COMET • Vol. 8, No. 15 – 7 May 2007


(1) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Awards $1.8 Million to County Office to Develop Statewide Math Pilot Project

Source: California Department of Education

Last Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the awarding of a $1.8 million Mathematics Teacher Partnership Pilot grant to the San Diego County Office of Education.

“California has a critical shortage of highly qualified math teachers that must be addressed if our students are to develop the strong math skills needed in the classroom and the workplace,” said O’Connell.  “The San Diego County Office of Education has developed a winning plan for a project to boost the number of these educators who are vital to the future success of students facing a technologically challenging economy.”

To maintain California’s position as a world-class leader, both economically and technologically, the state must continue to develop and support an adequate supply of highly qualified and effective math teachers who are prepared to meet the challenges of teaching California’s growing and diverse student population. California continues to experience a shortage of qualified math teachers.  According to data in the 2005-06 California Basic Educational Data System, the state reported a shortage of about 2,000 secondary math teachers.  Also, about 10 to 13 percent of secondary math teachers were considered underprepared because they lacked a full credential.

Math teachers must be thoroughly prepared in subject-matter content knowledge and the use of effective instructional strategies for helping all students to become proficient in the subject, including students who are struggling to pass the math portion of the California High School Exit Exam.  To accomplish this goal, the state Legislature provided $1.8 million in funding last year to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to increase the quantity and capacity of secondary-level math teachers through the Mathematics Teacher Partnership Pilot Program (MTP3).

The goals of the MTP3 are to increase the number of qualified secondary-level math teachers and increase the likelihood that such educators remain in the teaching profession; improve and raise their capacity to teach math; provide professional development so they can teach more rigorous math content to motivate students to become math educators; and provide professional development for teachers to help struggling students pass the math portion of the Exit Exam.

Only county offices of education were eligible to compete for this one-time grant.  The San Diego County Office of Education formulated an effective plan outlining the scope of work, timelines, activities, performance objectives, responsible persons for each activity, and methods to monitor and evaluate models for replication throughout the state.

For more information on MTP3, please visit “Mathematics Teacher Partnership Pilot – Mathematics”:

(2) Mathematics Adoption Update

Sources: California Department of Education; California Mathematics Council

The timeline for the 2007 K-8 Mathematics Instructional Materials Adoption is available online at

Deliberations by the Content Review Panel (CRP) members and Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) members are scheduled to be held on July 16-19 and on July 30-August 2.

Local Resource Display Centers (LRDCs) should now have the submitted materials available for public review. Visit the “Adoption Blog” of the California Mathematics Council for more information about reviewing materials at LRDCs, as well as several useful related links and other adoption-related posts:

(3) Legislation for Periodic Review of Academic Content Standards

URL: and

AB 1454, which would legislate periodic review of the state’s academic content standards, was last amended by the Assembly Committee on Education on May 1 and is currently in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

A portion of the Legislative Counsel’s Digest for this proposed bill follows below:

Existing law requires the State Board of Education to adopt statewide academically rigorous content standards in core curriculum areas, and permits the state board to modify proposed content and performance standards…  This bill would repeal the authority of the state board to modify proposed content and performance standards….

This bill would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to appoint content standards review panels in each subject area pursuant to specified panel membership requirements. A content standards review panel would be required to review the content standards established in its particular subject matter, revise the standards as it deems necessary, and forward the revisions to the state board. The state board would be required to adopt or reject the standards within 120 days of receipt.


An excerpt from a bill analysis prepared for the Assembly Committee on Education follows below:

SUMMARY:  Requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to appoint a content standards review panel for each content subject area two years prior to the adoption of the curriculum for each subject area.  Specifically, this bill:

(1) Requires that sixty percent of the members of each panel consist of teachers nominated by subject area professional organizations and be currently teaching each particular subject matter in kindergarten and grades one to twelve, inclusive.

(2) Requires the SPI to ensure that teachers appointed to the review panel represent teachers of different grade levels, and different geographical areas of the state, and teachers of English learners, special education, and from the state schools for the blind and the deaf.

(3) Requires the membership of each review panel to meet specified requirements.

