COMET • Vol. 4, No. 05 – 14 February 2003

Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers (PMET)

Contact: Dale Oliver, Chair, Mathematics Dept., Humboldt State University – (707) 826-4921


Notice to California postsecondary mathematics educators from Dale Oliver: The National Science Foundation has recently funded a substantial initiative of the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) to help math faculty improve the mathematical preparation of teachers. You may have already seen an initial announcement from the MAA, but I’ve included a little bit more here about who will be directing the California efforts of the project. Please feel free to contact me [Dale] with questions or comments.


The Mathematical Association of America has a new NSF grant called “Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers” (PMET). The PMET program will have three major components:

(1) Faculty Professional Development: workshops of varying duration throughout the year and minicourses at professional meetings;

(2) Information and Resources: Articles in professional journals, panels at meetings, multimedia web sites and hard-copy material to support faculty instruction for teachers;

(3) Mini-grants and Regional Networks: To nurture and support grassroots innovation in teacher education on individual campuses. The initial regional networks will be in California, New York, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Ohio.

An extensive article on the PMET program and how MAA members can participate will appear in the March issue of FOCUS. Information is also posted on the PMET web site:

==>  As one of the 5 target states of the project, California will host a workshop this summer on the mathematical preparation of elementary school teachers. The workshop will be held on the campus of Humboldt State University on June 15-21, 2003. Mathematics faculty who want to learn more about the mathematical content and pedagogy that future elementary school mathematics teachers need to excel in the classroom are encouraged to apply (applications forms are on available on

The coordinators of the California PMET network Magnhild Lien of California State University, Northridge, and Dale Oliver of Humboldt State University. The California workshop leader is Patrick Callahan of the University of California Office of the President.

[Contact Dale for information on the PMET network and mini-grant program. This information will be emailed to you when it is available.]


(1) Resources for “Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers”


Below is a list of resources identified to support the Mathematical Association of America’s new NSF-funded “Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers” project:

Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers (PMET) by Victor J. Katz and Alan Tucker–An article about the new MAA program to appear in the March, 2003 issue of FOCUS [available online now at]

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States (Studies in Mathematical Thinking and Learning) by Liping Ma–This book has been influential in focusing attention on the preparation of mathematics faculty to teach future teachers…

The Mathematical Education of TeachersA report of “The Mathematics Education of Teachers Project” published by the Conference Board for the Mathematical Sciences. It may be downloaded from or purchased in paper form from MAA or AMS. In large measure, the PMET project is a response to this report.

The messages of the following three resources are similar and mutually reinforcing. The first addresses teacher education from a national policy perspective, the second focuses on science and mathematics education of teachers, and the third focuses on the mathematical education of teachers.

Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics–A publication of the Mathematics Learning Study Committee of the National Academy of Science. It is available from the National Academy Press ( and can be read online at

Before It’s Too Late: A Report to the Nation from The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century–The full report can be downloaded from the following Department of Education Web site:

Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millennium–This publication of the National Academy Press can be read online at

(2) “Science and Mathematics Gateway to the Future”

Source:  U.S. Department of Education – 19 November 2002 (live broadcast date)


The archived webcast for “Science and Mathematics: Gateway to the Future” and other webcast programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education are available at the above web site.

(3) “Ed. Dept. Proposes $120 Million Math Agenda” by David J. Hoff

Source:  Education Week – 12 February 2003


The Department of Education wants to spend $120 million on research into mathematics education as the first step in its five-year effort to improve the quality of math and science instruction and raise student achievement in those subjects.

Speaking here last week at what the department billed as a one-day “summit” to launch the project, agency officials said the research agenda for math education would investigate the best methods and curriculum for teaching the subject and the best ways of improving teachers’ knowledge of the field.

“The place to start is with more rigorous curriculum and high-quality teachers,” Secretary of Education Rod Paige told the invitation-only group of math education advocates, business leaders, and government officials at the Feb. 6 event.

Research identifying what has to happen to write challenging curricula and to prepare the teachers who will deliver it will be the early focus of the undertaking.

“The research in math is really in its infancy,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the director of the department’s new Institute of Education Sciences, said in his speech. “What it provides in policy and practice is educated guesses.”

Moving Ahead

The Bush administration has been planning its math education project since late last year. It has already made a $400,000 grant to advocates of basic-skills instruction for a project that will define what teachers ought to know before they enter the classroom.

Later, the administration intends to start a similar venture to explore the curriculum and teacher quality in science, officials at the math event said.

In addition to producing new research, the math and science initiatives will work to gain public support for the overall goal of raising student achievement.

At last week’s math gathering, one of the analysts already at work on the Education Department’s teacher education grant said his research suggests U.S. students aren’t learning the rudimentary skills they need to excel in upper-level math.

“Students lost ground in most computation skills in the 1990s,” said Tom Loveless, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. For example, half of 8th graders enter high school unable to compute with fractions, a key skill needed for algebra, said Mr. Loveless, who based his research on an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress…

But the best way to teach those basic skills remains unclear, Mr. Whitehurst said in his presentation.

Some research, Mr. Whitehurst said, suggests that students can learn mathematics skills through so-called discovery learning, in which they use “manipulatives” or draw pictures to portray such tasks as addition or subtraction. But other research says that the more teachers guide students in hands-on instruction, the better students can learn, he added.

For discovery learning, “there is a time and a place,” he said. “But it is not every day.”

Nearing Balance

Advocates of programs that incorporate discovery learning said the balance in Mr. Whitehurst’s summary of the research heartened them.

Prior to the meeting, some had worried that the math initiative would be biased toward basic skills, and might eventually lead to federal policies that favored that approach.

