COMET • Vol. 20, No. 01 – 14 March 2019



(1) Happy Pi Day!

A decade ago, March 14 was recognized as National Pi Day by the U.S. House of Representatives, 21 years after physicist Larry Shaw conceived of Pi Day during a meeting of Exploratorium staff. To learn more, and 

Collections of Pi Day activities such as the following are widely available online:

– “30 Things to Do on Pi Day 2019”:

– “31 Mathtastic Pi Day Activities for the Classroom”:

The RetailMeNot and Brand Eating websites contain a collection of special offers available today:



Social media (e.g., is one way to quickly scan for Pi Day information, cartoons, and events. An example is the following tweet from the Science Channel:

Stephen Hawking died one year ago today, the same day Albert Einstein was born. What else did the two have in common? Celebrate #PiDay with our new special ‘Einstein and Hawking: Unlocking the Universe,’streaming free all day on SCI GO:  #314Day


(2) Kanopy: Stream Over 2600 STEM-Related Films Free of Charge


Search for topics of interest on, and freely stream the videos if you have a public library card or if you are affiliated with a partner university. In celebration of Pi Day, search “math” and scroll through numerous interesting titles, including Arthur Benjamin’s “The Joy of Pi” ( and “The Joy of Mathematics” (


(3) MSRI Hosts Workshop on Mathematical Modeling in K-16

Source: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

On March 6-8, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley hosted its annual Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (CIME) workshop with nearly 50 speakers and the following focus: Mathematical Modeling in K-16: Community and Cultural Contexts.

The overarching critical issue of the 2019 CIME workshop was the following: How can we individually and collectively advance the teaching and learning of mathematical modeling in K-16?

detailed overview of the conference, including a list of presenters, is available at 

The schedule, notes/handouts, and videos of almost every session can be found at


(4) Free Online CSET Mathematics Subtest II Course Begins Today

The Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) at Fresno State is offering a free, online, interactive course reviewing the content assessed on CSET Mathematics: Subtest II that begins today (March 14) at 5 p.m. PDT. Classes (all of which are recorded and available for participants for further review) will be offered on Mondays and Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. through April 8.

In addition, this coming Saturday, a free online CSET Physics content review workshop will be held. The schedule for summer CSET science workshops is available on the MSTI website at, which also contains information about registering for both the mathematics and science reviews.


(5) Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST): Nominations and Applications are Invited

Nominate an outstanding mathematics or science teacher for the 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The nomination deadline is April 1, and the deadline for a teacher to apply for this prestigious honor is May 1. For 2019, nominees must be teaching mathematics, science, and/or computer science in grades 7-12.

For more information, please visit


(6) New Video Provides Overview of the California Science Test

Source: Assessment Spotlight, Issue 34 – 27 February 2019

A new 5.5-minute video, “California Science Test (CAST) and the Next Generation Science Standards,” provides teachers, parents/guardians, and students with a short but informative overview of the CAST’s structure, types of questions students can expect, the CA NGSS, and how the new standards are being built into the assessment. It explains how the CAST is designed not only to measure student progress, but also to encourage and reinforce innovative science instruction.

To view this video, visit


Related article:

“California Students May Not be Ready for New Science Test” by Diana Lambert

Source: EdSource – 18 February 2019



(7) Gr. K-16 Science Educators Sought for Study

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

BSCS Science Learning and AAAS Project 2061 are collaborating on a project to develop assessment tasks that measure students’ ability to use the three dimensions of science learning outlined by the Next Generation Science Standards to make sense of energy-related phenomena…

Elementary, middle, and high school science teachers and college or university faculty are sought to administer the online test to their students between April 15 and June 31, 2019. The test will be administered using a web-based testing utility and should take one class period to complete.

