COMET • Vol. 1, No. 22 – 4 September 2000


(1) California’s 2001 Mathematics Textbook Adoption

The timeline for the current adoption can be found on the California Department of Education’s Web site at

The submitted materials will be on display at Learning Resource Display Centers during September and October, 2000. State Board of Education (SBE) public hearings and SBE action on the adoption recommendations from the Curriculum Commission should occur during April, 2001.

According to the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division of the California Department of Education (phone: 916-657-3023), the following mathematics textbooks have been submitted for review (sorted by publisher):

  • Carnegie Learning, Inc.–Cognitive Tutor, Algebra I (grade 8)
  • CSL Associates, Inc.–Success with Mathcoach (grades K-5)
  • Everyday Learning Corporation–Everyday Mathematics (K-6); Courses 2 & 3 Impact Mathematics (grades 7-8)
  • Harcourt School Publishers–Harcourt Math 2002 (grades K-6)
  • Holt, Rinehart and Winston–Algebra I, California Education (grade 8)
  • Houghton Mifflin Company–Mathematics by Houghton Mifflin (grades K-5)
  • JRL Enterprises, Inc.–I Can Learn Mathematics (grade 6); I Can Learn Algebra (grade 8)
  • McDougal Littell Inc.–Concepts and Skills (grades 6-8); Structure and Method (grades 6-8)
  • McGraw Hill School Division–McGraw Hill Mathematics (grades K-6)
  • Prentice Hall, Inc.–Prentice Hall Pre-Algebra 1, California Edition (grade 7); Prentice Hall Algebra 1, California Edition (grade 8)
  • Riverdeep, Inc.–Destination Math (grade 7)
  • Saxon Publishers, Inc.–Saxon Math K-3, An Incremental Development (grades K-3); Math 54, 65, 76, and 87 (grades 3-6); Algebra 1/2 and Algebra 1 (grades 7-8)
  • Scott Foresman–Scott Foresman California Mathematics (grades K-6)
  • Wasatch Interactive Learning–Math Expeditions (grades K-5)
  • (2) “California Students Outpace the Nation in SAT Math Scores”

    Source: – 29 August 2000

    California’s college-bound students continued to show an impressive improvement in SAT math scores — reflecting national scores that are at their highest level in 30 years.

    Released along with nationwide scores for entering college students on Tuesday, Aug. 29, California’s SAT scores in math are listed at 518, outranking an improved national average of 514 by four points. Ten years ago, California’s math score was 508, while the national average score was 501.

    “We are not only seeing an improvement in math scores, but an improvement in the number of students taking the test. Last year, 49 percent of our graduates took the SAT test. It speaks volumes that in a state as large and diverse as California, so many of our students are taking the SAT. Not every state can boast of that,” said Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association.

    “According to the College Board, this fall, a record 1.26 million SAT-takers are entering college with more high school math and science courses, better grades and higher academic aspirations than their predecessors of 20 years ago. We are certainly seeing the same trend in California,” Johnson said.

    Experts from the College Board, the administrator of the test, attributed the improvement in scores to more rigorous math and science courses offered in high schools. They called for an increase in Advanced Placement courses across the country and especially in inner cities and rural areas… 


    (1) “Bush and Gore Stake Claims to Federal Role in Education” by David E. Rosenbaum

    Source: New York Times – 30 August 2000

    …Five years after the Republican Congress shut down the government in part because of the money President Clinton wanted to spend on education, four years after Bob Dole embraced a Republican platform that advocated abolishing the Department of Education, Mr. Bush has made an expanded federal role in education a central campaign issue.

    Vice President Al Gore, for his part, has responded to the challenge on an issue that has been especially strong for Democrats ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson got the first law on federal aid to public schools enacted 35 years ago over the opposition of most Republicans. …

    While both candidates are emphasizing education, their approaches are quite different.

    Mr. Bush focuses on making schools more accountable for their students’ performance, and talks about the importance of local control. The modest additional spending he proposes would go primarily toward a program to help disadvantaged children learn to read.

    Mr. Gore, by contrast, would increase federal spending on education by 50 percent, $115 billion over the next decade. He would have the federal government contribute money to raise teachers’ salaries — an area Washington has always shunned — and large amounts would be spent on preschool programs and school construction.

    Each candidate has abandoned party dogma to move to the center.

    Before the Republican convention last month, Mr. Bush intervened with the party’s platform committee to knock out language that called for closing the Department of Education. Instead, Mr. Bush would expand the department’s authority by giving it jurisdiction over Head Start, the preschool program for poor children that is now in the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Mr. Bush has also expressed a more limited advocacy of vouchers than the conservatives of his party have. Many Republicans in Congress would like to give all parents vouchers to help pay their children’s tuition at private schools. Mr. Bush would allow vouchers only if a school failed for three years to make the improvements needed to meet state standards, after repeated warnings…

    Mr. Gore emphasizes stiffer standards for teachers, a position not likely to be met enthusiastically by the teachers’ unions, which are important Democratic constituents. More than 300 delegates at the Democratic convention were members of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers.

    Mr. Gore would require all new teachers to pass qualification tests. He would ensure that all secondary school teachers have college majors or minors in the subjects they teach and that all primary school teachers are trained in teaching reading. Teachers would have to pass rigorous evaluations to keep their licenses. And communities would be encouraged to develop procedures for discharging poor teachers and assigning teachers to particular schools based on expertise rather than just seniority…

    Both candidates offer a ream of specific policy proposals. Mr. Bush would spend $1 billion a year for five years to train teachers to diagnose and correct reading problems. Just last week, he offered modest proposals to build and repair schools on and near military bases and to give grants to historically black and Hispanic colleges. He would penalize states with a loss of 5 percent of their federal aid if they did not give standardized reading and math tests to students in the third through the eighth grades and publish the results.

    Mr. Gore would spend $50 billion over 10 years to provide public preschools for all 4-year-olds and many 3-year-olds. He would offer interest-free bonds for school construction and modernization, provide money for raising teacher pay, award signing bonuses to recruits and give tax credits to offset the cost of college for students from families with incomes below about $100,000 a year. …

    The precise policy proposals of the candidates are less important than the principles they espouse. That is because Congress develops education programs and is likely to devote approximately the same amount of resources to education regardless of who is president.

    But Washington’s influence on public education could depend on who is elected. Mr. Gore would have the government much more involved in local education matters. Mr. Bush would mostly keep his hands off except for holding schools responsible for the progress of their students. …

    For more details on Bush’s education plan, see

    (2) “Positive Trends Hidden in SAT and ACT Scores” by Richard Rothstein

    SourceNew York Times – 30 August 2000

    The College Board released new national average SAT scores yesterday. Math is up three points to 514, with verbal scores unchanged at 505.

    Critics have often used this annual report to lament the state of American schools. But interpreting the SAT is more complex than it seems. SAT trends would reflect school quality changes only if every 18-year-old took the test. Not all do.

    Average scores are affected by who takes the SAT. If only the brightest seniors take it, averages are higher. If more lower-ranked seniors aspire to college and take the test, this could indicate better performance by schools, but still depress the average.

    While, by themselves, overall SAT averages are faulty indicators of school quality, more careful analysis suggests rarely noticed improvements in public education.

    Even average scores are more positive than most people believe. Math gains have been steady since 1980. While verbal scores fell in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they grew from 1990 to 1995 and have since been stable. But these data by themselves tell little about school quality because SAT test takers are not representative of all students.

    (3) Books on Testing by W. James Popham, Emeritus Professor, UCLA (

    (a) Testing! Testing!: What Every Parent Should Know about School Tests
    (b) Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know
    (c) Modern Educational Measurement: Practical Guidelines for Educational Leaders
    The final chapter of the latter book appears in a condensed version (see below) at

    “Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality”

    Educators are experiencing almost relentless pressure to show their effectiveness. Unfortunately, the chief indicator by which most communities judge a school staff’s success is student performance on standardized achievement tests.

    These days, if a school’s standardized test scores are high, people think the school’s staff is effective. If a school’s standardized test scores are low, they see the school’s staff as ineffective. In either case, because educational quality is being measured by the wrong yardstick, those evaluations are apt to be in error.

    One of the chief reasons that students’ standardized test scores continue to be the most important factor in evaluating a school is deceptively simple. Most educators do not really understand why a standardized test provides a misleading estimate of a school staff’s effectiveness. …

    (4) “‘Math Advantage 2000’ Leads Math Market in Sales Year-to-Date”

    Source: – 29 August 2000

    Leading consumer software publisher Encore Software Inc. today announced that “Math Advantage(TM) 2000” was ranked the number one math software title across all math subcategories, during the first half of 2000, by industry research firm PC Data.

    “Math Advantage(TM) 2000,” which launched in the spring of 1999, has outpaced the competition in the marketplace by accumulating just under $2 million in sales this year-to-date, in addition to its breakthrough success last year contributing $2.8 million to the line…

    Encore Software is a leading provider of educational tools for middle school and high school students…

    The company employs exhaustive research efforts including focus groups with educators, students and consumers to determine annual strategies for updating and improving “Math Advantage(TM)” as well as identifying future product releases.

    Consistent with this strategy, Encore Software recently launched the 2001 Advantage(TM) line which includes “Math Advantage(TM),” “Middle School Advantage(TM),” “High School Advantage(TM),” “Foreign Language Advantage(TM)” and “Student Resource Advantage(TM).” … Featuring the most comprehensive educational solutions available for this age group, each “Elementary Edge(TM)” product consists of six complete subjects with an extended focus on teaching core skills supplemental to in-school lessons.

    “With the ‘Fun & Skills Packs(TM),’ the release of ‘Elementary Edge(TM)’ and the addition of the Kaplan Test Prep line earlier this year, Encore Software now competes in the educational market on every level, from elementary school through post graduate education,” said Sylvia Martinez, vice president, Development, Encore Software…

    (5) “Fighting the Math Battle” by Sandy Coleman

    Source: Boston Globe – 27 August 2000

    …Fun is just one way Clarksburg Elementary teachers engage kids in math, a subject so serious and essential that many students and adults in this country fear and loathe it.

    In the current climate of controversy around teaching math and testing math teachers, schools like Clarksburg and others that boosted their MCAS math scores between 1998 and 1999 offer a glimpse into what it takes to win the math war. At stake are the futures of students who have to function in a technology-driven world that thrives on numbers.

    Numbers and concepts are brought to life at Clarksburg, which was among the top 10 schools that showed the most improvement in eighth-grade math scores, according to a Globe analysis.

    “If we don’t understand something, doing it hands-on helps a lot,” said student Michael Wood, who knew probability “somewhat” before Maroni’s exercise. “She showed us how it works”…

    Hooking students by middle school is critical, said Kristen Herbert, who teaches eighth-grade math and is the department head at Wayland Middle School. Students at the school, for example, create their own business on paper to help make math relevant.

    “Math acts as a gatekeeper. Kids sort of either get it or they don’t. They kind of make up their minds about who they are in math as a middle school student,” Herbert said. “It’s important because it’s a logical way of thinking. It’s a way of training your mind in ways used in life.”

    Teachers at schools where eighth-grade MCAS math scores improved say a multi-level approach to math is the key. Consistently, the road to success with math started with a commitment to go beyond what is required.

    The schools run afterschool programs to strengthen weaknesses, play games such as math Jeopardy, ask students to teach lessons, show videos, provide high-tech calculators, explore math vocabulary, and even take field trips to use the math learned in the classroom.

    “We’re dealing with a different breed of child today,” said Michael Jarvis, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math at Horizon Academy in Chicopee where MCAS scores improved by 6.46 percent. “To excite kids and stimulate them, information has to hit them in the face. It has to be able to grab them. ‘This is boring’ or ‘I don’t need this’ is one of the biggest complaints.”

    Once upon a time in the old math days, teachers took the traditional approach and told students to memorize concepts, tables, theories, and how to do problems. Just do it. No questions asked. But, this is the age of new math where students are pushed to not only know what the answer is but why it is.

    That’s what makes open-ended math problems hard, said Sarah Brooks, a seventh-grader at Clarksburg Elementary who is good in math. “Sometimes it’s a challenge and I kind of like that because I like trying to figure out stuff.”

    That, also, is what makes math sometimes tedious, said eighth-grader Wood, who can answer problems but doesn’t like explaining himself. “It’s not really difficult. It’s just time consuming, almost annoying. I don’t like to write everything out,” he said.

    But, writing and vocabulary are inescapable parts of today’s math. At Doherty Memorial High in Worcester, which saw a 4.36 percent improvement in MCAS math scores, teachers are developing a standardized math language.

    “A lot of students have problems with vocabulary,” said math department head Anne Cummings, who recalled having to explain “an extraneous solution” requested in a math problem so students could figure out what was being asked. “A lot of students like to just pull numbers out of a problem and just do something with them instead of understanding it.”

    At the Rafael Hernandez School in Boston, afterschool math tutoring is divided between math and literacy. “Kids who are weak in literacy are weak in math,” said principal Margarita Muniz…

    (6) “US Colleges and Schools Must Work Together to Improve Math and Science Teachers, Report Says” by Vasugi V. Ganeshanathan

    Source: Henry “JH” Bahn; Director, Higher Education Programs; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service USDA

    American schools and colleges must form strong partnerships to find and train better teachers in science, mathematics, and technology, a new report says. The National Research Council warns that the United States is falling behind other industrialized nations in those subjects — just as they are becoming central to the world economy.

    The Council’s report, “Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millennium,” was created by a committee that included educators from the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels. It says that better education is needed for both current and potential science, math, and technology teachers, and that schools are having difficulty recruiting and keeping qualified people in those fields.

    “Teacher education in these subjects is a complex, careerlong process that should stress intellectual and continuous growth,” said Herbert Brunkhorst, a co-chairman of the committee. “To that end, the education system must bridge the traditional divide between K-12 and postsecondary educators, and collaborate in a way that mirrors athletic teams — with players who routinely practice and compete together all striving toward a common goal,” added Mr. Brunkhorst, who also heads the department of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at California State University at San Bernardino.

    The report suggests creating and strengthening partnerships between universities and elementary- and secondary-school teachers by keeping the college instructors who train teachers informed about changing standards, and by integrating continuing education into a profession that traditionally has had few requirements in that area. The document also suggests that college instructors should use teaching methods that their students could use if they become elementary or secondary teachers. Further, it states, teachers should be encouraged to stay in touch with their alma maters for continued support after entering the field. One way to help students who are interested in becoming teachers might be to create an academic-advising network that crosses the barrier between lower and higher education, the report says. The report is available online at


    Source: Math Forum Internet News (21 August 2000; Vol. 5 (34) )

    The California Instructional Technology Clearinghouse is based at the Stanislaus County Office of Education. The Clearinghouse is an educator’s guide to instructional technology resources that support California’s curriculum frameworks and standards. If an instructional program marketed to schools uses a computer, a VCR or laserdisc player, a network, or the Internet, or any combination of these, the Clearinghouse will evaluate it for use in California schools.

    Whether you live in California or elsewhere, you may access this database of thousands of rated and annotated recommendations, including hundreds of mathematics software packages and other titles, to research and assess the instructional technology of your choice. Specify keyword, subject, technology, platform, language, grade level, or content standard to search the database. Review criteria may be read onsite.



    TIMSS Information at the 2001 AAAS Conference in San Francisco

    Source: Patsy Wang-Iverson; Mid-Atlantic Eisenhower Consortium; Research for Better Schools (

    For those who may be interested in what the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) has to offer, I would like to apprise you of an opportunity to participate in two TIMSS-related symposia at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco on February 15 – 20, 2001 (over President’s Weekend).

    On Sunday, February 18, 2001, the following symposia will be presented:

    (1) “Journey Beyond TIMSS: Rethinking Professional Development” (9:00 a.m -12:00 p.m.)

    Abstract: Standards-based reform has become a rallying cry across the nation. But how many of us share a common concrete image of a standards-based classroom? The Videotape Study component of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) revealed that although most of our teachers are familiar with the NCTM standards, it is, in fact, the Japanese classroom which better represents standards-based instruction and learning. The high quality lessons observed in Japanese classrooms do not occur by happenstance nor through teachers working in isolation. They grow out of research lessons developed and honed by teachers working collaboratively over many months and years. Although little known in the West, research lessons are ubiquitous in Japan elementary schools and are considered the heart of professional development by Japanese teachers. A similar approach to professional development is observed in China, where emphasis is placed upon the importance of teacher collegiality focused on content and the observation of others’ lessons in enhancing teachers’ content knowledge, understanding of student thinking, and teaching strategies.

    This symposium will present 1) research findings on how Japanese research lessons/lesson study are implemented, 2) evidence that American classrooms can offer similar high quality instruction and learning to heterogeneously grouped students through teachers’ engagement in Lesson Study, 3) research findings on how Chinese teachers develop a “profound understanding of fundamental mathematics”, and 4) an introduction to the TIMSS-R Videotape Study on 8th grade mathematics and science classrooms in eight countries.

    Catherine Lewis, Mills College
    Makoto Yoshida, TC/Columbia University
    Paterson School 2, Paterson, NJ
    Liping Ma, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
    James Stigler, UCLA and Lesson Lab

    (2) “Journey Beyond TIMSS: Additional Insight from the TIMSS-R Data” (2:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m.)

    The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; has stimulated great interest within the K-12 and higher education communities and the policy sector, resulting in closer re-examination of our American approach to mathematics and science instruction. As a follow-up to TIMSS, we now have data collected in 1999 from TIMSS-Repeat (TIMSS-R), which will: shed more light on how curriculum matters; assess achievement of eighth graders in 1999 who were fourth graders during TIMSS in 1995; and further deepen our understanding of international benchmarks for mathematics and science achievement. An additional component of TIMSS-R is the Benchmarking Study, in which 13 states and 14 districts/consortia of districts participated to assess their mathematics and science programs in an international context. TIMSS-R offers us an opportunity to measure whether we have improved our mathematics and science instruction and learning opportunities.

    William Schmidt, Michigan State University
    Ina Mullis, Boston College
    Patrick Gonzales, NCES/OERI/USDOE


    COMET is an online newsletter that seeks to provide timely information in a digest format about state (California) and national news, articles, events, opportunities, and web resources related to mathematics education. Information from a variety of print and online sources is compiled and distributed via COMET approximately once a week during the regular academic year. The target audience includes California PreK-12 teachers of mathematics and school/district administrators, as well as university faculty throughout the nation who are interested in issues related to mathematics education (with a focus on California news).