I'm using a textbook but in my course the chapters are numbered differently. For example, the book has the following chapters:

  1. Real Numbers
  2. Square Roots
  3. Polynomial in a single variable (they don't say indeterminate!)
  4. Circles
  5. Quadrilaterals
  6. System of Equations
  7. Fractional Expressions (that is rational fractions)

whereas the first chapter in my course is Real Numbers which contains chapters 1 and 2 of the book, and my chapter 2 is Algebraic Expressions which contain chapters 3 and 7 of the book since they are closely related.

Now there's a problem in doing this in middle school. Doing this at high school is fine but in middle school, students resist changing the order of chapters and see it as a way to make the subject harder for them not the other way. Also they are not rational enough to understand the arguments I give for this.

  • $\begingroup$ Depending on what you are planing to do with the textbook, you could either copy relevant pages and give them to the students or scan the book, change the $\endgroup$
    – Louis
    Oct 4, 2017 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ What's the question? You've described a rationale for why you believe that the course material covered should align with the textbook and you have observed that such alignment does not exist. The obvious options are to change the textbook, adjust your approach to teaching the course, or force the students to accept a lack of alignment. $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2017 at 14:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ “in my course the chapters are numbered differently”? Maybe you should be calling them units instead of chapters. Sounds like you have a problem with word choice. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2017 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the edit by user138719. In maths chapter titles are usually written in sentence case. And there's still no question! $\endgroup$
    – Jessica B
    Oct 20, 2017 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ And you also received three requests for clarification, so perhaps it is not so obvious. Instead of putting your question in the comments, you should put it in the question. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Oct 21, 2017 at 0:49

4 Answers 4


Seem you have two problems. The students resistance and the misunderstandings of which chapter you are referring to.

To overcome the student's resistance, suggest that they (the students) are part of an experiment to improve the order of the chapters in the book. Tell them when you finish, the class will help you write to the publisher why your order is better.

To avoid the misunderstandings of which chapter you should involve the students. Ask the students in the beginning how to handle this. Have a few suggestions and discuss the pros and cons. The student will feel part of the decision and they will have heard the cons (eg we will only use page numbers but these are hard to remember so you must write them down - will help them remember to write them down. Here are some suggestions to discuss with the students.

A. Only assign page numbers and topics. Avoid discussion of chapters and refer to the topics and page numbers. The con is that the students have to write down the page numbers. It is a lot easier to remember Chapter 3, than pages 89 - 98

B. Tell students that chapters assigned will be from the book but remind them that you won't be going in order. The con is that the students might mix up what chapter they are up to.

C. Tell students that you are going discuss topics. Of course the problem is that it may be clear where the topics aer in the book, especially if the topic is in more than one chapter and you have only learned part of a topic.

D. Let the students brainstorm for other solutions.

E. Use a combination of these methods


Hope this helps.


In my experience, this hasn't been an explicit reason for students finding the subject harder. In fact, it was quite common to teach subjects (not just maths) in a different order than what is given in the textbook in my own education.

I'd suggest the following for you (with the notion of encouraging students to get used to a different order from middle school itself):

  1. Counsel the students to understand what exactly is the basis for their resistance. This should not only help you understand the issue but will help them realize that their fear is just psychological.
  2. Give them a broad overview of why the order in which you're going to teach is particularly more engaging and interesting than the order given in the textbook. This is to hook them to the chapters that you're going to teach first.

For middle school students I would rely more on practical and engaging dimensions of the chapters rather than rational arguments to justify my order. Get them excited about the activities that they'll be able to get their hands on sooner than later! You can even consider using reverse psychology or lament about difficulties faced by students in the past - if students are still resistant.

That being said, what you're describing seems to be an institutional problem (of the culture) which will take some time for them to get adapted to. You can't expect them to change overnight, but sooner this is inculcated the better.


You use the phrase "chapter[s] in my course" (as opposed to the book), which makes no sense linguistically. I would recommend that you find some other way of expressing what you're trying to say. This itself may be the major point of confusion for your students.

  1. Stop referring to your topics as "chapters". That is confusing.

  2. Consider to just go in the same order as the book. I'm serious. I don't like teachers mixing and matching (and I am postgraduate). The textbook is actually the more critical and important teaching tool than the teacher. Find a book and follow it. You will get more accomplished by following a clear written plan well than to make an optimal plan (in some abstract sense or just in your prejudice) but which is hard to follow.

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    $\begingroup$ The textbook is actually the more critical and important teaching tool than the teacher Wrong, completely wrong. $\endgroup$
    – user5402
    Oct 20, 2017 at 16:09

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