COMET • Vol. 2, No. 31 – 7 November 2001


(1) “Fundamental Changes in Math Education Goal of New Program”

Source:  University of California, Berkeley – Contact: Kathleen Maclay ( or 510-643-5651)


The University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and the Berkeley Unified School District are joining a nationwide effort to revitalize the teaching of mathematics to an increasingly diverse student population.

The project comes about via the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is awarding $11.5 million to a five-year consortium of mathematics and education faculty. Partners in that effort, “Diversity in Mathematics Education,” include UC Berkeley, UCLA, the California Subject Matter Projects, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Funding for UC Berkeley is $3.4 million.

Overall, the NSF is spending $100 million across the country to boost mathematics teaching and leadership through two prototype programs launched in the last fiscal year, and through three new programs over the next five years, including the one to which UC Berkeley belongs.

The consortium that includes UC Berkeley will explore developmental aspects of children’s algebraic thinking and differences in how they learn math. The program will look for ways to improve teaching diverse student populations algebra, considered a gatekeeper course that determines if students pursue advanced math and science.

“The project will create new research, new tools and more importantly, a generation of researchers capable of making significant strides on issues of diversity in mathematics education,” said Rogers Hall, an associate professor of education at UC Berkeley and an associate director of the new consortium. “If we are successful, the field will be changed fundamentally by this new generation of scholars,” said Hall.

The NSF and others are concerned that a third of mathematics teachers in grades 7-12 have neither a major nor minor in the field, yet teach one in four of all mathematics students. Further, the human resources for training new mathematics teachers are dwindling. More than half the faculty in universities that grant doctoral degrees in mathematics education will be eligible for retirement in two years, and nearly 80 percent will be eligible in 10 years, according to the NSF.

Hall said one goal is for the consortium universities to reach a greater understanding of structural problems impeding equal access to effective math teaching. Another goal, he said, is to produce 30 new leaders in math research and teaching, who will build on and expand our understanding of learning and teaching ideas of algebra with diverse student populations. Graduate student fellows are now being recruited for fall 2002 and core courses are being prepared.

Work is also underway to recruit experienced teachers from Berkeley Unified classrooms, who will work with UC Berkeley graduate fellows and pre-service teachers in the new program.

The consortium will create a library of case studies on the teaching and learning of math, along with software tools for analysis and a digital infrastructure to be shared by all researchers.

“We are attempting to rebuild the infrastructure of mathematics education research, to include a focus on professional development for both new and practicing teachers around issues of diversity such as language, social class, gender and ethnicity,” Hall said.

“There will be new research, a new generation of researchers and teacher leaders, and a well-articulated model of how we have gone about this,” he said.

Consortium participants from UC Berkeley will include professors Hall, Alan Schoenfeld, Geoffrey Saxe and Andrea diSessa of the Graduate School of Education.

Researchers at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Science will work with schools from the Los Angeles Unified School District. The University of Wisconsin will team up with the Madison Metropolitan School District.

The UC Berkeley portion of the consortium also will interact with the Lawrence Hall of Science and the UC Berkeley math department.

(2) “Governor Davis Names Member to the State Board of Education”

Source:  California Governor Gray Davis – 26 October 2001

URL:  (“Related Links” Section)

[Also see the governor’s new home page for more information on California: ]

Governor Gray Davis today announced the appointment of Joe Nuñez as a member of the State Board of Education. Mr. Nuñez, 48, of Stockton, has more than 25 years of experience in California education, acting as both a teacher and administrator. Since 2000, he has been an Assistant Executive Director for the California Teachers Association (CTA) overseeing Region 2. From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Nuñez was a Legislative Advocate for the CTA. He was the UniServ Director for the Stockton division of the CTA, a position he held from 1995 to 1997. In 1992, Mr. Nuñez received the California Teachers Association WHO (We Honor Ours) State Award, and in 1987 he was the recipient of the California Agriculture Teachers Association’s Teacher of Excellence Award. He taught a variety of subjects at Ernest Righetti High School in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District from 1975 to 1994. Mr. Nuñez served as an Advisor to the school’s Future Farmers of America, and taught subjects including agriculture science, practical science, algebra and ornamental horticulture. He earned bachelor’s and master of science degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

The mission of the California State Board of Education is to create strong, effective schools that provide a high standard of student accomplishment that is measured by a valid, reliable accountability system. Members do not receive a salary. This position requires Senate confirmation.

(3) “$18 Million Given for State Education”

Source:  : Palatino;color:#333333′>Contra Costa Times – 6 November 2001


Microsoft head Bill Gates’ charitable foundation will contribute $18 million to the state to help fund training for principals, vice principals and superintendents, Gov. Gray Davis announced Monday.

