COMET • Vol. 17, No. 02 – 31 March 2016



Apply to Speak at the 2016 California STEM Symposium

Contact: Allison Pieter – 

The fourth annual California STEM Symposium will be held on October 9-13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Early-bird registration for the event, sponsored by Californians Dedicated to Education (CDE), will end on April 30:

Speaker applications are due by May 20 ( Proposals for engaging presentations focusing on the following strands are invited:

– Business and Community Partnerships

– Early Learning and STEM

– Engineering Practices and Programs

– Equity and Access

– Expanded Learning and STEM

– Integrating STEM Across Disciplines

– Making Standards Come Alive Through STEM: NGSS, California Standards for Mathematics, English Language Arts, English Language Development, and Environmental Principles & Concepts

Highlights from the 2015 Symposium, also held in Anaheim, are available in an informative video available at 

California Mathematics Council 2016 Conferences

CMC-Central: CMC-Central held its 2016 conference on March 11-12 on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield. Speaker handouts and presentation files for a number of the sessions, including the keynote address by Phil Daro, are available at

CMC-North: Proposals are being accepted through April 30 to speak at the 2016 California Mathematics Council (CMC)-North conference, which will be held at Asilomar on December 2-4. Visit for more details.

CMC-South: The priority deadline to submit a proposal to speak at the 2016 CMC-South conference is May 1. The conference will be held in Palm Springs on November 4-5. For more information, visit

The National Science Teachers Association Annual Conference Comes to Los Angeles in 2017


The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is currently accepting proposals to speak at the 2017 National Conference, which will be held in Los Angeles on March 30-April 2. The deadline to submit a proposal is April 15. For details, visit

Next Generation Science Standards Statewide Rollout Phase 3: Transition to Implementation


Join science leaders on April 13-14 in Stockton (San Joaquin County Office of Education) at the third in a series of statewide professional learning symposia exploring the philosophy, design, awareness of and transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Visit the website above to learn more and to register.

Next Generation Science Standards Website 2.0

The new NGSS website,, launched last month. It contains new features for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other advocates of the NGSS in a more user-friendly layout. The website includes an extensive search feature for all resources and additional functionality to access content, including the NGSS appendices and performance expectations.

Also available are (a) classroom tools for teachers, (b) resources to help administrators support the NGSS in the classroom, (c) evidence statements, and (d) a set of communications resources for various audiences and stakeholders.

Please share your thoughts about the new website using the contact form (, which can also be used for general questions about the NGSS.

Call for Educators to Participate on a CalTPA Content Expert Panel

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing – PSD E-news – 25 March 2016

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is seeking classroom teachers and teacher preparation faculty to participate in the redevelopment of the California Teaching Performance Assessment (CalTPA) for prospective teachers. Visit to apply online and/or nominate colleagues to serve on a discipline-specific Content Expert Panel.

The Commission is currently seeking content experts in the following teaching credential areas: Multiple Subject, Agriculture, Art, Business, English, History/Social Science, Heath, Home Economics, Industrial and Technology Education, Music, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, and World Languages. If you have questions concerning how to participate, please email

For more information about the CalTPA, please visit and

Now Available in Spanish: Brochures on the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Source: Deborah Franklin, California Department of Education 

Brochures in Spanish are now available to help parents understand what their children will learn in mathematics. The brochures focus on the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and are organized by grade spans (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12). Each brochure also provides suggestions for parents/guardians to support their students’ learning and includes sample problems and a list of resources.

The brochures can be downloaded from the “State Resources” section of the Sacramento County Office of Education webpage at If you have questions regarding the brochures, please contact Deborah Franklin at

Los Angeles Calculus Teacher Inspires Success

On March 18, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited Los Angeles to recognize teachers Daniel Jocz, a 2016 California Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award, and Anthony Yom, whose student Cedrick Argueta earned a perfect score on the Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus AB exam. Cedrick was one of only 12 students worldwide (out of over 300,000 who took the test) to achieve that distinction.

All of Yom’s AP students have passed the exam for the last three years. He has taught at Lincoln High School for 11 years and serves as math department chair. He is also a mentor teacher at the Los Angeles Urban Teacher Residency, a program that leads to earning a teaching credential and master’s degree at California State University, Los Angeles.

