COMET • Vol. 8, No. 12 – 15 April 2007


(1) Online Newsletter for Elementary School Mathematics Teachers

Source: Sandra Sincek – Elementary Mathematics Project Specialist, San Diego County Office of Education –

The Mathematics Unit of the San Diego County Office of Education produces an informative newsletter that is available online at the above Web site. The current issue is available for download from   Additional mathematics-related information is also available on the Mathematics Unit Web site at


(2) UCLA Mathematics Department Receives Award

Source: American Mathematical Society – 9 April 2007

Earlier this month, the American Mathematical Society announced that it had chosen the Mathematics Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, as the 2007 recipient of the Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. UCLA is the second mathematics department in the U.S. to receive this award. The citation states that “the mathematics community is fortunate to have UCLA present such an outstanding example of an exemplary program in a mathematics department.”

Established in 2004, the award recognizes a mathematics department that has distinguished itself by undertaking an unusual or particularly effective program of value to the mathematics community, internally or in relation to the rest of society. Departments of mathematical sciences in North America that offer at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences are eligible.

The UCLA Mathematics Department has created a comprehensive vision for its undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral training programs that involves important interactions with the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) at UCLA, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through these unusually large training programs, UCLA has become one of the biggest pipelines to mathematical careers in the United States. The department won a grant from the NSF’s innovative VIGRE program (Vertical Integration for Research and Education) in 2000 and again in 2005…

The UCLA Mathematics Department also has a substantial program to improve precollege mathematics education. It is the headquarters for the California Mathematics Project, a statewide effort to mount professional development institutes for math teachers. CMP has 19 regional sites around the state, including at UCLA. The department is also involved in several other K-12 teaching efforts…



(1) The National Curve Bank Announces Annual Renie Award

Source: Shirley Gray – Dept. of Mathematics; California State University, Los Angeles

On March 31, the anniversary of René Descartes’ birthday, the Advisory Board of the National Curve Bank Project announced the fifth annual Renie Award for best Bank deposit of 2006: “In his interactive vector models, Dr. Tevian Dray of Oregon State University recognizes the stellar contributions of Hamilton, Maxwell and Gibbs. Thus, he represents mathematics from Ireland, Scotland and the United States.”  Visit to view Dray’s contribution.

The National Curve Bank was recently profiled in the journal Science (published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS):

“The National Curve Bank, hosted by two mathematicians and a computer scientist at California State University, Los Angeles, is a hall of fame for geometrical figures. The more than 60 pages–many contributed by site visitors–explore curves that have vexed and intrigued mathematicians, such as the conchoid of Nicomedes, a shell-like shape developed in the 3rd century B.C.E. (, and the familiar Möbius strip… The features also offer historical background about the discoverer and include animations or Java applets.”


(2) Nine States Join Forces to Launch Algebra II Test–Common Assessment Represents New Model For Multi-State Efforts to Improve High Schools

Source: Achieve – 10 April 2007

A consortium of nine states has joined forces to launch a new, common student assessment in Algebra II, marking the largest effort a group of states has ever undertaken to develop a common assessment based on common standards. The test represents a new model for multi-state reform efforts at a time when the overall lackluster achievement of high school students has fueled debates about the creation of national standards and extending No Child Left Behind Act to high schools.

The consortium of states includes Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The project is an initiative of the American Diploma Project (ADP) Network, a group of 29 states committed to preparing all students for college and work. ADP Network states educate nearly 60 percent of all U.S. public school students.

The ADP Network, formed by Achieve at the 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools, helps states align high school standards, assessments, curriculum and accountability with the demands of college and work. Achieve provides policy leadership, technical assistance and other support to the ADP Network states. It will assist the Algebra II test consortium of states by supporting development of the test, providing an annual report comparing the performance of participating states, and helping the states share and develop tools and strategies for improving teaching and learning in high school math.

“The states in this initiative have shown real leadership,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “By pooling their human and financial resources to create common tools, they are freeing up time and energy to focus on the additional steps necessary to improve achievement.”

The test will first be administered in May 2008, when it is projected that more than 200,000 students will participate in the assessment. The test will initially be used by the nine states that are part of the consortium, but other states, including those that are not members of the ADP Network, will be allowed to administer the test and join the partnership. The test will be used differently across states as each decides how best to phase in the new assessment over time.

“This test demonstrates the ability of states to come together to establish consistent expectations for student achievement, anchored in the real world demands students will face when they complete high school,” said Dr. Ken James, Arkansas Commissioner of Education. “The test will allow us to compare performance across states and to drive consistent rigor and content in high school Algebra II courses. Most importantly, it will help us determine what works so we can adjust both the curriculum and instruction accordingly.”