The donation will supplement funding provided under AB 75, which Davis signed into law last month. The bill provides $45 million over three years to train 15,000 principals and vice principals. Under the bill, districts would receive $3,000 per administrator trained but would have to provide matching funds of $1,000…

The training will focus on financial and personnel management, academic standards, curriculum frameworks, student assessment techniques and the use of instructional technology.

The Gates Foundation has given similar grants to all 50 states, said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation’s executive director of education.


(1) “NSF Plots New Education Strategy”: by David J. Hoff

Source:  Education Week: – 5 November 2001


For the past 10 years, the National Science Foundation has directed its K-12 grant money to states and school districts to help them overhaul their science and mathematics programs.

Now, the independent federal agency is taking a new tack by turning to universities and nonprofit groups to address specific problems, such as a dearth of science and math educators, inadequate teacher knowledge of those fields, and disappointing levels of minority student achievement in the subjects.

In shifting its focus away from “systemic” reforms by states and districts, the NSF will issue a series of grants through which university scholars, state education officials, nonprofit leaders, and teachers will work together on projects designed to address such problems.

“We’re setting something in motion,” Judith A. Ramaley, the NSF’s assistant director for education and human resources, said in a recent interview at the agency’s headquarters here. “The whole game plan is to make connections.”

The NSF, with $313 million devoted to precollegiate programs this year, announced the first step in the new strategy last month with the opening of its seven “centers for learning and teaching.”

Once Congress finishes the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the NSF will run the federally financed math-science partnerships between schools and higher education that the bill is to create. The new projects will ensure that the NSF money gets closer to the classroom than it did in the past, agency officials say.

The grants already given to local school districts and state departments of education–once the centerpiece of the science agency’s education programs–will be phased out as the projects are finished. Over the past decade, the NSF spent $427 million on those systemic initiatives…

But some critics maintain the NSF’s new approach isn’t much different from the previous one. To begin with, they argue, the new learning and teaching centers start with the same assumptions on how to teach mathematics that the projects of the 1990s did.

Specifically, the new projects still ignore the argument that students need to learn basic mathematical procedures before their teachers emphasize skills such as communicating about math and learning the concepts behind the procedures, according to one of the NSF’s leading critics. “This is essentially [the same thing as] the systemic-initiative crap of the last decade,” said Wayne W. Bishop, a professor of mathematics at California State University-Los Angeles and a leader of California’s effort to write the state mathematics standards in the 1990s.

Luther S. Williams, Ms. Ramaley’s predecessor at the NSF, had written a letter saying the standards Mr. Bishop helped craft were “detrimental to the long-term mathematical literacy of children in California.”

In a recent e-mail, Mr. Bishop said the NSF’s new funding approach “proves yet again that a change of administration changes almost nothing.”

But supporters counter that the NSF is on the right track. The systemic initiatives of the 1990s succeeded as far as they could, those experts say, and the initiatives identified needs that the NSF is now addressing.

“The realization is that we have to reach deeper, and we have to make more connections among teachers and university faculty,” said Eric E. Robinson, an associate professor of mathematics and computer science at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y…

The science foundation’s new centers will be based at universities and nonprofit organizations and have broad agendas… “These are going to become our idea factories,” Ms. Ramaley said.

For example, the Mid-Atlantic Center for Mathematics Teaching and Learning is a coalition of three universities, two large school districts, and one state department of education. The universities are offering $25,000 annual fellowships to university students in mathematics education doctoral programs, while also working with Delaware state education officials and the Prince George’s County, Md., and Pittsburgh districts to increase the subject-area knowledge of their math and science teachers…

At the moment, the NSF is also preparing to start up a set of state and local math-science partnerships, which will combine the forces of state and local K-12 systems, universities, and businesses to improve the quality of science and math teaching. Those projects are a central part of the teacher-development section of President Bush’s ESEA plan.

A House-Senate conference committee is meeting to seek compromises on differences between their versions of the bill. The NSF has requested $200 million to start the projects in fiscal 2002, which began Oct. 1.

Some partnerships will be statewide; others will be based in school districts. But all of the grant recipients will be required to be partners with higher education in improving math and science curricula and the quality of teaching in those subjects. They also will attempt to create “replicable or adaptable models of systemic reform,” according to a NSF description of the program.

“We haven’t thought through what the transition will be between those kind of systemic reforms and the math-science partnership,” acknowledged Ms. Ramaley, who became the NSF ‘s assistant director for education programs in August.

While the partnerships aren’t yet in law, members of the math and science education communities are preparing to apply for them.

