COMET • Vol. 6, No. 14 – 6 May 2005


(1) Schools Chief O’Connell Recognizes California’s Teachers on California Day of the Teacher

Source: California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell extends his appreciation to the state’s more than 300,000 teachers as they are honored on Wednesday, May 11–the California Day of the Teacher.

“Through our outstanding teachers, we stand committed to giving every student every opportunity to succeed inside and outside the classroom,” said O’Connell, a former teacher who returned last month to the classroom to teach a high school government class for a week in San Diego.

“Teaching is a tough profession, one that takes skill, determination, patience, and a tremendous amount of energy,” he said. “We demand more of our teachers every year, and on California Day of the Teacher I ask that their worthy efforts be recognized by the students, families, and communities they serve.”

The Association of Mexican American Educators, Inc. (AMAE) and the California Teachers Association (CTA) are co-sponsors of the California Day of the Teacher that originated from Senate Bill 1546 authored by former Senator Joseph Montoya (D-El Monte) more than 20 years ago. The legislation was based on the Mexican and Latin American “el Dia del Maestro” festivities that are held in honor of teachers.

The AMAE has chosen as its 2005 theme: Education, Culture, and Heritage.

The CTA 2005 theme is: California Teachers: Where Excellence Begins.

(2) Governor Schwarzenegger Appoints Alan Bersin Secretary for Education

Source:  Office of the Governor – 29 April 2005

“Alan is a reformer and the perfect choice for secretary for education at this critical time for education in our state. He is a great leader with the tremendous qualifications necessary to guide our efforts to make sure California’s kids get a quality education,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “He is a big believer in standards and accountability in schools. He wants to use school performance reports in the most productive way for our kids and teachers, including more professional development and more resources where needed. This is the kind of vision I was looking for in my new secretary of education and I know Alan will do a fantastic job for California’s kids.”

Bersin has served as superintendent of public education for San Diego City Schools since 1998, where he launched a reorganization of the district designed to focus its resources strategically on instruction. From 2000 to 2003 he served as a member (two years as chair) of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing…

“I share Governor Schwarzenegger’s commitment to turn around California’s failing schools and provide the tools and resources necessary to deliver the best possible education to every California child and the best training to every California teacher,” said Bersin. “I look forward to using my background and expertise in education to serve alongside the Governor as secretary for education.”

Bersin, 58, of San Diego, earned a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. He also studied at Balliol College at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Secretary for education does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $123,255. Members of the State Board of Education must be confirmed by the Senate. (Bersin is a Democrat.)

Bersin will assume office as secretary for education on July 1, 2005, at the conclusion of his term as superintendent of San Diego City Schools. He will immediately begin serving on the State Board of Education.

(3) “Union Attacks Education Secretary Choice” by Michael R. Blood

SourceSan Mateo Daily Journal – 30 April 2005

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the superintendent of San Diego schools Friday [April 29] to be state education secretary, a pick that alarmed the teachers union and signaled continued friction between the governor and organized labor…

“I’m not a governor that represents the unions–I represent the people,” the governor said, when asked about his strained relations with the union. “They are against the reforms that we want.”

In Bersin, Schwarzenegger found an ally whose record suggests a willingness to confront organized labor, which has been feuding with the governor over school funding and other issues.

Bersin, who has led San Diego schools since 1998, pushed reforms that caused division in the district. He emphasized literacy and math skills, hired highly paid consultants and increased teacher training.

Test scores went up, but some parents and teachers said the improvements came at the cost of arts, music and other elective programs.

Bersin said he wanted to win teacher support for change, but added, “I think its very important we find common ground…based on what kids need for their education, not what unions want for their employees.”

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, called Bersin’s appointment a “disappointment for California students and public schools.”

“During his seven-year tenure in San Diego, Alan Bersin’s top-down bureaucratic style divided the community, hurt teacher morale and failed to significantly improve student learning,” Kerr added. “He has no track record of building any kind of consensus”…

The education secretary advises the governor and promotes policies but has no authority over the Education Department, which is led by state Superintendent Jack O’Connell.

In a statement, O’Connell credited Bersin with having “a wealth of experience, a passion for education.”


(1) Systematic Failures in U.S. Math and Science Infrastructure Threaten Global Leadership

Source: Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF )

Armed with one of the most comprehensive and current review of data available, top business and higher education leaders today said that the United States’ lackluster performance in science and math has placed the country in grave danger of losing its competitive edge in the global marketplace.

