COMET • Vol. 10, No. 07 – 11 March 2009


(1) Members Selected for the CTC Teaching Mathematics Advisory Panel

Sources: Teri Clark and Terry Janicki, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has selected 19 individuals to serve on the Commission’s Mathematics Specialist Advisory Panel. The chart containing the names of those selected is entitled “CTC Teaching Mathematics Advisory Pane (2009).” The panel’s purview was expanded at the January Commission meeting to include a variety of issues related to the teaching of mathematics in K-12 classrooms, not just the mathematics specialist issue.

Listed below are the individuals selected and their affiliations. The organizations that they represent, if any, appear in parentheses.

Nadine Bezuk — San Diego State University
Jan Bridge (CTA)
Kyndall Brown — University of California, Los Angeles
Sunny Chin-Look — Alhambra Unified School District (USD)
Katharine Clemmer — Loyola Marymount University (AICCU)
Michael Fickel — California State University, San Marcos
Crystal Gips — California State University, Office of Chancellor (CSU)
CK Green — Newport-Mesa USD (CFT)
Brenda Hensley — Vacaville USD
Lisa Hoegerman — Apple Valley USD
Megan Holstrom — Hillbrook School, Los Gatos
Vriana Kempster — San Francisco USD
Katherine Morris — Sonoma State University
Jody Priselac — University of California, Los Angeles (UC)
Phil Quon — Cupertino USD (ACSA)
David Simmons — Ventura COE
Pam Tyson — Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCESSA)
Carole Vargas — Folsom Cordova USD
Ze’ev Wurman — Independent Consultant

Commission representatives on this panel are Teri Clark, Terry Janicki, and Rebecca Parker.


(2) California Science Framework–Related Action Item on Today’s State Board of Education Meeting Agenda

Source: California Department of Education
URL (Agenda):
URL (Agenda Item 3):
URL (Bios of Applicants):

The third agenda item for this morning’s meeting of the California State Board of Education opens with this recommendation: “The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends that the State Board of Education (SBE) approve the recommendation of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) for the update of the Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (Science Framework). This includes approval of the guidelines for the Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC) and appointment of members to the CFCC, including the appointment of applicant number 3 to serve as Chair of the CFCC.”

The following 13 teachers are being recommended by the Curriculum Commission to the SBE for appointment to the Science CFCC:
Gail Atley, Susan Boudreau, Michal Danin-Kreiselman, Kevin Fairchild, Cheryl Frye, Jeannine Mendoza, Marianna O’Brien, Marianne O’Grady, Mary Pella-Donnelly, Barbara Scott, Robert Sherriff, Robin Van Vorhis, and Katherine Ward. All but two of these individuals are middle or high school teachers.

In addition, the following 7 non-teaching professionals were recommended for service on the CFCC:
Peter A’Hearn (K-12 Science Specialist), Kenneth Brown (Senior Engineer at JPL), Melanie Brown (High School Academic Support Teacher), Danine Ezell (Project Specialist at SDCOE), Michael Horton (Science Coordinator, Riverside COE), Jonathan Janzen (Instructional Consultant-Science, Tulare COE), and Lynn Whitley (Director of Education, Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies-USC). The Curriculum Commission recommended that the SBE appoint Michael Horton to serve as Chair of the CFCC.

A demographic report on the applicants is included as Attachment 2 to this item. Short biographies of the applicants are included as Attachment 1 to this item ( Other attachments include the following:

Attachment 3: Draft Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee Guidelines for the Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (4 pages)

Attachment 4: Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve Focus Group Report (35 pages)

Attachment 5: Public Comments Received in Writing Regarding the Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Eight Update (5 pages)

The text of this item, as well as attachments 2-5, can be downloaded from  The Focus Group report (Attachment 4) contains feedback that COMET readers might find interesting.


(3) Call for Speakers: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2010 Annual Conference in San Diego, CA

Source: Bruce Arnold, President, Greater San Diego Math Council (858-534-3298)

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Annual Meeting and Exposition is coming to San Diego, California on April 21-24, 2010. The conference theme is “Connections: Linking Concepts and Context.”

The Greater San Diego Math Council (GSDMC) and the California Mathematics Council-South (CMC-South) are co-hosting this event. The Program Committee encourages proposals from individuals interested in speaking at the conference. The committee is seeking proposals that address topics, ideas, and strategies that can contribute to participants’ professional learning.

If you are interested in speaking at NCTM’s 2010 Annual Meeting and Exposition, please submit a speaker proposal online at the Web site above. Speaker proposals are due by May 1, 2009.


Related Note:

To search for sessions at next month’s NCTM conference in Washington, DC, visit In addition, the program booklet is available online at




(1) Celebrate Pi Day (March 14)

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Every year math enthusiasts everywhere celebrate pi, a celebrity among mathematical constants, on 3/14, also known as Pi Day. Extreme enthusiasts have a special celebration at 1:59 (aka, Pi Minute).