Algebra II is one of several “gatekeeper” courses in high school that research indicates can be a significant predictor of college-readiness and success. Two landmark studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education have indicated that the highest level of math taken in high school is the most powerful predictor of whether a student will ultimately earn a bachelors degree, and that students completing Algebra II in high school more than doubled their chances of earning a four-year college degree.

“Doing well on this test will signify that students are prepared to do college-level work in math, so we are exploring using this exam for college placement purposes,” said Jack Warner, Rhode Island Commissioner of Higher Education. “We are also excited about the possibility that as more students take the exam and understand the importance of Algebra II, we will reduce the need for remedial math in higher education and improve students overall ability to succeed in college.”

“Regardless of whether they choose to continue their education or enter the workforce after high school graduation, students need to know how to analyze and solve problems,” said Prudential Financial Chairman and CEO Arthur F. Ryan, co-chair of the Achieve Board of Directors. “Students who can pass a rigorous Algebra II exam will have a definite advantage in the job market and will be more likely to get jobs that pay well.”

The test is being developed and will be owned by Pearson Educational Measurement. The test will be based on standards developed by Achieve, Inc. as part of its work to create and support the ADP Network. Later this year, Achieve will release a set of guides that can be used to ensure that academic standards and instruction throughout high school are consistent with knowledge and skills required for success on the new test.


(3) Senate Support for the National Science Foundation

Source: 2 April 2007 issue of FYI, the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News

At this time of year, there is a buzz of activity on Capitol Hill as Congress receives testimony on the budget requests for federal departments and agencies, and Representatives and Senators try to secure robust funding for favored programs.  In a “Dear Colleague” letter, a Member seeks signatures of other senators or representatives on a letter to the relevant appropriators, extolling the virtues of a particular agency or program.  Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) requested signatures on a letter urging appropriators to “uphold the President’s budget request for the National Science Foundation,” which, the letter says, “is critical for our nation’s universities.”


(4) Groups Join Together to Release NCLB Recommendations

Source: National Governors Association

On April 4, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Association of State Boards of Education joined together to release recommendations for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.  The recommendations address several areas, including the further improvement of accountability through growth models and differentiated consequences, adjustments to testing of special education and limited English proficient students, and additional funding, research, technical assistance, and other supports for states and schools.  See below for the joint statement (available in its entirety at

April 4, 2007

Dear Chairman Kennedy, Senator Enzi, Chairman Miller, and Representative McKeon:

On behalf of the nation’s governors, chief state school officers, and state boards of education members, we submit the attached joint recommendations on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Like you, we believe it is critical to reauthorize NCLB as soon as possible to reaffirm our commitment to high standards and attention to student achievement, while ensuring that the law is working effectively for states, districts, and schools.  NGA, CCSSO, and NASBE developed these NCLB recommendations to address several key areas, including the further improvement of accountability through growth models and differentiated consequences, adjustments to testing of special education and limited English proficient students, and additional funding, research, technical assistance, and other supports for states and schools.

Governors, chief state school officers, and state boards of education members are also carefully working on detailed legislative language and intend to transmit this to you in the near future.  This month, we will meet with the media to highlight our shared state views.  We also plan to reach out to other organizations to support the NGA-CCSSO-NASBE NCLB position.

We stand together in this important reauthorization and ask for your careful consideration of our NCLB recommendations. We look forward to assisting and meeting with you to discuss NCLB.


Governor Donald L. Carcieri (NGA NCLB Co-Lead)

Governor Chris Gregoire (NGA NCLB Co-Lead)

Elizabeth Burmaster CCSSO ESEA Task Force Chair

Brad Bryant (NASBE President)

cc: U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee

U.S. House Education and Labor Committee

U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings


(5) “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Science and Math Scholarship Act Wins Committee Approval

SourceNCTM Legislative and Policy Update – 2 April 2007

On March 28, the House Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Representative Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), met to mark up, and ultimately approve, HR 362, the “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Science and Math Scholarship Act.

HR 362 attempts to implement most of the K-12 science education recommendations of the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report.  The bill, according to its authors, would:

(1) establish a teacher education program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage math, science, and engineering faculty to work with education faculty to improve the preparation of mathematics and science teachers and to provide scholarships to students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields who commit to becoming mathematics and science teachers at elementary and secondary schools;

(2) authorize summer teacher training institutes at NSF and the Department of Energy to improve the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of in-service mathematics and science teachers, including preparing them to teach challenging courses in science and math, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;

(3) require that NSF include support for master’s degree programs for in-service mathematics and science teachers within the NSF Math and Science Partnerships; and

(4) authorize funding for the NSF STEM Talent Expansion (STEP) program and expand the program to include centers for improving undergraduate STEM education…

Building on the broad support for efforts to address the competitiveness crisis in the 110th Congress, Chairman Gordon and supporters of this bill are hopeful it will be considered on the floor of the House this spring.