The data–presented in a new report by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF)–are part of a joint effort of the business and higher education communities to objectively analyze the most recent and up-to-date information available on America’s performance in math and science education.

“The most recent data about the performance of United States students in math and science is cause for deep concern,” said William H. Swanson, Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company and Co-Chair of the BHEF ‘s Initiative on Mathematics and Science Education. “Technology is the lifeblood of our country because innovation builds prosperity and good, quality jobs for our increasingly diverse workforce. If we don’t invest in and improve student achievement in math and science, there are serious implications for the business community, the US economy and our quality of life.”

A Commitment to America ‘s Future: Responding to the Crisis in Mathematics and Science Education, warns that if current trends continue the United States will lose is preeminence in science and technology and its leadership position in innovation. Among key data cited in the report:

*  The 2004 Program for International Student Assessment showed that the problem-solving skills of American grade 10 students are significantly lower than their peers in 25 countries. Specifically, the performance of only 42 percent of U.S. students was above the lowest of the Program’s six levels of problem-solving achievement.

*  Even though the U.S. is in the midst of an undergraduate enrollment boom, enrollment rates in countries with emerging economies and populations are growing even faster at startling rates, similar to those of the United States after World War II. In China , enrollment rates are expanding at ten times the rate of the U.S. Two-thirds of all Chinese students earn math, science or engineering degrees compared to about one-third of American students.

*  The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that, over the decade ending in 2008, jobs requiring science, engineering, and technical training will increase by 51 percent, a rate four times faster than overall job growth. In addition, by 2008, some six million job openings for scientists, engineers and technicians will exist.

The report notes that the one source of American inefficiency in math and science is the lack of holistic, system-wide solutions. For example, the supply and demand statistics on math and science teachers are not encouraging. The report indicates that 260,000 to 290,000 new high school math and science teachers will be needed in the 2008 school year. Yet, even with years of advance warning, coordinated action is not being taken to recruit and retain quality teachers.

“Research repeatedly has pointed to teachers as the key to improving student achievement,” said Dennis Smith, President Emeritus, University of Nebraska and a Co-Chair of the BHEF Initiative. “To create a highly qualified teaching force, institutions of higher education must raise the preparation of mathematics and science teachers to a central role in the mission of their institutions.”

The BHEF report recommends cohesive long-term tactics to alleviate pressing systematic problems such as the teacher shortage. Specifically, the report challenges business, education, and policy leaders to commit to new and collaborative roles that will advance the development of seamless state systems of education – systems that extend from pre-kindergarten to higher education and the workplace.

“One of the most important tools recommended by the BHEF report is the establishment of state-level P-16 councils that include leaders from business, education and government. These councils, guided by the considerable existing body of work related to course content, curriculum and standards, will support school districts in implementing new and innovative strategies to improve the math and science achievement of all students,” said Warren Baker, President of California Polytechnic State University and the third co-chair of the BHEF Initiative.

The full report, A Commitment to America’s Future, can be downloaded from

(2) “Setting a Prime Number Record” by Emily Sohn

Source: Science News for Kids – 23 March 2005

[From] Science News for Kids is a relatively new Web site devoted to science news for children of ages 9 to 13.

Our goal is to offer timely items of interest to kids, accompanied by suggestions for hands-on activities, books, articles, Web resources, and other useful materials.

Our emphasis is on making the Web site appealing by offering kids opportunities to comment on the subject matter, ask questions of scientists featured in articles, try out mathematical puzzles, and submit their own work for possible Web publication. At the same time, we are interested in offering teachers creative ways of using science news in their classrooms…

Sample article: “Setting a Prime Number Record

What’s the biggest number you can think of? A billion? A trillion? A googol? (That’s 1 followed by 100 zeroes.) Whatever number you come up with, there’s always a larger one. You could write down 1 and keep adding zeroes after it until you hand gets tired, and you still wouldn’t get to the “last” number. There’s always another number right after whatever you’ve written down. Just add 1 and you’ll get a bigger number.

Certain types of numbers, though, are special. A computer search has now turned up the largest example yet found of a type known as prime numbers. The new champion is 7,816,230 digits long. If you could write 10 digits per second, it would take you more than 9 days to copy the entire number!