Last month, the “Pushing the Limits” series of CBS This Morning covered Cedrick’s story as well as that of Landon Labuske, who also earned a perfect score on the AP Calculus AB test last year. Visit to view this story.

Later, CBS Evening News covered the story of Yom and his student Cedrick in more detail. The video is worth viewing: is an excerpt:

From the outside, Lincoln High School does not look like a place that inspires greatness. It’s old, with gates on the windows, in a tough East L.A. neighborhood.

But look beyond all of that, and you’ll find Anthony Yom. The son of Korean immigrants, Yom teaches what is considered the hardest class in school — Advanced Placement Calculus.

“One of my strategies is really to make sure to provide an environment where kids are not ashamed of asking questions,” Yom said.

His approach to teaching goes beyond calculating the slope of a curve. Yom makes his class meet after school, on weekends and even holidays. And the hard work has paid off.

“I am sure when after they get the score and I ask them was it worth it, every one of them says it was worth it”…

“They know that I sincerely care about them, and it [the lesson] is prepared for them with love.”


Related Stories:

“Lincoln High Student Aces AP Calculus Exam with Perfect Score” by Barbara Jones

Source: LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) Daily

“How a Lincoln High Teacher Gets all his Students to Pass the AP Calculus Exam” by Steve Lopez

Source: Los Angeles Times

This story from the Los Angeles Times provides more information about Anthony Yom’s background, including the challenges he had when he first came to Lincoln High School:

…He had several job offers after graduation, chose Lincoln High, and immediately regretted it.

…He couldn’t believe the number of students who were unprepared or unmotivated. He felt intimidated by some, including one student who thrust his face inches from Yom’s in a menacing challenge to his authority.

“I’m not going to lie, I really hated it,” says Yom.

He met after school each day with another green teacher who was in tears as she shared the same frustrations. But over time, Yom the rookie also got pointers from experienced teachers on how to handle discipline problems, and then came a turning point.

Several students told him they knew the agitators were making his life miserable, but they appreciated him and thought he was doing a good job.

“Those words meant the world to me,” he says.

… He got to know his students better, called their homes in the evening if they needed extra help, and, on his own time, offered tutoring at Lincoln on weekends and during vacations. He still does.

Principal Jose Torres, with 31 years of experience at Eastside schools, told me he tells teachers their first duty is to have faith in their students’ potential, including those who live with hardship or disadvantage off campus.

“We need to make sure, once they’re here, that first and foremost we believe they can learn, regardless of what background they come from,” said Torres. “Anthony has taken that to heart, and other teachers have as well”…  


NSTA’s YouTube Channel and Blog Provide NGSS Support, Social Media Information


The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a YouTube Channel that PK-12 teachers of science may find useful. Included on this page are videos by authors of articles appearing in NSTA’s publication, The Science Teacher:

The webpage contains, for example, links to three recent videos entitled “Science 2.0: Mastering Scientific Practices With Technology [Parts 1, 2, and 3].” In these videos, science teacher Ben Smith shares a variety of online tools that can be used to give students experience with and help master the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Practices.

NSTA’s website also contains an active and well-organized blog: Educators at all levels who are interested in using social media as an instructional or professional development tool may find Smith’s short “Social Media Primer” (within NSTA’s Science 2.0 sub-blog) to be a useful overview: In eight minutes, Smith provides an overview of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube channels, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and “If This Then That” (

“President Obama on How to Win the Future” Interview by Cliff Ransom

Source: Popular Science – March/April 2016

The March/April 2016 print issue of Popular Science contains an interview of President Obama where he discusses numerous STEM-related topics. The interview is available in full on the website above. A brief excerpt follows below:

…Popular Science (PS): Among your White House initiatives, you’ve focused heavily on improving STEM education in America. What’s your proudest achievement on that front?

Barack Obama (BO): There’s a lot to be proud of. We now graduate 25,000 more engineers per year from our colleges and universities than we did when I took office. We’re more than halfway toward our goal of preparing 100,000 new math and science teachers by 2021. We’ve secured more than $1 billion of private investment for improving STEM education, and commitments from college and university leadership to help underrepresented students earn STEM degrees. There’s also something that’s harder to measure, but every bit as important: all the young people, including minorities and young women, who are more excited than ever about pursuing their passions for STEM.