For more information about the tests, participation eligibility, and registration, visit


(8) Webinar and Report: Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center

Source: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine


An informative hour-long video available on the website above provides an overview of the report, Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. This report… shows that one effective way to help students learn is to engage them in science investigation and engineering design by asking questions, collecting and analyzing data, and using this evidence to better understand the natural and built world. Science investigation and engineering design are heavily emphasized in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards, which are now guiding the science education of many U.S. students. But this entails a dramatic shift from the traditional classroom dynamic, and teachers will need support and guidance as they implement this approach. The report describes evidence-based ways that teaching and learning can shift toward science investigations and engineering design to help realize this new vision in the classroom.


(9) Contest for Elementary School Teachers: Science – It’s Elementary!

Source: Keric Ashley, Deputy Superintendent, Performance, Planning & Technology Branch California Department of Education


To showcase the importance of using formative assessment practices to support learning and as part of a statewide effort to raise awareness about the importance of science education starting in the early primary grades, the California Department of Education (CDE) is pleased to announce a new contest, Science: It’s Elementary! Open to California public school teachers in grades K-5, the CDE is calling for submissions demonstrating the use of the formative assessment process in the study of science. The contest seeks to feature classrooms where the formative assessment process is used to guide the study of science phenomena based on the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS).

Finalists will be interviewed and a video produced that will be used for California educator voting. Finalists also will be invited to attend the first annual California Assessment Conference on October 16–18 where the winner will be announced. The winner will receive up to $1,000 in prize money for science resources for the classroom.

Eligibility and submission requirements, contest entry forms, and more information can be found at deadline: March 22. The top entries will be voted on statewide, with the winner being announced in late fall 2019.


(10) 2019 California Assessment Conference: Registration Opens Tomorrow

Source:  Assessment Spotlight, Issue 36 – 13 March 2019

Registration will open tomorrow for the 2019 California Assessment Conference (CAC). The CAC, scheduled for October 16-18, is a unique opportunity for classroom educators to explore the connection between assessments and classroom instruction and to learn how other California educators use assessments to improve teaching and learning. For more information and to register, visit


(11) “Governor Newsom Names New Head of State Board of Education in California” by Louis Freedberg

SourceEdSource – 12 February 2019


Governor Gavin Newsom has named Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor emeritus and one of the nation’s most prominent education researchers, to head California’s State Board of Education…

The 11-person board plays a key role in formulating and overseeing implementation of multiple education policies and reforms in what is by far the nation’s largest school system. It serves 6.2 million children, who comprise 1 in 8 public schoolchildren in the U.S….

Darling-Hammond, who currently chairs the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, will succeed another Stanford professor emeritus, Michael Kirst, who led the state board during Jerry Brown’s first terms as governor, as well as his last two terms. Kirst, a close advisor to Brown for over four decades on education matters, decided to step down from the board in December at the end of Brown’s four terms as governor…

[Please visit the website above to read more of this comprehensive article.]


(12) State Board of Education Requests Revisions to the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan


At yesterday’s meeting of the California State Board of Education (SBE), Barbara Murchison (Director, Educator Excellence and Equity Division, California Department of Education/CDE) presented the March 2019 draft of the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan (CSSIP) and brought a motion from CDE that SBE approve the 37-page plan, which can be downloaded from the website above.

Murchison stressed the vision and mission of the proposed plan:


California’s vision is to ensure that all students develop foundational knowledge and skills in computer science to prepare them for college, careers, and civic engagement.


– All schools offer rigorous and relevant computer science education equitably and sustainably throughout grades K–12.

– All teachers are adequately prepared to teach rigorous and relevant computer science aligned with California’s K–12 computer science standards.

Murchison provided an overview of the recommendations, which included offering more robust computer science offerings in grades K-8 so that students are prepared for additional coursework in high school, integrating computer science throughout the curriculum, expanding course offerings in high school (including offering University of California a-g approved course sequences in all high schools within the next five years), strengthening partnerships with community organizations for expanded learning and mentorship, and creating local communities of practice for teachers.

