COMET • Vol. 6, No. 19 – 10 June 2005


(1) Single Subject Program Standards Review Panelists Sought

Source: Helen Hawley, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) – (916) 445-8778  – – Fax: (916) 324-8927

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing  is seeking qualified subject matter educators to review proposals for undergraduate teacher preparation programs in the following areas:  mathematics, science, social science, English, languages other than English, art, music, and physical education. (Reviewers are especially needed in the areas of mathematics, science, and social science.)

Interested parties should respond by submitting a current resume and the following nomination form via fax or email to Helen Hawley:    Panelists must have academic background (i.e., at least a bachelor’s degree) and teaching experience in the content area(s) they wish to review. They must also be familiar with California’s K-12 academic content standards for any area they wish to review.

For more information, please contact Helen Hawley (information above).

(2) Follow-up Report:  MSRI Workshop–Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (K-8): Why, What and How?


On May 25-28, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) held the second conference in its series, “Critical Issues in Mathematics Education” at the Asilomar Conference Grounds.

One of the major goals of the workshop was to foster productive partnerships among research mathematicians, mathematics educators, educational researchers, teachers of school mathematics, and policymakers that will support them in their efforts.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the MSRI conference,” said Cathy Kersten, a teacher from Madera Unified School District. “What an incredible gathering of interesting and intelligent people!  I am still mulling over the discussion points and questions raised, and I believe I will be for quite some time.  I look forward to hearing more as researchers continue to grapple with the central questions regarding what teachers need to know (in both content knowledge and teaching practices) and how we can measure that.”

The workshop schedule can be downloaded at   Streaming video of workshop sessions should be available within a month at


(1) CBS Crime Drama NUMB3RS Renewed for 2005-2006 Season

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

The large turnout by NCTM conference attendees in Anaheim for a sneak preview of the new crime show NUMB3RS revealed their enthusiasm for the series starring a math genius who helps the FBI solve its most puzzling crimes.

Many of the first season’s episodes were based on actual crimes in which real mathematicians had assisted detectives in solving the cases.

NUMB3RS recently received a thumbs up for a second season. NUMB3RS will air on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT (9 p.m. CT) beginning in September.

The creators of the show, husband-and-wife team Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, aim to entertain, but also to educate viewers about such topics as data analysis, probability, inverse modeling, and combinatorics.

The show’s math consultant, Caltech’s Gary Lorden, says that the show illustrates that math is everywhere. “It’s Wall Street, government agencies, Microsoft. Most of what goes on in the Internet, such as the way Google works, is applied mathematics,” says Lorden. One of the things Lorden tells his students is that many former math majors currently work in fields like economics, electrical engineering, and biology–or work for Wall Street and financial industries or computer hardware and software companies.

The creators of NUMB3RS insist that all the mathematics be real and relevant to the situation at hand, something that’s not always the case when math hits the big screen.

NUMB3RS is an exciting vehicle for promoting a positive image of mathematics to students, colleagues, and the viewing public. The show’s creators hope that students will see math as hip, and something that they can actually use in their lives.

(2) Math Goodies Web Site

Source: Gisele Glosser

Math Goodies is a free math help site with more than 400 pages of activities for students, educators and parents. The site offers interactive lessons, puzzles, worksheets and more. The unique instructional design of the self-paced lessons makes them well-suited for all types of learners. Math Goodies is a pioneer of free online homework help. Since 1999 volunteer educators have helped students in the moderated forums. The Math Goodies website has received a number of positive reviews by the media.

(3) Mathematics Professional Development Leadership Institute

Source: Cathy Carroll –

The quality of professional development depends on the preparation of its leaders. How are leaders being prepared to take on this important and challenging work?   The Leadership Curriculum for Mathematics Professional Development (LCMPD), an NSF-funded project at WestEd, is taking on this challenge.  This project builds on WestEd’s expertise in mathematics professional development and in facilitating teacher leadership.

LCMPD is sponsoring a leadership institute on September 13-16 in Denver, CO. Mathematics professional development leaders will utilize videocases to examine leadership practices, identify key issues, and develop a repertoire of approaches and strategies for addressing these–critically analyzing the outcomes of various facilitator moves in different situations.  For more information, see

(4) Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers (PMET) Summer Workshops

Source: Mathematical Association of America and Magnhild Lien, PMET Workshop Leader (

A growing set of national reports calls for better preparation of the nation’s mathematics teachers by mathematics faculty. To help meet this need, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has a multi-dimensional program: Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers (PMET).