One of the new traditions I’ve started as president is the White House Science Fair. We ought to celebrate science fair winners at least as much as Super Bowl winners. And when young people are excited about science, technology, engineering, and math, that’s not just good for them. That’s good for America. We want the next game-changing industry or life-saving breakthrough to happen right here in the United States.

PS: Do you consider yourself a nerd and, if so, what’s your nerdiest pastime?

BO: Well, my administration did write a pretty detailed response to a petition, explaining why we wouldn’t build a real-life Death Star, so I’d like to think I have at least a little nerd credibility built up. What’s remarkable is the way “nerd” is such a badge of honor now. Growing up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn’t like it is today. I get the sense that today’s young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways. I think America’s a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid–and that’s a good thing!…

Sixth White House Science Fair will be held on April 13; Students are Invited to Share Science Fair Projects Virtually


Yesterday morning, the sixth White House Science Fair of President Obama’s administration was announced. On 13 April 2016, students will once again visit the White House to share their robots and other inventions with the President. Pictures and videos from past White House Science Fairs can be found on and more information can be found at, including the invitation below:

“We know that the incredible talent of America’s young girls and boys is not limited to those students who join us at the White House. That’s why this year, we want to hear from students and teachers about the science fair projects you are doing in K-12 classrooms across the country.

“To share YOUR story of discovery and invention, submit a picture and description of your science fair project [at]. Be sure to submit information on your project by 5 pm ET on Tuesday, April 5 and share them on social media with the hashtag #WHScienceFair! [emphasis added in this paragraph]

“We also want to hear about work you or your organization are doing to encourage students to pursue science, mathematics, and innovation. Share information on new or expanded initiatives with us [at].”

“Senate Confirms John B. King Jr. as Education Secretary” by Andrew Ujifusa

Source: Education Week – 14 March 2016 
URL (Bio): 

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm John B. King Jr. as the U.S. Secretary of Education on [March 14] by a vote of 49-40.

King had been serving as acting secretary since the start of this year–he took over for former secretary Arne Duncan, who had overseen the U.S. Department of Education since 2009.

[The previous week], the Senate education committee voted 16-6 to approve his nomination by President Barack Obama. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking member of the committee, respectively, voted in favor of King.

King began serving as a senior adviser to Duncan at the start of 2015. He previously served as the commissioner of education in New York state from 2011 to 2014, where he oversaw the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards and new standardized assessment…

Speaking on the Senate floor, Alexander stressed how the new Every Student Succeeds Act significantly curtails the role of the federal government across the spectrum of education policy.

“We need an education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate” in order to ensure that ESSA “is implemented the way we wrote it,” Alexander said.

Murray said that King’s experience working in schools and in educational leadership made him a strong candidate for the office: “Dr. John King has a longstanding commitment to fighting for kids. Through his personal background, he knows first-hand the power that education can have in a student’s life”…

To read more, visit For King’s bio (including a video), please visit 

Deborah Loewenberg Ball Elected President of the American Educational Research Association


Influential mathematics educator Deborah Loewenberg Ball has been elected president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA; She will serve as president-elect until her term as president begins on 1 May 2017 at the conclusion of AERA’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

Ball will be concluding 11 years as Dean of the University of Michigan School of Education this summer and is the founding director of TeachingWorks. She taught elementary school for more than 15 years, and teaches mathematics to fifth-grade students every summer. Ball studies the practice of teaching, focusing on the everyday work and its demands. She seeks to learn how to support systematically the development of skillful teaching in ways that serve young people equitably.

Her research has been recognized with several awards and honors, and she has served on multiple national and international commissions and panels. Ball is a Fellow of AERA and of the American Mathematical Society. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education. She serves on the National Science Board and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Board of Trustees, and chairs the Spencer Foundation Board of Directors.

Related Article

National Math Festival Policy Day: Building the Profession of Math Teachers in America

Source: Smithsonian Science Education Center

On April 18, the National Math Festival comes to Washington, D.C., inspiring people of all ages with activities that demonstrate the beauty, fun, and importance of math.

