COMET • Vol. 5, No. 11 – 9 April 2004


(1) California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) Grant Program

Source: California Department of Education


Program Description–The CaMSP grant program, administered by the Mathematics and Science Leadership Office in the California Department of Education (CDE), is dedicated to increasing the academic achievement of students in mathematics (grades five through Algebra I) and science (grades four through eight) by enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers through professional learning activities. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Title II, Part B is the funding source for this in-depth professional development program. The 2003-04 CaMSP grant program is funded at approximately $14 million. Funding for the 2004-05 program has yet to be determined.

2003-04 CaMSP Grants–Below are the project titles, lead LEAs, contacts, and award amounts for grant applications recommended for funding (arranged by superintendent region). This information is also available at

1 — Del Norte County Office of Education  — Sara Cloutier — $ 670,633

2 — Thermalito Union Elementary — Lisa Daniel — $ 620,590

4 — San Francisco Unified — Carmelo Sgarlato — $ 940,514

5 — North Monterey County Unified — Bert Post — $ 856,449

5 — Salinas City Elementary — Dr. Sharon Loucks — $ 776,815

6 — Stockton City Unified — Carl Toliver — $ 940,514

7 — Fresno Unified — Caran Resciniti — $ 940,298

7 — Tulare County Office of Education — Faye Johnson — $ 812,598

9 — El Centro Elementary — Dr. Michael P. Klentschy — $ 940,464

9 — San Pasqual Valley Unified — David F. Schoneman — $ 792,636

10 — Rialto Unified — Ed D’Souza — $ 819,716

10 — Coachella Valley Unified — Bob Bailey — $ 912,934

11 — El Rancho Unified — Susanna Smith — $ 619,628

11 — Los Angeles Unified — Dr. Todd Ullah — $ 940,514

11 — Lennox Elementary — Hazel Rojas, Ed.D. — $ 374,089

11 — Montebello Unified — Janet Torncello — $ 825,262

11 — West Covina Unified — Mary Breskin — $ 893,291

(2) NCLB  Resources from EdSource

EdSource’s FAQ on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is now available in Spanish.  It covers parents’ most commonly asked questions about NCLB  To view it online, go to  The English version of this publication can be found at

For other Spanish resources, visit for “EdSource en Espanol.”

Additional NCLB publication by EdSource: “No Child Left Behind in California? The impact of the federal NCLB Act so far”:  (Download the executive summary free of charge at

(3) State Board of Education: Preliminary Report of Actions Taken at the March 10-11 Meeting of the SBE

URL:   (link to the PDF files from this Web site)


(1) Upcoming TIMSS Reports

Announcement from:  Patsy Wang-Iverson, Research for Better Schools (

This is a “heads up” message, to allow you to schedule your summer months so you can enjoy reading the following reports, which will be released beginning–hopefully–in June, 2004.

1.  J. Hiebert, et al., “Teaching Mathematics in the United States: Comparing Results from the TIMSS 1995 and TIMSS 1999 Video Studies of Eighth Grade Mathematics Lessons”

2.  K. Roth, et al., “Teaching Science in Five* Countries: Results from the TIMSS 1999 Video Study”

*The five countries are Australia, Czech Republic, Japan, Netherlands, and the United States. Because some of the countries teach more than one science course at gr. 8, there will be five public release lessons from each participating country to provide glimpses of the different courses. The gr. 8 science course in the U.S. consists primarily of life science and earth science.

3.  “Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and other G8 Countries”

4.  P. Gonzales, et al., “Variability in U.S. Student Achievement in International Assessments” This report examines data from TIMSS 1995 and 1999 and PISA 2000, with a focus on the U.S. and the other G8 countries. It answers questions including (a) how diverse is our student body? and (b) are U.S. student scores more variable than those of students from other countries?