The central activity of PMET is an extensive series of workshops for college and university faculty. This summer, PMET is offering eight new workshops for faculty who teach mathematics courses taken by prospective teachers. Each workshop will focus on preparing teachers for elementary, middle and/or secondary school mathematics. Participants will examine how pre-service teachers learn mathematics, make sense of mathematical ideas and how they integrate their knowledge of mathematics into their thinking about teaching. Participants will also have opportunities to share ideas, discuss and learn more about appropriate content and effective ways of helping pre-service teachers learn mathematics. They will explore specific topics such as the use of technology and teaching statistics.

See for details about PMET. In addition, provides links to the Web sites for all workshops offered this summer. Faculty in California who are particularly interested in the preparation of high school mathematics teachers may want to attend the San Diego PMET workshop on June 20-July 1 (see or the Park City (Utah) Mathematics Institute on July 10 – 16, 2005 (see

(5) National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) – 2006 Conference Proposal Deadline Extended

Source: David McKillop; 2006 Program Chair

The deadline for submissions for presentations at the NCSM Conference in April 2006 in St. Louis has been extended to Monday, June 27, 2005.

Please seriously consider making a proposal to share your experiences and ideas with your peers in mathematics leadership positions. Leaders in mathematics education from individual schools and districts attend NCSM conferences, as do mentors, consultants, supervisors, and higher education faculty members. All are looking for ideas and proven experiences. Detailed information is available at the following Web site:

(6) Transcript of Online Discussion–NSF and ED Math and Science Partnership Programs

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education
URL (transcript):

The May 24 issue of COMET included an announcement for an online discussion entitled, “How Can Universities Improve Schoolteachers in Math and Science?” (see A primary focus of the discussion was the shift of funds supporting the Math and Science Partnership program from the National Science Foundation to the U.S. Department of Education. A transcript is now available at of this online discussion with guest Gordon A. Kingsley (Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where his teaching and research focus on science and technology policy and organizational theory). A portion of the transcript of this discussion appears below:

…Question from Jeffrey Brainard, Moderator:

Gordon, let’s start with a basic overview. The Math and Science Partnership programs are a federal effort to encourage university faculty members in departments of mathematics and science to work with school teachers to improve instruction in those areas. Colleges have long been involved in various programs like these–to develop new school curricula, for example. What’s different and important about these new efforts?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

The key differences associated with the NSF MSP is that the incentives aimed at promoting a partnership between higher education and K-12 faculty are much larger. This means that the partnerships have a fairly high profile in institutional terms. By fostering direct communication between teachers and professors of math and science the goal is to strengthen the content knowledge of K-12 teachers. A second goal in fostering this community there is that the higher education faculty will learn lessons of instruction from K-12 faculty and bring those lessons back to the university. In this way the MSPs are aimed at fostering a two-way flow of communication.

The Department of Education is not quite as ambitious in terms of the scope of any one intervention, but it is trying to create numerous smaller scale partnerships. A key difference in the Department of Education’s MSP program is the emphasis on randomized control trials as a preferred evaluation method. Here the intent is to establish a basis for assessing the impacts of either the partnership or the programmatic interventions provided through the partnership.


Question from Francis E. Gardner, Jr. Ph.D, Columbus State University:

A significant amount of research indicates that teachers teach the way they are taught. Most science and math instruction that teachers receive is from disciplinary practitioners. Since education is basically within the behavioral science realm shouldn’t science faculty teaching courses for teachers in math and science be knowledgeable about such topics as appropriate methods of pedagogy, the nature of the learner, behavioral assessment methods, K-12 curriculum, NSES, etc.? If they aren’t, shouldn’t they be partnered with educators and behavioral scientists who are? A related question is whether education faculty should be independently offering disciplinary instruction in which they have little or no knowledge, education, or experience in that specific content area? How much content background is necessary to qualify one to instruct pre-service teachers?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

One of the interesting aspects of the math science partnerships being promoted by NSF, and to a somewhat lesser extent by the Department of Education, is the desire for the partnership to influence the behavior of the higher education institutions. There is a fair amount of research that suggests that K-12 teachers who have stronger preparation in math and science content are more effective in presenting math and science curricula. And both forms of MSPs seek to encourage this content development. However, there is also this desire for the higher education institutions and faculty to become better teachers. An observation that underlies this desire is that teachers, at least in the early stages of their career, tend to mimic the ways in which they were taught. This has contributed to the NSF being very explicit in wanting for higher education faculty to become better teachers. The hope is that K-12 institutions might have something valuable to offer higher education in this regards.