Two days before the Festival begins, educators and policymakers will gather on Capitol Hill for the National Math Festival’s Policy Day, which includes timely conversations about what it takes to build a world-class corps of math teachers in America.

At this breakfast briefing, members of Congress and staffers will gather to learn about current programs and legislative proposals to support math teacher training and professional development.

Deborah Loewenberg Ball will be one of several speakers who will address the topic of teaching as professional work. Please visit the website above to learn more about the speakers and the agenda for National Math Festival’s Policy Day.

Fermat’s Last Theorem Proof Secures Mathematics’ Top Prize for Sir Andrew Wiles

URL (Sir Andrew Wiles): 

On 16 March 2016, the University of Oxford reported the following:

Sir Andrew Wiles has been awarded the 2016 Abel Prize, regarded as mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize, ‘for his stunning proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, opening a new era in number theory.’

Sir Andrew, Royal Society Research Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, will receive the Prize from Crown Prince Haakon of Norway at a ceremony in Oslo on May 24.

Learning of the award [on March 16], Sir Andrew said: ‘It is a tremendous honor to receive the Abel Prize and to join the previous Laureates who have made such outstanding contributions to the field. Fermat’s equation was my passion from an early age, and solving it gave me an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. It has always been my hope that my solution of this age-old problem would inspire many young people to take up mathematics and to work on the many challenges of this beautiful and fascinating subject.’

Fermat’s Last Theorem had been widely regarded by many mathematicians as seemingly intractable. First formulated by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, it states:

There are no whole number solutions to the equation x^n + y^n = z^n when n is greater than 2, unless xyz=0.

Fermat himself claimed to have found a proof for the theorem but said that the margin of the text he was making notes on was not wide enough to contain it. Sir Andrew first became fascinated with the problem as a boy. After seven years of intense study in private at Princeton University, he announced he had found a proof in 1993, combining three complex mathematical fields – modular forms, elliptic curves and Galois representations.

Sir Andrew not only solved the long-standing puzzle of the Theorem, but in doing so he created entirely new directions in mathematics, which have proved invaluable to other scientists in the years since his discovery. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which presents the Abel Prize, said in its citation: ‘Few results have as rich a mathematical history and as dramatic a proof as Fermat’s Last Theorem.’

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said of the award: “The work of Oxford mathematicians lays the foundation of remarkable science – helping to address fundamental questions and enabling stunning innovation. At the same time, our mathematicians rightly remind us that they “seek truth, beauty and elegance in mathematics itself”. Very few have done so with the creativity, tenacity and sheer brilliance of Sir Andrew…

Visit to read more and to view an interesting video of Wiles reflecting on winning the award and solving the problem (, as well as a video of one of his colleagues explaining Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Call for Journal Articles with the Theme “STEM for the Future and the Future of STEM”


The International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education (IJSME) is seeking articles for a special issue of the journal with the theme, “STEM for the Future and the Future of STEM.”

Guest Editors:

Prof. Frances Lawrenz University of Minnesota

Prof. Koeno Gravemeijer; Eindhoven University of Technology; Netherlands

Prof. Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“We welcome papers on empirical research (including qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods), secondary analysis, theoretical or philosophical position papers, and review articles on the emerging paths for STEM education worldwide. These papers may focus on both STEM as an integrated subject or one of the constituting disciplines. Researchers working in the following areas are encouraged to submit articles:

– International perspectives and trends in STEM

– Globalization and computerization effects on STEM

– Innovative learning environments for STEM education

– Involvement of diverse groups in STEM

– Optimizing the effectiveness of STEM learning

– Assessing the effectiveness of STEM learning outcomes and impact

– Preparing teachers for STEM education of the future

– How best to integrate, or not, STEM within its components and with other disciplines

– Reviews of existing research to envision the STEM education now and future needs

– Theoretical or philosophical position papers about STEM education for the future

“The due date for paper submissions is October 15, 2016. People intending to submit articles to the 2017 Special Issue should contact Frances Lawrenz ( by July 15, 2016. All special issue manuscripts will be reviewed in a double-blind review process.”

Please visit for more details about this publication opportunity.

COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.

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