COMET • Vol. 11, No. 28 – 23 December 2010

All the best for a joyous holiday season and a reinvigorating winter break!  ~ C. Bohlin


(1) Calendar of Education Events for 2011

Source: California Department of Education


CalEdFacts is a compilation of statistics and information on a variety of issues concerning education in California. This useful resource is available online at One of the items contained in this collection is a 2011 calendar of education events, available at


(2) California has 342 New National Board Certified Teachers

Sources: Kay Garcia (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards-NBPTS, Northern California Office) and Linda Manuel  (NBPTS, Southern California Office); California Department of Education


URL (CDE):   

On 15 December 2010, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) released the names of 342 California teachers who achieved National Board Certification this year.  National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) status was granted to 30 teachers in the certification area of mathematics and 23 in science. 

“Teachers earning this prestigious distinction have demonstrated great skill in teaching after going through a demanding process to obtain NBCT status,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “I congratulate all teachers who have earned this status for their hard work, passion, and dedication to the art of teaching. Their leadership in the classroom is needed to help close the achievement gap and prepare all students for success in the future.” 

National Board Certification is a voluntary assessment program designed to recognize outstanding teachers, reward them, and increase their skills. While state licensing systems set basic requirements to teach in each state, NBCTs have successfully demonstrated advanced teaching knowledge, skills, and practices. The certification process typically takes between one and three years to complete. As part of the process, teachers build a portfolio that includes student work samples, assignments, videotapes, and a thorough analysis of their classroom teaching, including evidence of fairness, equity, and access in meeting student needs. Teachers are also assessed on their knowledge of the subjects they teach. 

California’s newly certified teachers bring the statewide total of NBCTs to 4,913 or about 2 percent of the state’s teaching force. Nationwide, there are 91,000 NBCTs or about 3 percent of the nation’s teaching force. 

For information about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and a listing of districts that have NBCTs, please visit the NBPTS Web site at To see if a teacher in a particular field has received NBCT status, visit  The searchable database allows you to sort by city, state, certificate area, year certified, school district, and certification area. If you would like to receive this information in an Excel spreadsheet, please contact Kay Garcia at or Linda Manuel at


(1) Nominations are Currently Being Accepted for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

California Contacts: Diana Herrington (California PAEMST Coordinator for Mathematics: or 559-327-1000) and Jim Miller (California PAEMST Coordinator for Science: or 916-319-0600)


URL (Application information):

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the Nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science in grades K-12. The awards recognize outstanding K-12 teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. 

Recipients of the award receive the following:

– A $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, which can be used at the recipient’s discretion,

– A paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities (see articles below for more information about the recognition events held last week), and

– A citation signed by the President of the United States.

In addition to recognizing outstanding teaching in mathematics or science, the program provides teachers with an opportunity to build lasting partnerships with colleagues across the nation. This growing network of award-winning teachers serves as a vital resource for improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and keeping America globally competitive. Since 1983, more than 4,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions to mathematics and science education. 

Nominations are currently being accepted for teachers in grades 7-12. Nominations for elementary teachers (grades K-6) will be accepted during the subsequent nomination period (2011-2012). The deadline for nominating outstanding middle and high school mathematics and science teachers is 1 April 2011. The nomination form should be completed early enough to ensure that the nominated teacher is given enough time to thoroughly prepare an application that reflects exemplary teaching prior to the application deadline. Applications are due by 2 May 2011.

The following are eligibility criteria for applicants:

– Teach mathematics or science at the 7-12th grade level in a public or private school.

– Hold at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

– Be a full-time employee of the school or school district as determined by state and district policies, and teach K-12 students at least 50% of the time.

– Have at least 5 years of full-time, K-12 mathematics or science teaching experience prior to the 2010-2011 academic school year.

– Teach in one of the 50 states or the four U.S. jurisdictions.

– Be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.

– Not have received the PAEMST award at the national level in any prior competition or category.

If you know a gifted math or science teacher, nominate him or her to join this prestigious network of professionals!  Self-nominations are also encouraged:  Please direct any questions to the PAEMST state coordinators. In California, the contacts are listed in the header of this article.


(2) “President Obama Honors Top Teachers and Mentors in Science and Math” by Bobby Rosen

Source: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – 20 December 2010


… On December 13, the President welcomed to the White House the 85 newest recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed upon scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. And on Thursday the newest recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)–103 of the Nation’s best middle- and high-school teachers in math and science–met with the President, who showered them with praise for giving students the preparation they will need in order to devise innovative solutions to the challenges facing our Nation.

Both awards recognize individuals who are working to ensure that the United States remains a global leader in science and technology for generations to come.  By shining a spotlight on teachers who are getting kids excited about science and math in novel and effective ways–and on scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, have already distinguished themselves as cutting-edge researchers and community leaders–the awards help keep the pipeline of American ingenuity flowing.

The PAEMST award recognizes outstanding math and science teachers and is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The award alternates each year between teachers of grades K-6 and grades 7-12.  Recipients are given a $10,000 award and an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events. Those events this year included visits with OSTP Associate Director for Science Carl Wieman–a noted STEM education researcher and Nobel laureate, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, and Members of Congress.