“He raised legitimate questions,” Johnny Lott, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a 100,000-member professional organization, said of Mr. Whitehurst. “That was very encouraging.”

In Bush Budget

Mr. Whitehurst’s institute–the Education Department’s research arm–would receive $25 million for the math education agenda under the fiscal 2004 budget that President Bush submitted to Congress last week, according to David Thomas, a department spokesman.

The rest of the funding would come from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Congress still must appropriate the money.

Education Department officials will convene a meeting March 13 to discuss the next steps in the math education agenda…

[COMET Editor’s Note: The video webcast of the Summit is now available for viewing at  Deborah Loewenberg Ball’s presentation at the Summit is also now available at]


(1) ENC–A Resource for Mathematics and Science Educators


Created to serve the nation’s preK-12 mathematics and science educators, ENC [(Eisenhower National Clearinghouse)] identifies curriculum resources, creates professional development materials, and disseminates information and products to improve teaching and learning.

More than 20,000 science and mathematics resources are cataloged and described in ENC’s searchable online database ( The quarterly magazine ENC Focus examines issues of importance to classroom teachers and is available at no cost as a print subscription and an online publication ( ENC works with professional education groups and government agencies to improve mathematics and science education at all levels.

Educators can register to receive free ENC products and services, including an online subscription to ENC Focus, daily Education Headlines, and information on ENC’s projects, services, and upcoming presentations.

(2) The Math Forum


The Math Forum is a leading center for mathematics and mathematics education on the Internet. The Math Forum’s mission is to provide resources, materials, activities, person-to-person interactions, and educational products and services that enrich and support teaching and learning in an increasingly technological world.

Our online community includes teachers, students, researchers, parents, educators, and citizens at all levels who have an interest in math and math education. We work together toward this end in the following ways:

* Encouraging communication throughout the mathematical community

We are committed to creating discussion opportunities for all those interested in math. Through our growing collection of mailing lists, Web-based discussion areas, and ask-an-expert services, we give you places to talk, to reach others with similar interests, and to find answers to your burning questions. See Discussions (, Bridging Research and Practice ( and the T2T Teachers’ Lounge (

* Offering model interactive projects

The Forum’s volunteer ‘math doctors’ and our archive of answers will help you with your math questions–see Ask Dr. Math ( Questions about teaching and math education may be sent to our Teacher2Teacher ( service. Our Problems of the Week ( provide creative, non-routine challenges for students in grades three through twelve. The archived ESCOT Problems ( provide interactive challenges for middle and high school students.

* Making math-related web resources more accessible

When a generic Web directory falls short of your mathematics needs, visit the Forum Internet Mathematics Library (, which covers math and math education Web sites in depth. In our collaboration with the Mathematical Association of America, Mathematical Sciences Digital Library (, we collect mathematics instructional material with authors’ statements and reader reviews; and catalogs mathematics commercial products, complete with editorial reviews, reader ratings and discussion groups. The Problems Library ( offers a convenient interface for searching and browsing the collective archives of the six Problem of the Week services.

* Providing high-quality math and math education content

There’s a lot of material on the Web, but how good is it, and how does it take advantage of new technologies or implement new pedagogy? We have worked with teachers, students, and researchers to put the best of their materials on the Web. This collaborative work is available via the Forum’s Teacher Exchange: Forum Web Units ( Teachers are invited to use the Web interface to contribute their own lessons.

* Growing with the Web

We notify you about new sites of interest, feature the latest and best, and host focused and timely discussions of math education and associated source materials in the Math Forum Internet News (

(3) The Gateway to Educational Materials

Contact: Marilyn Tickner  –  – (315) 443-3640


The Gateway to Educational Materials is a Consortium effort to provide educators with quick and easy access to thousands of educational resources found on various federal, state, university, non-profit, and commercial Internet sites. GEM is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

Teachers, parents, and administrators can search or browse The Gateway and find thousands of high quality educational materials, including lesson plans, activities, and projects from over 320 of the 438 GEM Consortium members:

*  Browse through lists organized by subject (

*  Browse through lists organized by keywords (

*  Search by subject, keyword, title, or grade level (

…Future enhancements will include the addition of fee-based resources, an Advanced Search Interface, and the ability to access resources by academic standards.

(4) MarcoPolo: Internet Content for the Classroom


MarcoPolo: Internet Content for the Classroom is a consortium of premier national education organizations, state education agencies and the MarcoPolo Education Foundation dedicated to providing the highest quality Internet content and professional development to teachers and students throughout the United States. First launched in 1997 as a collection of standards-based, discipline-specific educational Web sites for K-12 teachers, MarcoPolo features:

* Seven content Web sites with lesson plans, student interactive content, downloadable worksheets, links to panel-reviewed Web sites and additional resources created by the nation’s leading education organizations ( [The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics hosts the Illuminations Web site at]

* A scalable professional development program that has trained over 150,000 teachers with world-class trainers and materials (

* A network of 50 states plus the District of Columbia dedicated to rolling out MarcoPolo to all teachers and aligning the content to state education standards (According to surveys of tens of thousands of teachers, alignment to state standards is one of the most important qualities of Internet content that teachers need to be able to use it in their classrooms. Currently, over thirty state education organizations have completed alignment or are in the process of aligning MarcoPolo national standards-based content to their state standards. Additionally, these states have created Web sites that allow teachers to access these aligned lessons, as well as state-specific MarcoPolo resources for teachers in their states: [California link:]

* Leading edge diagnostic measurement and technology that enables state-of-the-art tracking and reporting to ensure that teachers’ Internet integration needs are being met across the country