Question from Frank Sutman, Stockton College of New Jersey:

In general do universities and their faculty model the approach to instruction that research has shown can begin to change how school level instruction should occur,especially in science and mathematics?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

No. In my experience universities are not very aware of advances in pedagogy and learning. Most of us learned to teach on-the-job with little or no instruction in how to be a teacher. This is especially true in science and mathematics.


Question from Lynn Elfner, The Ohio Academy of Science:

As a representative of the science community that depends on peer review to assure quality, what assurances can you give us that the Dept. of Educ. program will come anywhere close to the standards of peer review practiced by NSF and accepted by the science community at large? Isn’t a program to improve schools run by the Dept of Educ like a henhouse guarded by a fox?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

Since I’m not a representative of the Department of Education, I can give no assurances. I do know that the Department is encouraging state programs to use randomized control trials as the preferred method for evaluating Department of Education Math Science Partnerships. States are also being advised that for most trials 60 teachers and their classes should be included in the study (30 in the treatment group and 30 in the control group). They have also noted that this type of evaluation can be done inexpensively (in the $50k to $75k range). Since most state MSP grants are pretty small I’m not sure how many of the sites will engage a sufficient number of teachers and classes. Perhaps the plan is to do an evaluation across several sites. One of the interesting contrasts here is that NSF is the most directive in the early stages of the proposal/project process using peer reviews as a form of quality control. The Department of Education is being more directive on the back end of the proposal/project process in an effort to determine impact. I suspect the Department of Education approach reflects pressures for accountability that extend beyond the science community. It will be interesting to see how effective this approach to evaluation will be.


Question from Jeffrey Brainard, Moderator:

Following up on that last question, federal funding for the Math and Science Partnerships run by the National Science Foundation has declined, leaving no money to start new projects. Meanwhile, President Bush wants to continue to increase funding for partnerships offered through the Education Department. Some people see that pattern of funding as problematic. Do you? Don’t the existing NSF projects represent a sufficient base to develop and study new approaches for getting universities and schools to work together? Won’t the Education Department projects yield some of the same insights?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

One of the big questions associate with MSP grants is how important is the role of the partnership for affecting change. NSF and the Department of Education are pursuing very different policies with regards to the partnership. In the NSF model the partnership plays a critical role in delivering the program and in fostering a climate to support institutional change. In the Department of Education model the partnerships are smaller and less invasive, but there are more of them scattered across a state. So which is more likely to produce changes? What will be the nature of the changes (if any)? And how sustainable are these changes? We have a bit of a natural experiment going on between the two approaches…


Question from Christopher D., Creason Perry High School:

How do we as teacher become involved in the discussion with these researchers on a one to one basis? When does my 34 years in the classroom, field experience, become a part of educational research?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

This is such an important point. For too long the communication pattern between K-12 and higher education has been in one direction. Faculty from higher education institutions are brought in for professional development or to instill new curricula. As such, they assume an instructional mode of interacting with teachers. NSF likes to use the term “learning community” as a goal to be fostered within the MSPs. By this they mean that the direction of communication should go both ways. If you are involved in one of these MSPs you should take advantage of every opportunity to remind other participants that the key term is partnership. Unfortunately the institutional and cultural norms that have historically have governed the interactions of K-12 faculty with higher education faculty have tended not to foster partnerships.


Question from Shaileen Pokress, TERC:

Some of the NSF MSPs are now well established in their work. With the formative assessment that is happening, it seems that there ought to be some signs of the success of these programs, at least at some intermediate stage. Can you comment on the outcomes that have been seen so far from the NSF MSP program and any changes in direction for those that have taken their results and applied them in a formative way? Can’t these results be used to sway the federal government as they distribute funding?

Gordon A. Kingsley:

I’m not in a good position to answer this question because I don’t get to see the formative assessments. However, this September there is a conference being held where a good deal of the formative evidence will be shared with the MSP community. Some of the early indicators the I have seen through MSPnet (the on-line backbone of the NSF MSP community) seem to be positive.

I guess I’m skeptical whether these indicators are likely to be persuasive with regards to a restoration of the monies. The current climate seems to be in favor of DoEd’s approach using randomized control trials.