What’s not to love about Pi? Here are some resources and ideas on how to have fun with this quirky holiday-–and maybe even teach a little math!

Pi is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Whatever the size of a circle, if you divide its circumference by its diameter you will always get 3.14159…, better known as pi.

Pi is an irrational number, continuing infinitely without repeating. It is usually estimated to the hundredths place (3.14), but with the use of computers, pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal.

Although the ratio has been around for about 4,000 years, the symbol just turned 200 years old in 2006. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by a Welsh man, William Jones. The symbol was made popular after Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler adopted its use in 1737.

Following are…links to websites with activities and merchandise…

The San Francisco Exploratorium, founder of Pi Day, hosts the 2009 21st Annual Pi Day Celebration page which includes downloadable activities for grades 4-8 (Pi Activity – Cutting Pi and Hat Sizes) and grades 9-12 (Pi Activity – Discovering Pi). See

Pi Day. Accept the challenge. The Pi Day Challenge is a series of puzzles that are logic-based. A team of logicians adapted or created these puzzles; some require research, some require mathematics, some require pure savvy.  (

Joy of Pi contains a wide range of links to pi pages on the Web including those on memorizing pi, posters to print, pi mysteries, fun with pi, wacky pi stuff, and a pi fan club. (

Teach Pi bills itself as “a one-stop Pi Day shop for teachers and number lovers.” This site includes stories, more than 50 pi-related activities, and music. (

Pi Day includes a section of teachers reporting on their most successful Pi Day activities, as well as a source to send Pi Day cards. ( …


(2) “Mind the Gap” by MAA President David M. Bressoud

Source: Mathematical Association of America (MAA) – MAA Focus – February/March 2009

“Mind the Gap” is an appropriate metaphor for one of the greatest challenges facing undergraduate mathematics education today. There is a significant gap between students’ experience of mathematics in high school and the expectations they face on entering college, and there are troubling signs that this gap may be widening. There are serious problems in K-12 mathematics education, but college faculty also need to look to their own house and think about the first-year experience of their own students.

In my article “Is the Sky Still Falling?” (2009), I observed that four-year college mathematics enrollments at the level of calculus and above declined from 1985 to 1995 and have since recovered to slightly below the 1990 numbers. Two-year colleges saw calculus enrollments rise in the early ‘90s, then fall to well below the 1990 number, while the number of their students requiring remedial mathematics exactly doubled. In percentages, the picture is dismal. For four-year undergraduate programs, calculus and advanced mathematics enrollments dropped from 10.05% of all students in 1985 to 6.36% in 2005.

This happened while high school students were taking ever more mathematics at ever higher levels. In 1982, only 44.5% of high school graduates had completed mathematics at the level of Algebra II or higher. By 2004, this had risen to 76.7%. In 1982, 10.7% had completed precalculus. By 2004, it was 33.0%, over a million high school graduates arriving in college ready–at least in theory–to begin or continue the study of calculus. Yet over the years 1985-2005, Fall term enrollments in Calculus I dropped from 264,000 to 252,000.

Admittedly, many more students today arrive at college already having earned credit for Calculus I, but they have not produced larger enrollments for Calculus II. Over these same 20 years, Fall term enrollments in Calculus II dropped from 115,000 to 104,000. Across the board, students are arriving in college and failing to take what should be a next course in their mathematical progression.

The college community is not blameless. Too many good students are turned off by their initial college experience in mathematics. Too often, first-year courses are large and impersonal, instructors–especially adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants–are under-prepared, and little thought has gone into implementing appropriate pedagogies. Moreover, a common complaint that I hear from high school teachers is that colleges focus exclusively on what students do not know, with the result that many students find themselves assigned to classes they find stultifying.

This last is a tricky issue. The answer cannot be that colleges lower their expectations of what it means to know algebra or calculus. It does mean that colleges need to rethink how to get students from where they are as they enter college to where they need to be. It does mean offering more routes into good mathematics and restructuring existing courses so that they acknowledge and build upon what students do know while remaining mindful of and addressing the gaps in this knowledge. Especially when a student needs to relearn a topic that appears familiar, we must ensure that the course is structured so that it provides fresh challenges that entice students to keep moving forward.

We have learned a lot about teaching undergraduates in the past 20 years. There are proven programs for bridging the gap. The Emerging Scholars Program is one. Stretching Calculus I over two terms with precalculus topics treated on a just- in-time basis is another. But there are no magic bullets. Each college and university must examine what others have done and adapt to its own situation those programs that are most appropriate.


Bressoud, D.M. 2009. Is the sky still falling? AMS Notices. 56: 20–25.

For additional data and data sources, see the February, 2009 Launchings column at


Note: In this same issue of Focus, Jeremy Kilpatrick writes about the latest TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) results in an article entitled, “TIMSS 2007: Where are We?” This article is available online at


(3) “Certified Teachers+Modern Instruction=Better Public-School Math Scores” by Phil Ciciora

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In another “Freakonomics”-style study that turns conventional wisdom about public- versus private-school education on its head, a team of University of Illinois education professors has found that public-school students outperform their private-school classmates on standardized math tests, thanks to two key factors: certified math teachers, and a modern, reform-oriented math curriculum.