(6) More than 10,000 Students from 23 Countries Combine Sports and Technology at the First Championship


Three teams from Worcester, Massachusetts, Las Vegas, Nevada, and South Windsor, Connecticut emerged victorious at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this weekend. It was the climax to months of competition involving more than 1,300 teams from the United States and six other nations, including Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST is a not-for-profit organization offering innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Vex Challenge for high-school students, as well as the FIRST LEGO League for children 9-14 years old, and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6- to 9-year-olds. Teams earned their invitations to the Championship by excelling in competitive play, sportsmanship, and the development of partnerships among schools, businesses, and communities.

“To passively sit in a classroom is a 19th century format,” said Kamen. “In this next century, you’re going to have to be creative, or you’re not going to make it. We want to help stimulate our youth to be varsity thinkers and varsity creators.”

Varsity Challenge

Student teams built their robots from a kit of hundreds of parts. This year’s game, called “Rack ‘N’ Roll,” tested the students’ and their robots’ ability to hang inflated colored tubes on pegs configured in rows and columns on a 10-foot high center “rack” structure, program a robotic vision system to navigate the robot, and “lift” other robots more than 4″ off the floor.

FIRST Vex Challenge

In the FIRST Vex Challenge (FVC) World Championship, more than 1,000 students participated in this intermediate competition for high-school students. Using the innovative Vex Robotics Design System, teams completed the “Hangin’-A-Round” challenge using a more accessible and affordable robotics kit.

Nano Quest

Also at the FIRST Championship, 94 teams from around the world participated in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) World Festival. This year’s “Nano Quest” real-life challenge tasked students, ages 9 to 14, to design, build, and program robots to explore the tiny but vast world of nanotechnology. Top honors went to Champion’s Award 1st Place winner, Team 1031 “Pigmice” from Portland, Oregon; and Champion’s Award 2nd Place winner, Team 1677 “Access 9” from South Bend, Indiana. The Champion’s Award measures how teams inspire and motivate others about the excitement and wonders of science and technology, while demonstrating gracious professionalism.


FIRST also recognized the recipients of numerous educational scholarships worth approximately $8 million from some of the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the country, such as Georgia Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Drexel University.

To learn more about FIRST, visit



(1) SQuaREs–An Opportunity for Research Mathematicians

Source: American Institute of Mathematics (AIM)

The American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) has a new program called SQuaREs (Structured Quartet Research Ensembles). The purpose of a SQuaRE is to allow a dedicated group of four to eight mathematicians to spend one to two weeks at the AIM headquarters in Palo Alto, California, working on a focused research problem. A SQuaRE could arise as a followup to an AIM workshop, or it could be a freestanding activity.

AIM will provide both the research facilities and the financial support for each SQuaRE group. We solicit SQuaREs in all areas of pure and applied mathematics. Preference is given to groups which contain a mix of junior and senior researchers, and to groups which have not previously collaborated. SQuaREs meet during weeks when there are no workshops at AIM.

Please fill out the application form at by May 1, 2007.


(2) Learning to Lead Mathematics Professional Development: Facilitators Institute

Source: Judy Mumme

WestEd is sponsoring a facilitators’ institute for people who support mathematics professional development (PD) leaders.  The institute, which is partially subsidized by a grant from the National Science Foundation, will support participants to use a new set of case-based leadership development materials, Learning to Lead Mathematics Professional Development (LLMPD). Materials have a goal of supporting the development of leaders’ skills, sensibilities, and long-term capacities to design and implement quality mathematics professional development.  Rooted in video of mathematics professional development, these materials consist of seven modules that contain videos, agendas, and support materials.  Modules address some of the key issues leaders face in designing and facilitating mathematics PD such as managing discussion, using teacher explanation to promote mathematics content knowledge and attending to access and equity.

The Facilitators’ Institute will be held in Denver, CO, on June 4-7. The institute is designed to provide an overview of the LLMPD materials and prepare participants to use these materials to support the development of teacher leaders and others leading mathematics professional development. The target audiences for this institute are educators who wish to use these materials to support the development of leaders of mathematics professional development.  District curriculum coordinators, mathematics coordinators, mathematics project leaders, and those charged with preparing teacher leaders will find this particularly useful.

More information is available at the above Web site.


Visit, which depicts the locations of the 19 regional CMP sites and provides a link to each site. At the regional site’s home page, teachers may learn of quality professional development opportunities for the summer and academic year.

Visit,  the California Subject Matter Project home page, for links to projects in all of the academic areas.