(7) “Focus on Schools Helps Finns Build a Showcase Nation” by Robert G. Kaiser

Source: The Washington Post – 24 May 2005

…Superb schools symbolize the modern transformation of Finland, a poor and agrarian nation half a century ago, and today one of the world’s most prosperous, modern and adaptable countries.

Finland finishes first in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams that test 15-year-olds in all of the world’s industrial democracies. Finland also finishes at or near the top in many global comparisons of economic competitiveness: Internet usage, environmental practices and more. Finland, where the modern cell phone was largely invented, has more cell phones per capita than any other nation–nearly 85 per 100 citizens.

As recently as the 1970s, Finland required that children attend school for just six years and the education system here was nothing special. But new laws supported by substantial government spending created, in barely 20 years, a system that graduates nearly every young person from vocational or high school, and sends nearly half of them on to higher education. At every level, the schooling is rigorous, and free.

“The key,” said Pekka Himanen, 31, a renowned scholar with a PhD in philosophy (earned at age 20) who is a kind of guru of information-age Finland, “isn’t how much is invested, it’s the people. The high quality of Finnish education depends on the high quality of Finnish teachers. You need to have a college-level degree to run a kindergarten. You need a master’s-level degree to teach at a primary school. Many of the best students want to be teachers. This is linked to the fact that we really believe we live in an information age, so it is respected to be in such a key information profession as teaching”…

“The teachers did it” is pretty much the universal answer to questions about Finland’s educational successes. Seppo Heikkinen, 45, a producer of educational programs for the Finnish Broadcasting Co. and a member of the governing board of the Arabia school, credits “the professional level of the teachers,” who are “highly motivated”…

The Finns long ago decided that 7 is the right age to begin school, so in every grade the children are a year older than they would be in the United States. Six-year-olds have kindergarten (and a high percentage of Finnish youngsters come to school from state-run day-care centers, which are also generously staffed and supported). But according to Raili Rapila, a kindergarten teacher at Arabia, there is no pressure to begin reading before the first grade. Three of 10 in her class are readers, she said, but all 10 love to be read to, and are often, every day. “Social skills and learning to play are more important than reading” for the 6-year-olds, she said…

Another [difference from U.S. schools] is the general absence of testing. According to Karkkainen, the principal, apart from the PISA exams, her students face math tests at the end of fifth, eighth and ninth grades, and a test in chemistry and physics at the end of eighth grade. That’s it. “And there are no bad consequences,” for student or school, if the results are not good.

Interestingly, given the overall success of Finnish education and Finns’ pride in it, state spending on schools is actually declining. Karkkainen has had to cut her school’s spending 4 percent this year. “The number of old people is growing all the time,” she said, causing a drain on the Finnish welfare state. “So there is not enough money for schools.”

But it is difficult to imagine that Finns would allow their schools to fall very far now that they have achieved such excellence. Education is part of what Himanen calls “the Finnish national project,” the country’s determined effort to make a comfortable place for itself in the modern world…

(8) Nomination Process Still Open for American Stars of Teaching

Source: No Child Left Behind “Extra Credit” (U.S. Department of Education) – 24 May 2005

It is not too late to nominate a teacher to be an American Star of Teaching.  The U.S. Department of Education is still seeking nominations for its second annual American Stars of Teaching project, which recognizes outstanding teachers.  So far over 850 nominations have been received.

The American Stars of Teaching project is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s continuing effort to focus attention on exemplary classroom teachers who are successful in using innovative teaching strategies and raising student academic achievement for all of their students.  Teachers across all grade levels and disciplines will be honored this fall as 2005 American Stars of Teaching.  These teachers will be highlighted as representatives of the thousands of teachers who are making a difference in the lives of their students.

One teacher, or team of teachers from a school, will be recognized in every state and the District of Columbia.  Parents, students, colleagues, school administrators or others can nominate a teacher who they believe has the qualities to be an American Star of Teaching.

To nominate a teacher, please visit:

Profiles of four of last year’s American Stars of Teaching were featured in the Department’s Feb. 1 issue of The Achiever, which is available online at

A complete listing of the 2004 American Stars of Teaching is available online at

The American Stars of Teaching project is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which includes teacher and principal roundtables, teacher workshops and conferences, regular e-mail updates, and a free-of-charge, online professional development tool.  More information is available online at