This past weekend, the Exxon Mobil Foundation held a two-day “summit” on the math education of teachers. At the event, the oil company’s philanthropy announced that it would give $3,000 grants to help projects prepare applications to seek grants from the NSF program. [See for more information about the summit.]

Ms. Ramaley predicts that–like the systemic initiatives–the current projects will address the needs in the subjects today and lead to future steps for the foundation to take…

(2) Working Group Sessions – Abstracts from the National Summit on the Mathematical Education of Teachers

Source: Mathematical Association of America


Abstracts from last weekend’s Mathematics Education Summit are available at the above Web site on the following topics:

“The Role of Understanding Children’s Thinking in Convincing Teachers that They Must Develop a Profound Understanding of the Mathematics They Teach”–Judith Sowder, San Diego State University

“Developing Mathematical Ideas: A Resource for Teaching Mathematics”–Deborah Schifter, Center for Learning, Teaching, and Technology, Educational Development Center

“Strengthening the Mathematics Education of Elementary School Teachers: A Partnership between the Teachers College and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln”–Ruth Heaton and James Lewis, University of Nebraska

“Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach in Elementary Mathematics Methods”–Deborah Ball and Hyman Bass, University of Michigan

“Middle School Mathematics Teacher Development Program”–Ira Papick and John Beem, University of Missouri

“Preparing Middle Level Mathematics Teachers – A Collaboration of Three Universities”–Marjorie Enneking, Portland State University, and Laurie Burton, Western Oregon University

“Teachers’ Mathematics: A Collection of Mathematics Deserving To Be a Field”–Zalman Usiskin, University of Chicago

“Raising Arizona: Improving Teacher Preparation through the “Four R’s”–Recruitment of Students, Retention of Teachers, Reform of Curriculum, and Reward for Faculty”–Fred Stevenson and Marta Civil, University of Arizona

“Teaching Statistics to Future K-8 Teachers”–Larry Feldman, Mathematics Department, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Mick Norton, College of Charleston

“Teaching Statistics to Future High School Teachers”–Christine A. Franklin, Statistics Department, University of Georgia

“Changing Pre-service Students’ Beliefs about Mathematics and What it Means to Learn Mathematics: A Two-year College’s Program to Improve the Mathematics Experiences of Future Teachers”–Mercedes McGowen, William Rainey Harper College

“A Community College/University Partnership to Prepare Elementary Teachers Who Have Deep Content Knowledge in Mathematics”–Jean Houck, Dean of the School of Education, California State University at Long Beach

“Getting Connected with K-12 Teachers”–Margaret Owens and Bill Fisher, California State University at Chico

“The Texas Experience: Collaborative Pathways to Reform”–Debbie Pace and Susan Hull, Dana Center, University of Texas.

“Building Effective Teachers of Mathematics Creates Success for Children”–Donna Little-Kuamo, Albuquerque NM School District

“Courses that Develop Deep Understanding for Teaching Mathematics”–Organizer and Facilitator: James Fey, University of Maryland, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Mathematics Teaching and Learning; M. Katherine Heid, Pennsylvania State University; William Moody, University of Delaware; Kenneth Berg, University of Maryland

“Studying Lessons Together: Practical Processes that Improve College and School Mathematics Teaching”–Daniel Goroff, Harvard University

“Preparing for the Teaching of Algebra in Secondary Schools: Challenges and Promising Directions”–Joan Ferrini-Mundy, Michigan State University

“Some Lessons Learned in California”–Hung-Hsi Wu and Mary Burmester, University of California, Berkeley

(3) “Logging in With…Rita R. Colwell”: by Dan Carnevale

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education – 19 October 2001


Rita R. Colwell is the director of the National Science Foundation. Although information-technology research is a major goal for the science foundation, it also works to make computers more accessible to college students in the classroom. Ms. Colwell was appointed by President Bill Clinton to a six-year term that ends in 2004.

Q. What are some of the top technology priorities for the NSF?

A. …We’re looking for ways to update curricula, to enrich courses with technology–not substitute for teaching, but to enrich courses–and we really are focused on removing barriers for women, minorities, and especially people with disabilities. And we have some very exciting projects under way for the visually impaired and the hearing impaired to be able to use computers and benefit from the computers and their capabilities…And we’re particularly focused on serving the underserved communities–Native Americans, African-Americans, Chicano-Americans, Hispanic-serving institutions, and that community–and women, of course…

Q. How are you going to improve overall access to computers and technology for students?

A. We’re investing in something that’s very important, and that’s the National Digital Library–about $24-million a year in 2001-2. This is of fundamental importance because it’s a national resource for Internet-based learning for students. What it does is link students, teachers, faculty in virtual learning communities. It provides databases that students can explore on their own, and self-learning and tutoring are extraordinarily good ways to learn…

I think the computer can be a source of enrichment for children in ways that we haven’t even thought about … digital libraries, efforts to make students technology-literate, reaching parents…

Now another area that’s very important is course-curriculum lab improvements. And where we do this investment, it’s about 75 percent technology-based. It supports really good educational materials and instructional models…It’s a good opportunity to enrich the courses that are being taught through technology.