There are lots of different kinds of numbers and lots of ways to play with these numbers. You may have learned about whole numbers, fractions, integers, or even imaginary numbers. And you’ve probably done plenty of adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

For most people, math is just a useful set of skills that helps them count, make change, or cut cakes and pizzas into pieces of the right size or shape. For mathematicians and others, however, there’s something magical about numbers, especially those that fall into the category of prime numbers.

Prime numbers are whole numbers that can be divided evenly only by themselves and 1. One example of a prime number is 13. Only the numbers 1 and 13 divide into 13 without leaving a remainder. The number 8 is not a prime because it’s divisible by 1, 2, 4, and 8–not just 1 and 8. The first few prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and 29.

It can be really hard to tell whether a number is a prime, especially if it’s a huge number. It’s easy to check whether 13 is a prime, for example. Just divide all the numbers that come before it into 13 and make sure that none divide into 13 evenly. For a big number, even with all sorts of shortcuts that mathematicians have found over the years for doing this, it takes much, much longer to find out.

The new champion prime was found by a computer. As part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), people all over the world have donated computer time to search for primes. More than 250,000 computers are now involved, each one looking for primes whenever someone isn’t using the computer for anything else.

The record-breaking number turned up on an office computer owned by Martin Nowak, a German eye surgeon and a huge math fan. At 7,816,230 digits, it’s some 500,000 digits longer than the previous record holder. The number can also be written as 2 to the 25,964,961st power minus 1. That’s one less that 2 multiplied by itself 25,964,961 times. Try that on your calculator!

Now, computers worldwide are looking for an even bigger prime. And there’s no end in sight. There will always be a bigger one!

(3) NCES Workshop & Training Opportunities Using International Education Databases

Source: Gene Glass, American Educational Research Association List (AERA) List Editor – 24 March 2005

NCES will sponsor 2.5-day training seminars on the use of three NCES international education databases (TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS). These seminars are aimed at faculty and advanced graduate students from colleges and universities. Education researchers and policy analysts with strong statistical skills from state and local education agencies and professional associations are also welcome. There is no fee to attend this seminar if you are accepted to participate. NCES will provide training materials as well as computers for hands-on practice. NCES will also pay for transportation, hotel accommodations, and a fixed per diem for meals and incidental expenses during the training seminar.

For more information and to register, please visit

(4) High School Operations Research

URL is a project sponsored by IME-WSU (Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering Department of Wayne State University), INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences), and the NSA (National Security Agency). The project is run by Drs. Kenneth Chelst and Tom Edwards.

Since 1996, we have been developing instructional materials for use in high school mathematics classrooms. The writing team that developed these modules consisted of high school mathematics teachers directed by a mathematics teacher educator and a professor of operations research. These modules are featured in a forthcoming Fairfax County Public School system/INFORMS video. They are regularly used in workshops for high school math teachers at the INFORMS National Meeting, at NCTM conferences and at some regional workshops.

Each module develops secondary mathematics concepts in real-world contexts drawn from the field of operations research. These applications span the spectrum of organizations: from Bethlehem Steel to Ponderosa Plywood of Mexico, from Hertz to HP, from routing Meals-on-Wheels to routing Special Ed school buses. Organizations around the globe use decision making aids that build on the basic math concepts that all high school students study in algebra and many see in an introductory probability or discrete mathematics course. The modules on this website translate these examples into teacher friendly material that can be brought directly into the classroom to be read and worked on by students. They are aligned with NCTM’s Principles and Standards. You can download a module from the Modules’ page.

To learn more about operations research, visit

(5) MathWorld, An Interactive Mathematics Encyclopedia

Source: Wolfram Research, Inc.

[From]  MathWorld is the web’s most complete mathematical resource, assembled over more than a decade by internet encyclopedist Eric W. Weisstein with assistance from the mathematics and internet communities.

MathWorld is a comprehensive and interactive mathematics encyclopedia intended for students, educators, math enthusiasts, and researchers. Like the vibrant and constantly evolving discipline of mathematics, this site is continuously updated to include new material and incorporate new discoveries.

Although it is often difficult to find explanations for technical subjects that are both clear and accessible, this website bridges the gap by placing an interlinked framework of mathematical exposition and illustrative examples at the fingertips of every internet user.

If you find MathWorld useful, you may also be interested in the author’s ScienceWorld site, which contains topically similar material about astronomy, scientific biography, chemistry, and physics, and the author’s encyclopedias under development, which contain information on scientific books, music theory, and the Game of Life cellular automaton.