In a speech he delivered at the award ceremony for the PAEMST awardees, OSTP Director John Holdren underscored just how important top-notch math and science teaching is to the Nation’s future:

“What I see in this room is some of our country’s best kindling,” Dr. Holdren said, referring to the teachers. “You are here this evening because you know how to spread the spark of curiosity, feed the flame of enthusiasm, and help bring fully to life within your students the burning desire to learn more, to consume the knowledge and the experience you bring to the classroom…. Remember you are fanning embers–generating sparks–that in the years ahead will catalyze enormous change and will surely make our world a better and brighter place. For that I am truly grateful, and I thank you for your work.”


(3) Math and Science Award-Winning Teachers Offer Duncan Advice on Reform” by Laurie Calvert

Source: U.S. Department of Education


On 15 December 2010, the Presidential Awardees for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Education offered Education Secretary Arne Duncan advice about how to leverage the “huge opportunities” that exist in our country to move forward with education reform.

Soliciting their input on a range of issues, Duncan called on teachers whom he described as “the best of the best” to share their ideas to improve the quality of education that students get in our country. Citing recent PISA scores released by the OECD this month that rank the United States as 17th in science and 25th in math, Duncan said, “This is about more than just math and science. It’s about our country’s strength and long term stability.”

Recommendations from the teachers focused on improving teacher preparation and professional development and on holding parents and students accountable for their part of a child’s education. When Becky Jones, of West Virginia, called for more rigorous training of elementary math and science teachers, affirmations of “Yes!” reverberated through the audience of PAEMST winners. Awardee Camsie Matis, a science teacher and Einstein Fellow from New York, offered to work with other PAEMST winners to mentor other math and science teachers. Other winners offered to write up their teaching ideas, which the Department will post soon on the blog (see 


Related story:

Award-Winning Teachers Revel in a Scarce Resource: Time To Talk



(4) Free Tote Bag from Siemens for Sharing Your Favorite STEM Resources

Source/Contact: Siemens STEM Academy


The Siemens STEM Academy strives to provide the most useful and effective resource library for promoting STEM education. To accomplish this, we need your help! Be among the first 75 teachers to upload and describe two or more resources and receive a free Siemens STEM Academy tote bag to carry around your notebooks and lesson plans.

By sharing your lesson plans, multi-media presentations, worksheets, and other resources, you are helping other educators from around the country bring STEM education to life in their classrooms. Visit the Web site above to upload your resources, and search the database of STEM teacher resources at


(5) High School Transcript Study Data Now Added to NAEP Data Explorer

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Data Explorer for the High School Transcript Study database now provides more information on the course-taking patterns of high school graduates. Users can access the data and create statistical tables and charts on the types of courses students take, credits earned, grade point averages, the relationship between course-taking patterns and achievement on NAEP assessments, and performance on other assessments. 


(6) House Passes COMPETES Bill and Sends it to President Obama

Source: American Institute of Physics – 22 December 2010 issue of FYI

On Tuesday afternoon, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon rose on the House floor to [call up H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010]… The House’s consideration of H.R. 5116 took about an hour.  Gordon and House Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) each controlled half of the time.  Hall becomes the chairman of the Science Committee when the new Congress convenes in early January.  The House debate followed passage of this bill by the Senate on Friday.

Gordon began by citing the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, and spoke of efforts on both sides of the aisle and in both ends of the Capitol to draft this legislation.  He concluded his remarks by saying:

“I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing, on what is likely my final act on this House floor after 26 years of service, than sending this bill to the President’s desk. It’s important to me personally because I have a 9-year-old daughter, and if we do not want our children and grandchildren to inherit a national standard of living less than their parents, a reversal of the American Dream, we need to support research, foster innovation, and improve education… [Visit the Web site above for more information about points made in support of and against this bill. Also see article below for more details about the bill.] The debate ended with brief closing remarks by Chairman Gordon and Ranking Member Hall.  When the roll call vote was taken, 228 representatives voted for passage, and 130 against.  No Democratic representative opposed the bill.  Sixteen Republican representatives voted for the bill, and the remainder were opposed.


(7) COMPETES Reauthorization Bill Passes Congress

Source: Office of Congressman Dan Lipinski


Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski is a co-author of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, H.R. 5116, which the President is now expected to sign into law.

“I’m proud to have helped write and pass the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which makes essential, job-creating investments in advanced research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education,” said Congressman Lipinski, a former professor and one of the few members of Congress trained as an engineer. “I am grateful for the valuable feedback I received from the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public Land-grant Universities while writing the NSF title of this bill. Because of their expertise, and because of what I learned from scientists and research administrators across the country, I believe this legislation will have an enduring positive impact on university-based research and STEM education programs…

The COMPETES reauthorization includes Congressman Lipinski’s National Science Foundation reauthorization bill, H.R. 4997. Under the legislation, annual funding for STEM education will increase significantly, rising by nearly 20 percent by 2013, and new grant and fellowship programs are authorized to improve STEM education… [Visit URL above for more details about this bill’s provisions.]