Now this doesn’t mean just plunking a computer in a classroom and saying to the teacher, “Now you’re technology-linked.” Because we have found that unless the teacher is comfortable and understands the use of the computer and can see how it can improve his or her teaching, then it’s not anything more than something else in the classroom like another table or chair. So there’s a multidimensional approach to what we’re trying to do here at the National Science Foundation.

Q. How do you accomplish this with so many colleges and universities across the nation?

A. Well, NSF is a leader. It’s a paradigm-setter. What we do is develop the models and then work with the Department of Education and with the local school system to scale it up. For example, there’s over $350-billion that’s spent for K-12 education by local communities, and something between $40-billion and $48-billion by the Department of Education. And if you take everything that NSF spends on education across the entire foundation, it’s about $1-billion.

So obviously, we have to be enzymes or catalysts. … And we already know we’ve been successful because we have a number of programs where the effects of the NSF have been dramatic.

(4) “How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science” by Dennis Overbye

Source:  New York Times:–30 October 2001


…Commanded by the Koran to seek knowledge and read nature for signs of the Creator, and inspired by a treasure trove of ancient Greek learning, Muslims created a society that in the Middle Ages was the scientific center of the world. The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years, a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry.

“Nothing in Europe could hold a candle to what was going on in the Islamic world until about 1600,” said Dr. Jamil Ragep, a professor of the history of science at the University of Oklahoma.

It was the infusion of this knowledge into Western Europe, historians say, that fueled the Renaissance and the scientific revolution.

“Civilizations don’t just clash,” said Dr. Abdelhamid Sabra, a retired professor of the history of Arabic science who taught at Harvard. “They can learn from each other. Islam is a good example of that.” The intellectual meeting of Arabia and Greece was one of the greatest events in history, he said. “Its scale and consequences are enormous, not just for Islam but for Europe and the world”…

Islam’s rich intellectual history, scholars are at pains and seem saddened and embarrassed to point out, belies the image cast by recent world events. Traditionally, Islam has encouraged science and learning. “There is no conflict between Islam and science,” said Dr. Osman Bakar of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown.

“Knowledge is part of the creed,” added Dr. Farouk El-Baz, a geologist at Boston University, who was science adviser to President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt. “When you know more, you see more evidence of God.”

So the notion that modern Islamic science is now considered “abysmal,” as Abdus Salam, the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, once put it, haunts Eastern scholars. “Muslims have a kind of nostalgia for the past, when they could contend that they were the dominant cultivators of science,” Dr. Bakar said. The relation between science and religion has generated much debate in the Islamic world, he and other scholars said. Some scientists and historians call for an “Islamic science” informed by spiritual values they say Western science ignores, but others argue that a religious conservatism in the East has dampened the skeptical spirit necessary for good science…

(5) “NASA’s Distance Learning Programs Integrate Mathematics, Science, and Technology”

Source: NASA – Katrina L. Townes (

URL:  and

The NASA “Why?” Files series introduces students in grades 3-5 to NASA and integrates mathematics, science, and technology through the use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), scientific inquiry, and the scientific method. The series seeks to motivate students to become critical thinkers and active problem solvers. Follow the exploits of the tree house detectives as they solve “real world” problems by using math, science, and technology, and by getting help from NASA and community experts, resources, and members of the NASA “Why?” Files Kids Club.

Access: PBS, ITV, Cable, NASA CORE, and ERCs (registration required)

Rights: Not Copyrighted, Off-Air Rights Granted in Perpetuity

Program Manager: Shannon Ricles, Voice: 757-864-5044, E-mail:

NASA CONNECT is a series of 30-minute, instructional mathematics programs for grades 6-8.  A lesson guide describing a hands-on activity and a web activity are provided with each NASA CONNECT program. The hands-on and web activities reinforce and extend the objectives presented in the program and establish a connection between the math, science, and technology concepts taught in the classroom to those same concepts used everyday by NASA researchers.

Access: PBS, ITV, Cable, Channel One, NASA CORE, and ERCs (registration required)

Rights: Not Copyrighted, Off-Air Rights Granted in Perpetuity

Program Manager: Chris Giersch, Voice: 757-864-6590, E-mail: