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Review of CAMS & STAMS book collection from Curriculum Associates

CAMS & STAMS book collection from Curriculum Associates is a series of math workbooks and their accompanying assessment materials for grades 3-8 (labeled with C to H).

"CAMS" stands for Comprehensive Assessment of Mathematics Strategies, and "STAMS" stands Strategies to Achieve Mathematics Success.

These books are supplemental to any basal math curriculum, and have been specifically designed to support struggling students. Each level consists of:

  • a student book (consumable worktext) with instruction and exercises. This is the heart of the program, and always covers the most important topics of the grade level, as given in the NCTM Focal Points and Connections.
  • A test booklet, which contains a pretest, a postest, and four "benchmark" tests. The benchmark tests are to be used to monitor student progress throughout the year.
  • A very detailed teacher guide for the student text, and another, much thinner teacher guide for the assessment booklet.

The topics covered by the whole series (books C to H) are

  • Place Value
  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Ratios
  • Proportional Relationships
  • Expressions
  • Equations
  • Plane Geometry
  • Linear Measurement
  • Area
  • Surface Area
  • Volume
  • Graphs
  • The lessons in the student worktext are very scaffolded. This means that each concept is broken down into small steps to learn, where the initial steps provide lots of support for the student. Each lesson has five parts, and gradually the student has to produce more himself, with less hints and helps.

    I want to give you a specific example, lesson 3, Divide Whole Numbers by Fractions, from book F (grade 6). It has ten pages, divided into five parts:

    Part one has a detailedly worked-out example of 2 ÷ 1/3, including several visual models (modeled instruction). Then it has "guided instruction" with two questions for the student. In one, Sophie has 5 yards of ribbon to make bows, and uses 1/4 yard of ribbon to make each bow. In the second, the student makes a visual model to find 4 ÷ 1/6.

    Part two still has instruction, and explains the usual way to divide a whole number by a fraction, and also how to do it with a visual model. Again it has two problems for student to solve: in the first one, the students just fill in blanks to complete the thinking process (guided instruction, again), and then they solve one problem totally on their own.

    Part three is multiple-choice questions.

    Part four has a model of a written answer for one word problem. Then it has a similar word problem and asks the student to write a solution, showing each step and explaing how he/she found the solution.

    Part five has multiple-choice, short-response, and extended-response questions, similar to the ones often seen in national and standardized tests.

    So, in ten pages, the student learns and practices the concept of dividing a whole number by a fraction.

    Each student book (from C to H) has sixteen "foundational" lessons on the core topics of a grade, plus some additional lessons. Please see the PDF samples below to get an idea of how the lessons are structured. Each sample below has one complete 10-page lesson from a particular student book.

    Sample lesson from level C: MULTIPLICATION CONCEPTS
    Sample lesson from level E: ZEROS IN THE QUOTIENT
    Sample lesson from level F: MULTIPLY DECIMALS
    Sample lesson from level H: SOLVE SYSTEMS GRAPHICALLY

    On their website, you can download a sample for any levels you wish, including for the teacher guides. The website also has a short video (demo) that explains the main parts of the program.

    My thoughts

    I feel these books are well written and professional. I feel they do the job of what they are designed to do: support struggling students in the core topics of each grade. I like that the books not only show calculational techniques, but also employ visual models a lot and support conceptual understanding of the topics.

    The scaffolding is carefully done and breaks down the concepts so that all students should understand. The books are reasonably priced and many students will enjoy working through them independently.

    However, I also want to note what these book do not do: they do not provide even mildly challenging problems. The word problems are always routine, exactly like the model problems in the instruction, and typically one-step problems. I was informed that this is intentional: the word problems are kept as straightforward applications of the skills because it is assumed that children using these books are struggling. So, the aim is to only practice calculations and the easiest types of word problems, and thus to let even low-achieving students experience success with STAMS.

    Also, the books do not provide a plentiful supply of practice problems. Each lesson is 10 pages but many of those pages are taken up by instruction or by a single problem with guided instruction. Curriculum Associates provides another series of book, Solve, to provide plentiful practice in mental math and higher-order thinking skills.

    So, keep in mind that the STAMS books cannot be used as a sole math curriculum, but they are useful for many situations, such as for a review of specific topics, to teach anyone who is not doing good in math (low-achieving students), to help students that have never acquired a conceptual understanding of elementary math, or to help a student learn any particularly difficult concept (such as multi-digit multiplication, long division, or fraction arithmetic).

    Website: CAMS & STAMS book collection from Curriculum Associates

    Pricing: Each student book is $10.95, teacher guide $13.95. The CAMS assessment teacher guide $5.95. CAMS assessment student booklets are sold in packs of ten for $39.90. YOu can also buy CAMS & STAMS Book Collection, which includes all materials for 25 students and the two teacher guides, for $359.

    Review by Maria Miller

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