She noted that several bills related to the recommendations are currently making their way through the legislative process, namely AB 20 (calls for a computer science coordinator at CDE to support implementation of the CSSIP; see bill analysis at, AB 52 (, and AB 1410 (

SBE members acknowledged the significant amount of work that went into producing the plan, but expressed a number of concerns that they recommended be addressed before the plan is approved. These included concerns that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools would see the recommendations as mandates and that full implementation would be very costly. Issues of equity and access were also raised.

Representatives from and the CSforCA coalition ( spoke strongly in favor of adoption of the proposed plan during the public comment period.

revised plan that addresses Board member concerns will be brought before the SBE at its May 2019 meeting; the deadline for approval set by the California Education Code is 19 July 2019.


(13) California’s Digital Divide

Source: Public Policy Institute of California

March 2019’s “Just the Facts” brief by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) focuses on California’s digital divide. Statistics supporting the following five major findings are presented in the brief:

– Internet usage and broadband access are at all-time highs. In 2017, 90% of California households used the internet and 74% had broadband subscriptions [(i.e., cable, DSL ,or fiber-optic service)] at home…

– The digital divide persists across major demographic groups and in rural areas. Though most demographic groups have seen significant increases in broadband subscriptions at home, gaps persist for low-income, less educated, rural, African American, and Latino households…

– With federal and state funding, K–12 schools have largely made the digital transition…The overwhelming majority (90%) of California schools met the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum threshold for digital learning in 2018, and 59% of schools met the FCC’s long-term targets… [A chart entitled “Rural and high-need schools are as likely as other schools to meet digital infrastructure targets” is included.]

– Lack of internet access at home leaves underrepresented students further behind…22% of low-income households with school-aged children did not have any internet connection at home, and 48% reported no broadband subscription at home…

– Internet privacy and security are ongoing concerns.

Visit  for more information.


(14) University of California: Computer Science, Engineering, or Applied Science Courses Approved in Area D can be used as an Additional Laboratory Science

The University of California (UC) issued new guidance to high school counselors last month to reflect recently-approved changes in Area D (Laboratory Science) admissions requirements for UC freshman. (See for details about Area D and for an overview of all A-G course requirements.)

See below for information about two of the documents shared with counselors:

(a) “CSU (California State University)-UC Comparison of Minimum Freshman Admission Requirements” (2-page matrix summarizing A-G requirements for CSU and UC)


(b) “Fact Sheet: Laboratory Science Requirement for UC Freshman Admissions”


Fact Sheet Excerpt:

Updated laboratory science (area D) disciplines

       UC has introduced revised science discipline options for courses submitted under the laboratory science (D) subject area. These updated science disciplines align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California public schools… UC’s admissions requirement for area D continues to be two years of college-preparatory laboratory science, including or integrating topics that provide fundamental knowledge in two of these three subjects: biology, chemistry, or physics.

• One year of area D-approved interdisciplinary or earth and space science coursework can meet one year of the requirement.

• New: Computer Science, engineering, or applied science courses approved in area D can be used as an additional laboratory science (i.e., third year and beyond)…

      Question:  Are AP Computer Science A/AP Computer Science Principles now approved as an area D lab science courses? Where is the A-G list that indicates the approved subject area for AP courses in Computer Science?

      Answer:  No, currently these courses are approved in area G (Electives). The College Board maintains an A-G course list for AP courses. Search by program on the A-G course website. [See] If the College Board wants their AP Computer Science A/ AP Computer Science Principles to be considered in area D then they will have to submit their course(s) for area D review under the revised policy. [Note:’s Computer Science Discoveries has been approved for area D:;academicYearId=23]

    Question:  Can a course be approved for both area D and area G?

    Answer:  Courses can be approved in only one subject area.