5.  M. Lemke, et al., “Characteristics of U.S. 15-Year-Old Low Achievers in an International Context:  Findings from PISA 2000”

6.  “First Results from PISA 2003” – PISA 2003 focused primarily on the mathematics literacy and problem solving among 15-year olds. There will be two reports, one published by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) from an international perspective, and the other by NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) from an American perspective.

6.  “TIMSS 2003: Trends in Mathematics Achievement Around the World” and “TIMSS 2003: Trends in Science Achievement Around the World” (expected in mid-December 2004)

(2) “It’s Science Fair Season: A Web Site Roundup” by Anne Haas

Source:  Discover – April 2004


This month, 17-year-old Herbert Mason Hedberg of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, took the top prize in the Intel Science Talent Search. For his winning effort he studied the telomerase enzyme found in cancer cells, which led him to a speedier and more efficient way to diagnose cancer. In the process, he also invented a new type of dialysis chamber, which he hopes to patent. His work won him $100,000, a shoo-in to the college of his choice, and a jump start on a likely career in science.

Herbert leads a pack of 40 extraordinary high school scientists who became Intel STS finalists based on their projects in mathematics, computer science, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, and engineering. Second-place finisher Boris Alexeev tackled the mathematical basis for pattern matching or recognition. His research, already submitted for publication, could potentially be used to speed DNA sequencing, to help decipher the human genome, or to improve speech recognition. Ryna Karnik, in third place, awaits a patent for her innovative method of designing microchips. (For more on the finalists and the competition itself, visit

The Intel STS contest may be the ultimate science fair–in addition to the money, the winner and finalists spend a week in Washington, D.C., and get a chance to present their work at the National Academy of Science–but it is by no means the only influential one. The less famous school and regional science fairs that blossom throughout the country at this time of year play an equally meaningful role in inspiring young minds. At these competitions, children take their first steps in applying the scientific method and in learning to communicate their observations and results.

By design, these fairs are challenging. Finding a topic, narrowing it down to a question, and then figuring out what materials to use and where to locate them can overwhelm a child scientist, not to mention his or her parents. These days, entrants have a new resource to draw on: an extensive network of fair-related Web sites, which include some genuinely useful and interesting lists of ideas, advice in formulating a scientific question, exhibits created by kids in different age groups, suggestions for research, and presentation tips. Supportive parents often ask Discover how they can assist their children. In response, we have put together the following list of helpful sites. (Two caveats: Children should use the ideas they find on the Web only as a starting place for their own questions, and parents will, of course, want to supervise their child’s tour of the Internet.)

A virtual clearinghouse of science references for kids, the Science Fair Resource Center of the Internet Public Library ( is a great place to begin. The IPL divides its Web resources into four categories: understanding the scientific method, guidance for choosing a topic, resources and Ask an Expert, and tips and tricks for displaying the finished project. The Ask an Expert links are especially handy, offering students the chance to have science questions answered directly by expert researchers. Elsewhere on this site, kids can find Web addresses for online encyclopedias and reference books. One drawback is that there are a number of broken links, particularly those to schools. Still, there are so many resources here it’s hard to go wrong.

For younger elementary schoolchildren, Thinking Fountain (, created by the Science Museum of Minnesota, lives up to its name. At this site kids can follow the thought processes involved in performing simple experiments, aided by illustrations and kid-friendly flow charts that should stimulate their own questions. The site, which is constantly changing, currently invites kids to grow their own mold, visit a gallery of mold images, and then make a surprise connection between mold and antibiotics. Click on the site’s index of ideas for more experiments and activities that could inspire science fair projects. Kids are invited to do the experiments themselves and send in photos of the results. The Mind Maps button lets children plot out the connections they uncover while doing these activities. Looking for a guide to children’s science books? Follow “Theme Clusters” to “Books You Can Use.”

At Bunsen Bob’s Science Hunt (, sponsored by the Hunt Corporation, project ideas and information are divided into age groups (click on the appropriate flask). The site’s easily navigated features include some good display advice (no surprise here: Hunt makes X-acto knives, poster board, and pens) as well as links to Internet suppliers of laboratory equipment and materials. The “Plan your Time” essay should be read by all kids and parents about to plunge into the world of science fairs. Under “Step by Step,” students will find a succinct review of the scientific method and some guidance on how to avoid plagiarism (and how to survive overeager parents).