Sarah Lubienski, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the U. of I. College of Education, says teacher certification and reform-oriented teaching practices correlated positively with higher achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam for public-school students.

“According to our results, schools that hired more certified teachers and had a curriculum that de-emphasized learning by rote tended to do better on standardized math tests,” Lubienski said. “And public schools had more of both.”

To account for the difference in test scores, Lubienski and her co-authors, education professor Christopher Lubienski (her husband) and doctoral student Corinna Crane, looked at five critical factors: school size, class size, parental involvement, teacher certification and instructional practices.

In previous research, the Lubienskis discovered that after holding demographic factors constant, public school students performed just as well if not better than private schools students on standardized math tests.

“There are so many reasons why you would think that the results should be reversed– that private schools would outscore public schools in standardized math test scores,” she said. “This study looks at the underlying reasons why that’s not necessarily the case.”

Of the five factors, school size and parental involvement “didn’t seem to matter all that much,” Lubienski said, citing a weak correlation between the two factors as “mixed or marginally significant predictors” of student achievement.

They also discovered that smaller class sizes, which are more prevalent in private schools than in public schools, significantly correlate with achievement.

“Smaller class size correlated with higher achievement and occurred more frequently in private schools,” Lubienski said. “But that doesn’t help explain why private schools were being outscored by public schools.”

Lubienski said one reason private schools show poorly in this study could be their lack of accountability to a public body.

“There’s been this assumption that private schools are more effective because they’re autonomous and don’t have all the bureaucracy that public schools have,” Lubienski said. “But one thing this study suggests is that autonomy isn’t necessarily a good thing for schools.”

Another reason could be private schools’ anachronistic approach to math.

“Private schools are increasingly ignoring curricular trends in education, and it shows,” Lubienski said. “They’re not using up-to-date methods, and they’re not hiring teachers who employ up-to-date lesson plans in the classroom. When you do that, you aren’t really taking advantage of the expertise in math education that’s out there.”

Lubienski thinks one of the reasons that private schools don’t adopt a more reform-minded math curriculum is because some parents are more attracted to a “back-to-basics” approach to math instruction. The end result, however, is students who are “prepared for the tests of 40 years ago, and not the tests of today,” she said.

Tests like NAEP, Lubienski said, have realigned themselves with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards for math instruction, which have moved away from the brute-force memorization of numbers to an emphasis on “geometry, measurement and algebra–things that private school teachers reported they spent less time teaching,” Lubienski said.

“The results do seem to suggest that private schools are doing their own thing, and that they’re less likely to have paid attention to curricular trends and the fact that math instruction and math tests have changed,” she said.

Lubienski cautioned that the relationships found between the two factors and public-school performance might not be directly causal.

“The correlations might be a result, for example, of having the type of administrator who makes teacher credentials and academics the priority over other things, such as religious education,” she said. “That’s often not the case for private religious schools, where parents are obviously committed to things beside academic achievement.”

The schools with the smallest percentage of certified teachers–conservative Christian schools, where less than half of teachers were certified–were, not coincidentally, the schools with the lowest aggregate math test scores.

“Those schools certainly have the prerogative to set different priorities when hiring, but it just doesn’t help them on NAEP,” Lubienski said.

Lubienski also noted that public schools tend to set aside money for teacher development and periodic curriculum improvements.

“Private schools don’t invest as much in the professional development of their teachers and don’t do enough to keep their curriculum current,” she said. “That appears to be less of a priority for them, and they don’t have money designated for that kind of thing in the way public schools do.”

Lubienski hopes that politicians who favor more privatization would realize that the invisible hand of the market doesn’t necessarily apply to education.

“You can give schools greater autonomy, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to use that autonomy to implement an innovative curriculum or improve the academics of the students,” she said.

Instead, some private schools try to attract parents by offering a basic skills curriculum, or non-academic requirements, such as students wearing uniforms.

Privatization also assumes that parents can make judgments about what schools are the best for their children.

“With schools, it’s tough to see how much kids are actually learning,” Lubienski said. “Market theory in education rests on the assumption that parents can see what they’re buying, and that they’re able to make an informed decision about their child’s education. Although parents might be able to compare schools’ SAT scores, they aren’t able to determine whether those gains are actually larger in higher scoring schools unless they know where students start when they enter school. People don’t always pick the most effective schools.”

The results were published in a paper titled “Achievement Differences and School Type: The Role of School Climate, Teacher Certification, and Instruction” in the November 2008 issue of the American Journal of Education. The published findings were based on fourth- and eighth-grade test results from the 2003 NAEP test, including data from both student achievement and comprehensive background information drawn from a nationally representative sample of more than 270,000 students from more than 10,000 schools.