Also of note:

(a) At its February 1 meeting, the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) chair reported the following: “The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is conducting a new eligibility study in response to the area d proposal to increase science requirements from 2 required plus 1 recommended to 3 required courses. There are currently only 19 high schools in the state that do not already offer 3 eligible science courses. The study will include a qualitative component to assess students’ attitudes toward and likelihood of applying to UC. The question battery will be shared when ready.”


(b) Cal State Apply: Freshman Coursework Entry Guide


     “The CSU requirement in Area D is one year of Biological Science (D1) and one year of Physical Science (D2)… Physical Science course disciplines include [the following:] Chemistry, Chemistry/Earth & Space Sciences, Computer Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Physics, Physics/Earth & Space Sciences…”


Related article:

“University of California Finally Allows Computer Science to Count Towards Admissions Science Requirement” by Hadi Partovi

SourceMedium – 4 February 2019




(1) Closing the Gender Gap in the Tech Industry

Source: CBS News – 60 Minutes


The March 3 broadcast of the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes included a segment on the gender gap in computing jobs within the United States, noting the rapidly increasing number of these often well-paying positions but the declining number of women who are majoring in computer science — and thus at a disadvantage for being eligible to be hired for these positions. The segment opens with an interview with Bonnie Ross, who serves as “a corporate vice president at Microsoft and runs its videogame studio that produces the blockbuster game ‘Halo.’”

Ross believes that diversity among team members results in more diverse thinking and innovation in product development and design. She notes the dearth of female candidates for the open positions in the company, which currently is around 4000. Females holding computer science degrees “are as heavily recruited as star athletes.” One problem, Ross believes, is the lack of effective messaging about computer science as a field where you can be “incredibly creative.” Doing so, she believes, would make the field more attractive to girls.

Also profiled in this episode was Hadi Partovi, founder of, a nonprofit organization which is committed to “expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. [’s] vision is that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science…” (

Partovi believes that one of the causes of this gender gap is that “many of the efforts to get women into computer science start late… By the time somebody is 18 or 19, they have so many more predeveloped stereotypes and inhibitions and other passions that they’ve developed… Middle school is roughly when girls traditionally drop out of STEM fields. And for computer science, they’ve not even been exposed to it at that young age in many cases. And that’s when we need to start.”

A web archive of the broadcast plus transcript can be found at


Related stories:

(a) “Girls in Tech: Confronting the Middle School Cliff”

Visit for short 60 Minutes Overtime interviews with Bonnie Ross (Microsoft) and Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of LittleBits (, a company that “follows a four-pronged approach to keep girls engaged: have fun, inspire creativity, build confidence—and teach them that it’s okay to fail.”

Ross believes that female participation in computer science could be stemmed if computer science instruction in elementary and middle school would be made mandatory. Further, “If girls study technology along with their other subjects, they will be more equipped to connect computer science with creativity.”

(b) Hadi Partovi Was Raised in a Revolution. Today He Teaches Kids to Code” by David Gelles

SourceThe New York Times – 17 January 2019

(c) “The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know” by Thomas L. Friedman

Source: The New York Times – 12 February 2019

(d)  “The Hard Part of Computer Science? Getting Into Class” by Natasha Singer

SourceThe New York Times – 24 January 2019


(2) Thirtieth Anniversary of the World Wide Web Celebrated

The 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web was celebrated with gusto this week at the Science Museum in London, which hosted an evening event where the Web’s founder, English scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee,was feted and interviewed. The video of the event is available here and will likely be of interest to COMET viewers:

On 12 March 1989, Berners-Lee, who was then working as a fellow at CERN (world’s largest particle physics laboratory, located in Geneva), wrote a memo in which he proposed connecting hypertext and the Internet, which had been invented twenty years earlier.  This memo, “Information Management: A Proposal,” was recirculated in May 1990, with Berners-Lee’s manager, Mike Sendall, writing at the top of the document’s first page, “Vague, but exciting” (see

That year did prove to be filled with exciting developments, as evidenced by a tweet on Tuesday by Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee): “In 1990, I coded up the foundational technologies for the World Wide Web [HTML: Hypertext Markup Language, UDI: Universal Document Identifier, HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the first web browser, and first web server)]. To celebrate the web’s 30th birthday, will you add to a crowdsourced Twitter timeline of the web’s milestone moments?”

In a panel discussion, Berners-Lee was asked what need he was trying to solve when he came up with the World Wide Web at CERN. He replied that by the time he came up with the idea, he had been writing lots of code both individually and often within teams and that he “wanted this to be a lot of things. I wanted this to be a big book where all of the online documentation which had already been typed into computers and sitting on computers could be deemed as being part of this big online book. And I wanted a collaborative space, too, where if I were trying to solve a problem and I had some of the pieces of the idea in my head and some pieces of the solution were in someone else’s head,…could we use the Web as a way of creatively, constructively, and collaboratively finding the solutions to big problems? But of course, it had to be universal, and people could use it for whatever they wanted.”

He was asked by the panel moderator if he had any regrets, and he teased that he could have left off the “//” and saved people time writing Web addresses (but then explained why it was a good idea at the time). He described how the domain names were once maintained and given out “in a very responsible fashion” before the U.S. government gave the responsibility to various companies to “turn it into a business” and manage all of the domains. These companies were “making gazillions of dollars out of it” by writing programs to guess what domain names entrepreneurs would be wanting and then grabbing those (“gobbled up by speculators”) and selling them for thousands of dollars. Berners-Lee opined that this was a huge drain on innovation and was a bad decision. He thinks it should have remained one “squeaky clean” system that distributed domain names free of charge. He also encouraged listeners to inspect, a free social media platform where user data is not collected and sold.

Berners-Lee also founded the World Wide Web Foundation ( In a memo posted on Tuesday (, he wrote, “Today, 30 years on from my original proposal for an information management system, half the world is online. It’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go… With every new feature, every new website, the divide between those who are online and those who are not increases, making it all the more imperative to make the web available for everyone…” To this end, the Foundation “is working with governments, companies and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web. To learn more, visit

Related link: CERN has also posted a “short history of the Web” on


(3) Rock Band Queen’s Lead Guitarist, Dr. Brian May, Composes Musical Piece for NASA Mission

NASA launched its New Horizons spacecraft on 19 January 2006 with the goal of answering questions about Pluto, its moons, and Kuiper Belt objects. Most recently, New Horizons conducted an Ultima Thule flyby on January 1 of this year (, capturing sharp images of this heavenly body, which is “the most primitive and most distant object ever explored… and orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto.”

An article in ( shines a light on the “science side” of Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and lead guitarist for Queen who composed a song to celebrate the New Horizon’s Ultima Thule flyby. As a bonus, the article embeds a YouTube video of the song, “New Horizons,” highlighting the spacecraft’s mission. In the article, May is quoted as saying “This mission is about human curiosity. It’s about the need for humankind to go out and explore.” He discusses his passion for both art and science, noting that “he feels as though his spirit is anchored in Victorian times, when people made no distinction between science and art.”

For related articles and videos on May, who also authored Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe, visit the following websites:

“Rock Star/Astrophysicist Dr. Brian May Goes Backstage With New Horizons”

“We are all Scientists — Dr. Brian May”


Brian May Answers Questions on Space and Astrophysics (An Oxford Union Interview)



COMET is supported by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.


~ To unsubscribe from COMET, send the following message to Unsubscribe COMET

~ To subscribe to COMET, send the following message to Subscribe COMET [followed by your name]

Example:  Subscribe COMET Albert Einstein


Carol Fry Bohlin, Ph.D.

Carol Fry Bohlin, Ph.D.
Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator (M.A. in Education-C&I)
Director, Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI)
Reporter/Editor, California Online Mathematics Education Times (COMET)
California State University, Fresno
5005 N. Maple Ave. M/S ED 2
Fresno, CA 93740-8025