these problems?
- The subject matter has been culled to the central and important material for each course. For our grade-level texts and our accelerated/honors texts, the content has been carefully selected so that students can actually master the entire body of content in a normal academic year. The result is deeper learning of less material, but ultimately a superior science education.
- Quizzes and exercises are all cumulative back to the beginning of the year. Students are on notice that they will be accountable for concepts and skills from each chapter in forthcoming quizzes and exercises. To facilitate study, therefore, we provide study aids (the Weekly Review Guide) in the lower grade books to guide students in reviewing and reencountering key concepts that will continue to appear on quizzes.
- We include a list of specific learning objectives at the beginning of each chapter. These objectives are quantifiable (state, calculate, explain, compare, distinguish, define, describe, etc.) so students know exactly what they need to learn.
- Basic skills of science such as unit conversions and scientific notation are embedded in exercises throughout the book. The frequent and repeated use of these skills brings students to master them.
- We provide complete answer keys to computation questions in the text so that students have immediate feedback about their success at solving problems.
- In addition to computations, chapters contain conceptual or verbal questions that students answer in complete, technically accurate sentences. By articulating the ways scientific principles apply to various cases, students’ level of comprehension is deepened. In forming their answers, students practice at selecting proper terms and constructing coherent explanations.
- Clear, proven problem solving strategies are presented and incorporated into all example problems.
- Both the sentence questions and computations regularly relate to concepts presented in earlier chapters. Quizzes and exercises are cumulative.
History: Key historical content appears in the text (rather than being limited to sidebars), and specific historical objectives are listed in the learning objectives for particular chapters.
Mathematics: Age-appropriate mathematical components appear as often as possible, given text content.
Language: Each chapter includes numerous conceptual questions that students answer in complete sentences. These regular exercises in verbal expression allow students to develop skills in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, clarity, coherence, logical development and economy of expression.
Philosophy: Scientific epistemology (the nature of scientific knowledge) is treated in middle school and early high school texts, giving students a grounding in the definitions of truth, fact, theory, and what kind of knowledge science is able to provide. Students get a clear explanation about the nature and purpose of scientific facts, theories, hypotheses, and experimental results.
Other subjects: Connections to the humanities, works of art, architecture, technology, and literature are intentionally made to demonstrate the inter-relatedness of all knowledge.
We believe that appreciation of—and care for—the natural world begins with a sense of wonder at the exquisite complexity and balance we see everywhere in nature. Students too easily grow up today spending most of their time indoors instead of exploring the nature in outdoor activities. One or two generations ago, it was common for students to spend much of their leisure time outdoors biking, playing in the woods, exploring creeks, camping, hiking, fishing, and the like. Today, we must proactively help our students develop a love for the natural world. As this love is cultivated, students will be more interested in studying nature in their science classes, and they will be more inclined to develop healthy attitudes toward caring for and preserving the earth and its millions of species of living creatures.
Centripetal Press texts strive to instill in students a sense of wonder and fascination with the natural world. This is not difficult, since nature is loaded with beautiful and amazing creatures, formations, and processes. It is our hope that as students pick up on our enthusiasm for the amazing world around us they will be stimulated to learn more about it, and that this knowledge will enhance their enjoyment of the natural world and lead to an increased desire to help care for the earth.
- The tone, style and graphics in each text are age appropriate, lucid and engaging, and are designed to draw students upward toward the adult world of scientific inquiry and study. Though we enjoy humor, we avoid the deliberate use of silliness as a tool for appealing to students.
- Texts are compact and easy to carry around. Page trim size for all texts is 6.5 inches x 9.5 inches. Actual chapter content comprises approximately 300-500 pages.
- Page design, fonts, color palettes and graphics are elegant and tasteful.
- At this time, our texts are in softcover. As our company grows in coming months and years, we will begin to offer hardbacks with smyth-sewn bindings and heavy-duty cover boards, resulting in high printing quality and durable covers and bindings. Our softcover books use digital printing technology and our hardbacks use a superior four-color offset printing method on matte paper.