Billed as the “ultimate science fair resource,” ( features an excellent online research department — an extensive gathering of links to Web sites on biology, computer science, chemistry, physics, geology, and psychology. The Idea Exchange (click on the Idea Bank to get there) is just that: a place for kids to share their ideas and scientific triumphs. Many of the kids describe how they came up with their projects and some give brief accounts of their experiments. Most also give their grade level, which is a help to children trying to figure out what sort of experiments are feasible at their age. For example, one girl recounts a fourth-grade project based on the question, “Whose mouth is cleaner, a dog’s mouth or a human’s mouth?” A boy writes about swabbing his own feet to test for fungus growth, and another investigates (with the help of a hair dryer) whether temperature affects the sound of musical instruments.

The Kids National Agricultural Library ( is a storehouse of ideas for projects related to the environment, animals, food, and nutrition, as well as general science. Children will find not just Internet links but also lists of useful science articles and books, including biographies of scientists written for children. The site’s video library offers selections on topics such as cell structure, biotechnology, anatomy, and dissection; using the call number provided, kids can borrow these from their local libraries through the interlibrary loan system. Links, addresses, and the phone numbers of scientific supplies manufacturers are also listed here.

Finally, kids can find inspiration from Yes Mag (, Canada’s science magazine for children. The magazine’s Web version includes archives of projects — a geodesic dome clubhouse, experiments with crystals, mummy making (which does not involve anything dead), and crafting a robotic arm, among many others. At the Ask Jude page, the magazine’s editor answers kids’ science questions (new ones are posted each week), and kids review the latest science books written for children. Clicking on the Beyond Yes Mag link leads to other interesting kid-science sites.

(3) “Study Finds Connection Between Video Game Skill, Surgical Ability”

Source: (CBS affiliate) – 9 April 2004


All those years on the couch playing Nintendo and PlayStation appear to be paying off for surgeons.

Researchers found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.

“I use the same hand-eye coordination to play video games as I use for surgery,” said Dr. James “Butch” Rosser, 49, who demonstrated the results of his study Tuesday at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Laparoscopic surgery — using a tiny camera and instruments controlled by joysticks outside the body — is performed on just about any part of the body, from an appendix to the colon and gall bladder.

The minimally intrusive surgery involves making tiny keyhole incisions, inserting a mini-video camera that sends images to an external video screen, with the surgical tools remote-controlled by the surgeon watching the screen. Surgeons can now practice their techniques through video simulations.

Rosser said the skill needed for laparoscopic surgery is “like tying your shoelaces with 3-foot-long chopsticks.”

“Yes, here we go!” said Rosser, sitting in front of a Super Monkey Ball game, which shoots a ball into a confined goal. “This is a nice, wholesome game. No blood and guts. But I need the same kind of skill to go into a body and sew two pieces of intestine together.”

The study on whether good video game skills translate into surgical prowess was done by researchers with Beth Israel and the National Institute on Media and the Family at Iowa State University. It was based on testing 33 fellow doctors — 12 attending physicians and 21 medical school residents who participated from May to August 2003.

Each doctor completed three video game tasks that tested such factors as motor skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination.

The study “landmarks the arrival of Generation X into medicine,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Paul J. Lynch, a Beth Israel anesthesiologist who has studied the effects of video games for years.

Kurt Squire, a University of Wisconsin researcher of video game effects on learning, said that “with a video game, you can definitely develop timing and a sense of touch, as well as a very intuitive feel for manipulating devices.”

Squire, who was not involved in Rosser’s project, said applying such games to surgery training “could play a key role in preparing medical health professionals.”

Beth Israel is now experimenting with applying the findings.

