CSCOPE vs. Old Math Test Books

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 Review by Dr. Stan Hartzler

CSCOPE Algebra I doesn’t have the rigor that a 1971 textbook has. 

Three first-year algebra programs were compared: a 1971 textbook, a 1992 textbook, and the CSCOPE program. All twelve units or chapters were compared. The two textbooks differed little.

The results show that the CSCOPE program has gutted at least half of five of those twelve chapters. The missing topics appear to have been replaced by experiences with calculators, or with algebra tiles work. The tiles work provides a hands-on experience that is meaningful in other programs, but has no such meaning in this CSCOPE course, save giving the impression to monitoring administrators that students are engaged.


The CSCOPE program had about 50% of the content of the chapter on quadratic equations. The quadratic formula was presented with complete sterility, without any development, and for a necessary reason: the students couldn’t have understood the steps needed in the development. This is because 0% of the usual chapter on rational (fractional) expressions is present in CSCOPE, and because other preliminary work leading to that development is also missing.


Students using stronger textbooks, particularly those featuring ongoing review, can develop the quadratic formula without the help of the teacher or textbook. They can do mathematics for themselves.


CSCOPE has only 25% of the usual introductory work of the first two chapters of the textbooks. Thus thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool, they are left to make inferences about basic algebra, and often make erroneous inferences, even with the best of introductions. Left on their own by CSCOPE, they flounder and often drown, a crime among disadvantaged students.


CSCOPE has about half of the traditional word problem applications, less that 25% of the usual work with radical expressions and equations, and less than 40% of work with inequalities and absolute value.


Some might say that the missing objectives are in earlier or later courses. Such claims must be met with demands that secrecy end and the claims be supported with facts.


The observation that these critical topics were missing or weakened led to investigation of CSCOPE’s claims of compliance with TEKS, the Texas state standards for first-year algebra. Compliance was found, unfortunately. It appears that TEKS has also been gutted, and similarly, going back at least to 2006.


Mischief by leaders attempting to comply with the NCTM Standards is suspected from here.

There will be consequences:

Students attempting entry in scholarship programs or technical careers requiring basic algebra skills may do well on the STAAR test, but will find progress slow and intimidating later, and may be required to spend time and money with leveling courses before credit-level courses can be undertaken.

Disadvantaged students will remain disadvantaged.

Politicians will continue to cry that more money is needed for the usual non-remedies. PEPISCAF: Pedagogical Emergency Perpetuation or Invention to Sustain the Clamor for Additional Funding.

The algebra tiles, by the way, were used to illustrate factoring. Similar illustration can be found in algebra books going back over 100 years. Oddly (very oddly), that factoring in CSCOPE was never given the customary application for solving quadratic equations, nor for subsequent customary application in related problem solving, as it was in the old books.


The algebra tiles look groovy to the administrative observers, providing a market meanwhile for CSCOPE kits, in with the dice, toothpicks, and two kinds of beans.


Almost certainly, the STAAR exam has been gutted as well. CSCOPE thus prepares students for a self-righteous test that is not at a higher level as advertised, but is instead reflective of a shift away from meaningful learning, toward a gee-whiz agenda that will keep disadvantaged students from understanding what they learn and from standing on their own in life after school.


Small wonder that CSCOPE wants to keep things secret.

 Dr. Stan Hartzler


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  1. Stuart Green says:

    Dear Dr. Hartzler,

    I hope this reaches you.

    Here’s two quotes from “The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick” by Benoit B. Mandelbrot published in 2012.

    “Several out-of-date math books came into my hands from persons who had saved them from their student years. Invariably, they included masses of illustrations of shapes that later books omitted as a matter of principle. From these outdated books, I built in my mind a zoo of shapes that was to help immensely during the winter of 1944, when I was preparing for the very difficult mathematics exams at the Lycee du Parc in Lyon”

    pg 70:
    “During all that time in Tulle, I had relied on those outdated math books filled with many more pictures and fuller explanations and motivations than the books of the 1930s – or of today. Learning mathematics from such books made me intimately familiar with a large zoo, collected over centuries, of very specialized shapes of every kind. I could recognize them instantly, even when they were dressed up in an analytic garb that was “foreign” to me and , I thought, to their basic nature. I always started with a basic drawing, which I soon felt lacked something, and was aesthtically incomplete. It would, for example, improve if tranformed by operations called simple projection or inversion with respect to some circle….[more] ”

    Likewise, I have a copy of my late aunt’s 1937 St. John’s Ambulance book “First Aid to the Injured.” You can actually read it and it makes sense. No doubt some of the advice is outdated, but there is no doubt about what they were saying:

    “In the meanwhile, the Association had turned its attention to the manufacture and improvement of ambulance litters and stretchers. These latter were so designed as to fit all methods of transport and even in those early days it was possible for a patient to be conveyed across Europe without needing removal from the stretcher, or suffering from variations in transport.”

    How many sidebars would it take a new textbook to get that across?

    Stuart Green
    Kitchener, Ontario

    • I’ll personally send your comment to Dr. Hartzler.

      • Stuart Green says:

        I was just checking back now that I finished the book. Thanks for sending along my note.