(4) Requires each review panel to review the content standards established in its particular subject matter, revise the standards as the panel deems necessary, and forward the standards to the State Board of Education to either adopt or reject within 120 days of receipt.

(5) Provides that the members of the review panels shall serve without compensation, except for necessary travel expenses.

(6) Deletes language authorizing the SBE to modify the proposed content and performance standards prior to adoption, and repeals a provision stating that because these standards are models, the adoption of the standards is not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act.

COMMENTS:   AB 265 (Alpert) Chapter 975, Statutes of 1995, provided for the appointment of a Commission for the establishment of academic content and performance standards in the core areas of reading, writing, mathematics, history/social science, and science.  The State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the standards in 1998 and the standards have not been revised since their initial adoption.

The content standards are the foundation for the accountability system, instructional materials and staff development, which are all aligned to these standards.

In the past couple of years, there have been several legislative proposals to revise the content standards.  The bills have been vetoed every time since 2002.  The veto messages have always claimed that the SBE has the authority to review and revise the content standards as it deems necessary.

However, on January 11, 2005 the California Legislative Counsel opined that “The State Board of Education does not have the authority to revise or amend the content standards required to be adopted by the board after their adoption.”  It is the view of the Legislative Counsel that the Legislature reserved for itself the power to decide if, when, and the process by which the content standards should be revised or amended.

A recent editorial by a former state secretary of education and state senator, Senator Gary Hart who was one of the originators of the standards movement declared, “Any suggestion of changing the standards has been viewed as heretical by many education leaders. But as one of the architects of this system, I believe the time is now right to take a fresh look at what we expect of our children.”

He further asserted, “The standards for what we expect our students to learn must be flexible enough to allow our schools to adapt to a demanding and rapidly changing world — they were not meant to be chiseled in stone.”

There are several valid reasons to want to review and revise California’s academic standards, and former Senator Hart points out the following:

“These measures were formulated five years before Sept. 11. Our students need exposure to concepts (and their historical antecedents) such as terrorism, religious fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation – all concepts missing in the current history/social science content standards. In the science content area, global warming needs to be acknowledged and the fifth-grade standard calling on students to know all ‘nine’ planets ought to be revised now that Pluto is reclassified.

“We have failed to integrate career and technical education concepts into the standards. This is a serious deficiency and an obstacle to establishing rigorous job skills into the mainstream curriculum. In addition, little effort has been made to align our standards with the University of California and California State University systems. A national project sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the America’s Diploma Project has had great success in assisting states with such integration efforts.

“A common complaint from educators about state standards is that in an effort to cover so much knowledge and so many skills, little is explored in depth. That leads to superficial coverage, guilt-ridden and frantic teachers who can’t get through it all, and struggling students who get left behind. We need to be more selective and consider differentiating among standards based upon importance.

“The maxim ‘less is more’ applies here — it would allow for more substantive coverage of crucial topics, provide opportunities for ‘pacing’ for struggling students and permit some much needed curriculum flexibility for teachers.”

On January 5, 2006, Education Week released a report, “Quality Counts: A Decade of Standards Based Education” which found that out of the 49 states that have adopted content standards, 32 states have a regular timeline for revising those standards. California is one of the few states that does not have a timeline nor a process for revising its academic content standards.

Arguments in Support:  The California Teachers Association writes, “CTA believes teachers must participate in the planning, development implementation and refinement of California’s rigorous academic content standards.  CTA also believes that teachers should have the central role in the development, definition, and implementation of curriculum, and should comprise a majority of all committees, commissions, or panels making or recommending decisions in this area, including content standards review panels.”



California Federation of Teachers

California Science Teachers Association

California Teachers Association


None on file


(1) National Mathematics Advisory Panel

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The sixth meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMP) was held on April 20 at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL. Progress reports from the Task Groups were presented at this meeting and are now available for download as PPT and MS Word files from

(In each case below, the URL for the PPT document is the same as the URL for the MS Word file, except the extension is .ppt rather than .doc)

Task Group Progress Reports:

1. Conceptual Knowledge and Skills:

2. Learning Processes:

3. Instructional Practices:

4. Teachers:

5. Assessment:

(2) TODOS Names Edward Silver as the 2007 Recipient of Iris Carl Memorial Leadership and Equity Award

Source: Miriam Leiva, President, TODOS –
URL and

TODOS – Mathematics for All is a national membership organization of mathematics educators.  The mission of TODOS: Mathematics for ALL is to advocate for an equitable and high quality mathematics education for all students, with a special focus on Latino/Hispanic students, by increasing the equity awareness of educators and their ability to foster students’ mathematical proficiency in rigorous and coherent mathematics.

