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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:
The topics covered by the whole series (books C to H) are
The lessons in the student worktext are quite special. They are very scaffolded. This means that each concept is broken down into small steps to learn, initially with 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.
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
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.
CAMS & STAMS are also a finalist for the 2011 AEP Distinguished Achievement Award (DAA).
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 do not only show calculational techniques, but 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 included 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 kids using these books are struggling. So, the aim is to only practice calculations and the easiest types of word problems, and thus 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). They could also be used as a supplement to any math curriculum, to reinforce the concepts and give some extra practice.
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 MSc, author of www.homeschoolmath.net and MathMammoth.com