Rosser has developed a course called Top Gun, in which surgical trainees warm up their coordination, agility and accuracy with a video game before entering the operating room.

“It’s like a good football player,” Rosser said, “you have to warm up first.”

(4) “Georgia Reaches Out to Japan for Math-Curriculum Model” by Michelle Galley

Source:  Education Week – 17 March 2004


When teams of Georgia educators met to discuss how best to revise math education in their state, they agreed to look east for inspiration – the Far East, that is. Obscured by all the debate over the state’s proposed science and history standards are ones for mathematics that have been injected with a healthy dose of Asian influence.

Because students in Japan ranked high “fourth” on the Third International Mathematics and Science Survey, a test that was administered in 38 nations in 2001, the educators decided to base Georgia’s new math standards on that country’s system.

Georgia educators found the Japanese curriculum model appealing for its coherence, said Carolyn Baldree, a mathematics education program specialist with the state education department. Instead of separating algebra from chemistry and so forth, Japanese teachers introduce concepts in the same class. As students progress through the grades, their math lessons build on what they have previously learned, she explained.

In kindergarten through 4th grade, under the proposed standards, Georgia students would work on building a strong base of knowledge in basic arithmetic skills. They would start learning about proportions and percentages in 4th grade. And in the 7th and 8th grades, they would start to learn algebra and geometry, according to Ms. Baldree.

By the time students finished the 8th grade, they would have completed the equivalent of an Algebra 1 class, Ms. Baldree said. Georgia students typically complete that subject at the end of 9th grade.

High School Blend

At the high school level, subjects such as Algebra 1, geometry, and trigonometry would blend together instead of being taught in separate courses. In addition, students would learn more statistics than what is currently taught, Ms. Baldree said.

Such an “integrated,” or coherent, approach is common in other countries, according to Johnny Lott, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, in Reston, Va.

“Most countries around the world use integrated math,” Mr. Lott said. “It is not unheard of” in the United States, he said, “but it is not widely used.” For instance, he cited New York as one state where integrated math is currently being tried.

One benefit of melding concepts in math courses is that it gives students more options for solving a problem, said Mr. Lott, a professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Montana-Missoula.

“When a problem comes up, students can use the math they need to solve it, instead of saying, ‘This has to be geometry,'” he said. “Integrated math breaks down the barriers.”

Across the grades, math would have fewer standards for Georgia students to explore in depth, Ms. Baldree said.

Introducing advanced concepts in the lower grades and crafting fewer standards are the same strategies Georgia used to draft the state’s proposed content for science and social studies, both of which have come under fire.

Too Sketchy?

The state school board is scheduled to vote on all the proposed standards in June.

Even though the proposed math standards have not been as hotly debated as others, some educators in the state are concerned that they lack enough detail.

An early draft of the standards lacked “clarity about what it is you are trying to do,” said Tom Trotter, the head of the mathematics department at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta.

More specifics about the topics covered, students’ skill levels, and sample work need to be included, he said, adding that other mathematicians in the state have expressed similar concerns.

In addition, Mr. Trotter said the state education department would need to make sure that teachers were properly trained in how to use the curriculum effectively.

Teachers would have a full year to learn how to implement the proposed curriculum before actually using it, Ms. Baldree said. The curriculum and standards would be phased in over four years. Each year, teachers from different grades would receive training.

The teacher team that conceived the math standards has already revised them once in order to address critics’ concerns about clarity, Ms. Baldree said, and could do so again.

“We are open-minded,” she said, “because we want what is best for the kids of Georgia.”

(5) Links to Recent Articles of Potential Interest to COMET Readers:

(a) Divided on Connected Math” by Lee Sensenbrenner

Source: The Capital Times – 3 April 2004


(b) “Back to the Future in Mathematics Education” by Lynn Arthur Steen

Source: Education Week – 7 April 2004


(c) “Thinking Faster: Are the brain’s emotional circuits hardwired for speed?” by Steven Johnson (Subscription required to view)

Source:  Discover – May 2004