COMET • Vol. 5, No. 33 – 17 December 2004


(1) “Learning Mathematics for Teaching: Results from California’s Mathematics Professional Development Institutes” by Heather C. Hill and Deborah Loewenberg Ball

Source: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education – November 2004

URL (JRME, 11/04):

URL (Article Abstract):


Widespread agreement exists that U.S. teachers need improved mathematics knowledge for teaching. Over the past decade, policymakers have funded a range of professional development efforts designed to address this need. However, there has been little success in determining whether and when teachers develop mathematical knowledge from professional development, and if so, what features of professional development contribute to such teacher learning. This was due, in part, to a lack of measures of teachers’ content knowledge for teaching mathematics. This article attempts to fill these gaps. In it we describe an effort to evaluate California’s Mathematics Professional Development Institutes (MPDIs) using novel measures of knowledge for teaching mathematics. Our analyses showed that teachers participating in the MPDIs improved their performance on these measures during the extended summer workshop portion of their experience. This analysis also suggests that program length as measured in days in the summer workshop and workshop focus on mathematical analysis, reasoning, and communication predicted teachers’ learning.


This article is available for free download from the “Article Abstract” Web page above.

(2) “Riordan Takes a Back Seat as State Education Secretary” by Duke Helfand

Source: Los Angeles Times – 13 December 2004


This article profiles Richard Riordan, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Education Secretary.


(1) TIMSS 2003 Results

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, formerly known as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) provides reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. students compared to that of students in other countries. Offered in 1995, 1999, and 2003, TIMSS provides trend data on students’ mathematics and science achievement from an international perspective.

TIMSS is conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies. In 2003, 46 countries participated in TIMSS, at either the fourth- or the eighth-grade level, or both. A summary of some of the findings follows:

Mathematics and Science Achievement of Fourth-Graders in 2003

Comparisons of the mathematics and science achievement of fourth-graders in 2003 are made among the 25 participating countries.

*  In 2003, U.S. fourth-grade students exceeded the international averages in both mathematics and science. In mathematics, U.S. fourth-graders outperformed their peers in 13 of the other 24 participating countries, and, in science, outperformed their peers in 16 countries.

*  In 2003, fourth-graders in three countries–Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Singapore–outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in both mathematics and science, while students in 13 countries turned in lower average mathematics and science scores than U.S. students. Among the 13 countries in which students were outperformed by U.S. fourth-grade students, five countries are members of the OECD (Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Scotland)…

Mathematics and Science Achievement of Fourth-Graders Between 1995 and 2003

Comparisons of the mathematics and science achievement of fourth-graders between 1995 and 2003 are made for the 15 countries that collected data in both years.

*  No measurable changes were detected in the average mathematics and science scores of U.S. fourth-graders between 1995 and 2003. Moreover, the available data suggest that the performance of U.S. fourth-graders in both mathematics and science was lower in 2003 than in 1995 relative to the 14 other countries that participated in the studies.

*  U.S. fourth-grade girls showed no measurable change in their average performance in mathematics and science between 1995 and 2003. U.S. fourth-grade boys also showed no measurable change in their average mathematics performance, but a measurable decline in science performance over the same time period.

*  U.S. Black fourth-graders improved in both mathematics and science between 1995 and 2003. Hispanic fourth-graders showed no measurable changes in either subject, while White fourth-graders showed no measurable change in mathematics, but declined in science.

*  As a result of changes in the performance of Black and White fourth-graders, the gap in achievement between White and Black fourth-grade students in the United States narrowed between 1995 and 2003 in both mathematics and science. In addition, the gap in achievement between Black and Hispanic fourth-graders also narrowed in science over the same time period.

Mathematics and Science Achievement of Eighth-Graders in 2003

Comparisons of the mathematics and science achievement of eighth-graders in 2003 are made among the 45 participating countries.

*  In 2003, U.S. eighth-graders exceeded the international average in mathematics and science. U.S. eighth-graders outperformed their peers in 25 countries in mathematics and 32 countries in science.

*  Eighth-graders in the five Asian countries that outperformed U.S. eighth-graders in mathematics in 2003–Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Korea, and Singapore–also outperformed U.S. eighth-graders in science in 2003, with eighth-graders in Estonia and Hungary performing better than U.S. students in mathematics and science as well.

Mathematics and Science Achievement of Eighth-Graders Between 1995 and 2003

Comparisons of the mathematics and science achievement of eighth-graders between 1995 and 2003 are made for the 35 countries that collected data in 2003 and at least one prior year, either 1995 or 1999. (Note: TIMSS did not include fourth-graders in its 1999 assessment.)

*  U.S. eighth-graders improved their average mathematics and science performances in 2003 compared to 1995. Moreover, the data suggest that the performance of U.S. eighth-graders in both mathematics and science was higher in 2003 than it was in 1995 relative to the 21 other countries that participated in the studies.

*  U.S. eighth-grade boys and girls, and U.S. eighth-grade Blacks and Hispanics improved their mathematics and science performances from 1995. As a result, the gap in achievement between White and Black eighth-graders narrowed in both mathematics and science over this time period.