The Iris Carl Memorial Leadership and Equity Award was established by TODOS in 2005 to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the quality of mathematics education provided to underserved students, in particular to Latino/Hispanic students.  The award, presented annually, is named in honor of Iris Carl, a former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics who was inspiring, challenging, and resolute throughout her career in championing the cause of excellence and equity in mathematics education.

The 2007 recipient of the Iris Carl Memorial Leadership and Equity Award is Edward A. Silver. He is the William A. Brownell Collegiate Professor of Education, and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan. He also currently serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

For more details about Ed Silver’s contributions to mathematics education, please see

Excerpts follow below:

Before the national focus was on the achievement and equity, Ed was doing seminal groundwork and research on these areas. For much of the 1990s he directed the QUASAR project, an ambitious design experiment, which stimulated and studied efforts to improve mathematics instruction in urban middle schools… The project’s support of teachers’ efforts to enhance mathematics instruction with an emphasis mathematical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving demonstrated that such instruction could lead to substantial increases in the mathematics achievement of all students and the shrinking of the achievement gap…

Ed is a prolific scholar, publishing more than 150 papers and books on a variety of topics in the field, especially in the areas of mathematical thinking, particularly mathematical problem solving and problem posing; the design and analysis of intellectually engaging and equitable mathematics instruction for students; innovative methods of assessing and reporting mathematics achievement; and effective models for enhancing the knowledge of teachers of mathematics. He has directed or co-directed a number of important initiatives, and he is currently co-PI of the NSF-funded Center for Proficiency in Teaching Mathematics.

Ed is a member of the advisory board for the Center for Mathematics Education of Latinos/as (CEMELA) and also a member of the National Academy of Science’sCommittee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States.  He served as editor of the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education from 2000-2004. He has been on the advisory boards of several federally funded projects and on the editorial boards of various journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Cognition and Instruction, and Mathematical Thinking and Learning.  He was the 2004 recipient of the Award for Outstanding Contributions of Educational Research to Practice from the American Educational Research Association…

Ed exemplifies the strong leadership characteristics of Iris Carl, with his kind, quiet and personal approach, coupled with his in-depth research-based beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning.  These qualities have enabled him to have a substantial and direct impact on the improvement of classroom learning and instruction based in educational research

(3) Jacobs and Grouws Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Source: NCTM Daily News – 22 March 2007
URL: and

Douglas A. Grouws and Judith E. Jacobs with Lifetime Achievement Awards for Distinguished Service to Mathematics Education at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in Atlanta this spring. Both were selected to receive this award in recognition of their lifetime of accomplishments in leadership, teaching, and service to mathematics education.

Judith Jacobs is known for her leadership in professional development, for her efforts to support the next generation of mathematics education leaders, and for her role in establishing two of NCTM’s national affiliates.

“Dr. Jacobs develops leaders,” wrote one nominator. “She believes in teachers’ capacities to become leaders for mathematics education and provides opportunities and support to help them develop their leadership”…

Jacobs has served NCTM as a member of the Board of Directors and as a member of various committees. She co-founded the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), and helped create AMTE’s annual conference–a major conference for mathematics teacher educators. To honor her contributions, AMTE renamed the keynote address at its annual conference as the “Judith E. Jacobs Lecture.” Jacobs also co-founded Women in Mathematics Education. The organization later gave her the Dora Helen Skypeck Award for promoting opportunities for girls and women in mathematics education.

Today Judith Jacobs is the Director of the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CEEMaST) of the College of Science at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is responsible for coordination of all programs offered by CEEMaST. In addition, she runs several programs for teachers of mathematics. [For more on Judith’s contributions, visit].