“The reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act takes a critical piece of legislation and makes it even better,” Congressman Lipinski said. “It is an important first step on the path to doubling investment in basic research programs; supports transformative research in key areas such as clean energy; improves STEM education; invests in research to enhance the manufacturing sector’s productivity and innovation; and improves programs to ensure researchers’ discoveries translate into new products, jobs, and companies. This legislation builds on the longstanding and highly successful partnership between the federal government and our nation’s colleges and universities, which has yielded countless extraordinary scientific advances and has helped lay the foundation for America’s economic growth and prosperity over the last 60 years.”


(8) Pythagoras, a Math Genius? Not by Babylonian Standards” by Laura Allsop

Source: CNN


Over 1,000 years before Pythagoras was calculating the length of a hypotenuse, sophisticated scribes in Mesopotamia were working with the same theory to calculate the area of their farmland.

Working on clay tablets, students would “write” out their math problems in cuneiform script, a method that involved making wedge-shaped impressions in the clay with a blunt reed.

These tablets bear evidence of practical as well as more advanced theoretical math and show just how sophisticated the ancient Babylonians were with numbers–more than a millennium before Pythagoras and Euclid were doing the same in ancient Greece.

“They are the most sophisticated mathematics from anywhere in the world at that time,” said Alexander Jones, a Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at New York University.

He is co-curator of “Before Pythagoras: The Culture of Old Babylonian Mathematics,” an exhibition at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York.

“This is nearly 4,000 years ago and there’s no other ancient culture at that time that we know of that is doing anything like that level of work. It seems to be going beyond anything that daily life needs,” he said.

Many scribes were trained in the ancient city of Nippur in what is now southern Iraq, where a large number of tablets were discovered between the mid-19th century and the 1920s. Typical problems they worked on involved calculating the area of a given field, or the width of a trench.

These problems, says Jones, required the kind of math training taught to American Grade 10 students, but not in a format we would now recognize.

“It’s not like algebra, it’s all written out in words and numerals but no symbols and no times signs or equals or anything like that,” he said.

This system, and the lack of recognizable Western mathematical symbols such as x and y, meant that it was several years before historians and archaeologists understood just what was represented on these tablets.

It took a young Austrian mathematician in the 1920s, named Otto Neugebauer, to crack the mathematical system and work out what the ancient Babylonians were calculating. But despite his advances, it is only recently that interest in Babylonian math has started to take hold.

“I think that before Neugebauer and even after Neugebauer, there wasn’t a lot of attention placed on mathematical training in Babylon even though we have this rich cuneiform history with the tablets,” said Jennifer Chi, Associate Director for Exhibitions and Public Programs at Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

One of the aims of the institute, she says, is to find interconnections between ancient cultures as well as look at what the institute sees as under-represented ancient cultures–and the culture of ancient Babylonian math, she says, is ripe for popular revision.

“When we think of ancient mathematics, the first names that come to mind are Pythagoras and Euclid,” she said, but that “this shouldn’t be the case”… [Visit the Web site above for more information about the mathematics contained in these tablets.]


Related Web site: 


(9) True Loves Be Warned: Despite Weak Economic Picture PNC Christmas Price Index Jumps A Staggering 9.2 Percent

Source: PNC Wealth Management


Despite a sluggish economy and low inflation, the 2010 PNC Christmas Price Index (CPI) surged 9.2 percent in the whimsical economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management based on the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please visit

According to the 27th annual survey, the price tag for the PNC CPI is $23,439 in 2010, $1,974 more than last year. This is the second highest jump ever and largest percentage increase since 2003 when the index rose 16 percent. That comes on the heels of a modest 1.8 percent increase a year ago. 

“This year’s jump in the PNC CPI can be attributed to rising gold commodity prices, represented by the Five Gold Rings which went up by 30 percent, in addition to higher costs for wages and benefits impacting some entertainers,” said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management…  Among the 12 gifts in the PNC CPI, only four items (Pear Tree, Four Calling Birds, Six Geese a–Laying and the Eight Maids-a-Milking) were the same price from last year…

After modest increases last year, prices for the birds flew higher in this year’s index, in part due to the costs of feed as well as the availability and demand for certain feathered friends that amplified several prices. The Two Turtle Doves increased 78.6 percent to $100 and the Three French Hens surged 233 percent to $150…

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses. This holiday season, very generous True Loves have to fork over $96,824 for all 364 gifts, an even more eye-popping 10.8 percent increase compared to last year…

For a historical look at PNC’s index, the updated Web site can be viewed at This year’s site incorporates interactivity with a pop-up book theme narrated by Dunigan, allowing visitors to enjoy and reveal the 2010 PNC CPI results at their own pace.

Each year, educators across the country use the Christmas Price Index to teach economic trends to middle and high school students. With that in mind, this year’s site includes interactive activities, annual results and PNC CPI trends in a Flash presentation, MP3 download, games and much more.