The full version of the report from which these findings are taken, “Highlights from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003,” is available for browsing or downloading at

A paper entitled “Comparing NAEP, TIMSS and PISA Results in Mathematics and Science” is available for download at

(2) Bill Schmidt Interview on TIMSS 2003–National Public Radio

Source:  Renee Hill via Annette Kitigawa


National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Bill Schmidt on the December 15 “Morning Edition” about the TIMSS results.  Schmidt, who directed TIMSS 1999, believes that “one factor perpetuating the poor performance of U.S. students is that their curriculum demands less from them.” You can hear the audio, view sample questions from TIMSS 2003, download a graph of mathematics and science scores, and link to the TIMSS Web site from the above Web page.

(3) “English Plus Math Book Equals 2 Birds with 1 Stone” by Yomiuri Shumbun

Source: Daily Yomiuri – 15 December 2004


Next spring, a Tokyo-based publishing company will publish the country’s first math textbook for primary school use written entirely in English, a trend in which the book company sees a profitable future.

As the country experiments with beginning English education in primary school in so-called special education zones–school districts that are designated to operate outside Education, Science and Technology Ministry guidelines–as well as teaching subjects such as math and science using English, Gakko Tosho Co. feels confident in its decision to publish the book.

“We’re making an early investment in the anticipated increase in primary schools introducing English into the classroom,” a company spokesman said. “We expect the demand will grow.”

The publisher will be printing an English version of its Japanese math textbook series, which has an almost 13 percent market share.

First-graders will use a single volume, while students from second grade onward will use two-volume sets each year…

The book will not be offered as an official textbook, and will instead be sold at regular booksellers, with the company aiming to line the shelves of bookstores by March so they may be put into practical use by the new school year that begins in April.

The translator of the text, Chuo University professor of mathematics education Michimasa Kobayashi, said he struggled with certain aspects, such as how to translate words such as “ohajiki” (a small disk made of glass, shell or plastic resembling a tiddlywink) of which there are only vague English equivalents, and how to use the simplest English possible and still successfully teach the subject.

“A unique aspect of the Gakko Tosho texts are that they feature images of children and easily accessible dialogue that give the kids hints (about how to solve problems). I tried to keep that in mind (while was translating the book),” Kobayashi said.

Gakko Tosho, which is at the forefront of creating such textbooks, has been promoting its book to English immersion primary schools, which use English to teach every subject except Japanese, and special English education zones, in which the international language is being aggressively introduced into primary schools.

In Ota, at Gunma Prefecture’s Gunma Kokusai Academy, a combined immersion primary, middle and high school, is looking to the future.

“We have already been preparing materials translated by our staff for use at our school, but if the contents of the (Gakko Tosho) books look good, we would consider using them,” a school official said.

According to the ministry, there are currently more than 40 local governments that have been designated as special education zones.

While Gakko Tosho predicts a large increase in such schools, an official in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, where primary schools began introducing an English curriculum this school year after receiving authorization as a special zone, has expressed skepticism about the scope of such education.

“It’s a bit presumptuous,” he said, “to assume that every public school would adopt (such a curriculum).”

According to Gakko Tosho, the original plan had been to translate the mathematics textbook and publish the book as a research resource for U.S. educators.

The company explained the United States holds Japan’s education system, with its rigid adherence to the fundamentals, in high regard, and there is strong interest in Japanese textbooks.

“If an English textbook is used to review mathematics lessons (taught in Japanese), it’s like killing two birds with one stone. It’s possible to learn English through mathematics,” Gakko Tosho editor Katsuaki Serizawa said…

(4) “Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: The Role of Reforming Instructional Practices” by Harold Wenglinsky

Source: The Education Policy Analysis Archives – November 2004



No Child Left Behind calls for schools to close the achievement gap between races in math and reading. One possible way for schools to do so is to encourage their teachers to engage in practices that disproportionately benefit their minority students. The current study applies the technique of Hierarchical Linear Modeling to a nationally representative sample of 13,000 fourth graders who took the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress in mathematics to identify instructional practices that reduce the achievement gap. It finds that, even when taking student background into account, various instructional practices can make a substantial difference.

Citation: Wenglinsky, H. (2004, November 23) Closing the racial achievement gap: The role of reforming instructional practices. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12(64). Retrieved [date] from


The following is an excerpt from the “Conclusions” section of Wenglinsky’s paper:

…Thus, the first conclusion is that instructional practices can affect the within-school achievement gap but not the between-school achievement gap. At a given school, depending upon what practices to which they are exposed, minority students will either keep

up with their white peers or fall behind. This can be construed as a positive message in that schools really do have power; by emphasizing certain forms of instruction, school administrators can indeed succeed at closing the racial achievement gap in their schools.

The flip side of the coin, however, is that a poor set of choices can either perpetuate or even worsen the achievement gap in a school, the black and Latino students falling behind year after year because the school does not know how to reach them. Second, the specific practices that seem to make the most difference are in specific topic areas. African American students appear to be particularly weak in measurement and estimation, and Latino students in issues around working with data. The other side of this coin is that school administrators need to redouble their efforts to provide solid instruction in these areas. The bulk of class time for fourth graders goes to numbers and operations. Yet teachers emphasizing these most basic topics is of no benefit to any demographic group. Instead, teachers need to spend more time on the topics they now spend the least time on, including geometry as well, insofar as that topic seems to benefit fourth graders across the board. Also, while it is not a race-specific finding, it should be emphasized here that the amount of time teachers devote to math is very important. With all of the emphasis in the early grades on reading, mathematics can fall through the cracks to some extent. Those teachers who are devoting below average amounts of time to math (less than 2.5 hours) would be well-advised to increase the amount of time…