Douglas Grouws is internationally known for his research on teaching and instructional designs and his work in teacher education.

His career began at Memorial High School, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he taught mathematics. Later Grouws participated in the groundbreaking Missouri Mathematics Effectiveness Project with Thomas L. Good and Howard Ebmeier. This was one of the first scientific studies of the relationship between teacher behavior and students’ mathematical learning. The findings were published in the frequently cited Active Mathematics Teaching.

In 1992, Grouws edited the Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, which is recognized as the definitive reference on research findings and has been a textbook for many graduate courses.

Grouws’s work has had far-reaching effects on mathematics education. As one nominator noted, “He strives to make sure that his scholarly knowledge is grounded in and makes its way into classrooms.” To do so, Grouws has written many articles and made presentations to a variety of audiences.

Grouws is an active leader within NCTM and other professional organizations. He has served as editor of the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education monograph series, and as a member of NCTM’s Research Committee, Elections Committee, and Annual Meeting Committee. Grouws also participated in the NCTM Research Agenda Project, editing its influential conference report, Perspectives on Research on Effective Mathematics Teaching. He has served on an evaluation committee of the National Academy of Science, as treasurer of the AERA special interest group for research in mathematics education, and is a recent member of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board.

Currently Douglas Grouws is Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he was named William T. Kemper Fellow for Outstanding Teaching.

(4) “Monkey Math” by Sadie F. Dingfelder

Source:  Monitor on Psychology – 4 March 2007

A monkey is being chased by four lions, and it sees three of them give up and wander away. It would be useful if that monkey could figure out that a single lion still lurks in the brush. But while many studies have shown that trained primates can do simple math, whether they’d make use of those skills in the wild is hotly debated.

>”Do monkeys naturally represent numbers or is it just a lab circus act?” asks Duke University psychology professor Elizabeth Brannon, PhD.

A study by Brannon and graduate student Jessica Cantlon, published in the January Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes (Vol. 33, No. 1) finds that it’s the former: Monkeys do use number to distinguish between different stimuli, even when they have the option of using cues such as shape and color. The finding runs counter to past research suggesting that animals only use number when other options aren’t available, says Hank Davis, a psychology professor at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada.

If monkeys spontaneously notice number, that could mean that math has deeper evolutionary roots than many scientists previously thought, says Cantlon. The line of research could even shed light on how infants quantify the world, she says.

“Number is a really important concept to humans–we use it all over the place to balance budgets and in the marketplace,” Cantlon says. “But it isn’t something unique to humans; it seems like it’s something that has been around for a long time, evolutionarily speaking.”

Monkeys match

While Cantlon and Brannon’s participants–four adult macaques–were not wild animals, one of them had never before been used in a number study. The other three had participated in many experiments where they learned to match items by number.

For this experiment, all four animals first learned to match identical pictures. For example, the monkey might see an image of four red hearts on a touch-screen computer. After one second, the image would be replaced by two slides–one with the same four red hearts and one with three blue diamonds. If the monkey chose the slide identical to the sample slide, it was rewarded with a sip of Kool-Aid.

Once the animals got good at the easy matching task, the researchers gave them a tricky choice, where either of the two slides could be correct. For instance, after seeing a slide with four red hearts, the animals would have to choose between one with four red diamonds and one with two red hearts. If an animal chose the slide with the four diamonds, that would show that it based its decision on number, but if it chose the two hearts, that would suggest that it matched on the basis of shape, Brannon notes.

The three previously trained monkeys preferred to match by number much of the time, especially when there was a big difference in number between the first slide and one of the choices. If the difference was small–if, for instance, the first slide had four red hearts and one of the matching options had three red hearts–they would tend to rely on color or shape to pick a match.

In contrast to the trained monkeys, the untrained monkey usually matched by color or shape. But it too was swayed by the difference in number–more often matching shapes that were similar in number than those that were vastly different. The fact that all the monkeys were affected by the difference between the number of items in the two slides shows that they do take note of quantity, even if it doesn’t always control their decision-making, says Brannon.

“All the monkeys were definitely influenced by number,” she says. “Even the naive monkey showed the same kind of ratio dependence”…