COMET • Vol. 8, No. 18 – 26 May 2007


(1) California Algebra Forum


The California Algebra Forum was held on May 8-9 in San Diego. The Forum was a collaborative project of the California Department of Education, the Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC) of the California Country Superintendents Educational Services Association, and the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd.

Teams of mathematics educators representing all areas of the state gathered to discuss the main topic areas being addressed by the National Math Panel and to hear a variety of speakers discuss current research in these areas. According to the conference program, which can be downloaded from the above Web site, the Forum was “intended to further the research-based dialogue for increasing student achievement in mathematics and [to support] success in algebra for all students.” Specifically, the goals of the Forum were the following:

(1) To share knowledge of current research that supports success in algebra,

(2) To develop a statewide network of technical assistance providers to increase local knowledge of the research pertinent to algebra content and instruction, and

(3) To share preliminary findings of the National Math Panel and to set the stage for the 2008 Algebra Forum.

More information may be obtained by contacting County Office of Education mathematics coordinators.

(2) Tapp Hancock Receives the Presidential Award for Excellence in [Elementary] Mathematics Teaching

Source: Bakersfield City School District (Press Release) – 25 May 2007
URL$616Congratulations to Tapp Hancock, a Wayside Elementary [(] teacher who was recently awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest commendation for K-12 math and science teachers.

This award recognizes a combination of sustained and exemplary work, both inside and outside the classroom and leadership towards the improvement of mathematics and science education. Each year the program recognizes outstanding teachers from across the United States for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. The Awards were established in 1983 by an Act of Congress and are administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation.

Tapp was selected by a national panel for her development of the Han-5 mathematics system [(see] It’s a learning tool that utilizes the hands of the students to help them remember math facts through nine different number patterns. After students practice the system, they are able to drop their hands and mentally recall the math facts presented.

As the national award winner, Tapp received a grant of $10,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and may
use the money at her discretion to promote math and science education. She also received an expense-paid trip to Washington, DC last week, during which she received a certificate signed by the President. [See for links to photos of this year’s award recipients with President Bush at the White House on May 18, receiving their awards, etc.]

Tapp was in awe of the events of the week, “WOW…what an incredible experience and week.” She went on, “The week of PAEMST festivities was phenomenal. The National Science Foundation allowed us to be part-time employees, so we could attend meetings with their top scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Every function and meeting was so
informative about how we can make a difference in our students’ lives and in education.  It was an honor and privilege to meet and spend time with so many wonderful, talented math and science teachers across our country. I want to thank my District and School Board for supporting and giving me the opportunity to attend. I will cherish these memories forever and encourage all of our great Math and Science teachers to try out for this award.”


For more information about the PAEMST, visit  The application deadline for the 2008 award (limited to K-6 teachers of mathematics and/or science) is May 1, 2008. California’s mathematicscontact
for the PAEMST is Sandra Gilliam:  For science, the California contact is Charlotte Keuscher-Barkman: or 916-319-0408.  Information about this year’s PAEMST recipient for science, Anne Marie Wotkyns , is available at  A video of recent recipients of this award is available at


(1) Using Math to Teach Math

Source: David Eisenbud, Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)

[Foreword to Using Math to Teach Math by Mark Thames] In 2004, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) launched a workshop series, Critical Issues in Mathematics Education, to provide opportunities for mathematicians to cooperate with experts from other communities on the improvement of mathematics teaching and learning. In designing and hosting these conferences, MSRI seeks to legitimize such cooperation and to lend support for interdisciplinary progress on critical issues in mathematics education.

The second workshop in the series, Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (K-8): Why, What, and How?, was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA, May 25-28, 2005. The focus on mathematical knowledge for teaching was chosen due to broad consensus that teacher knowledge of mathematics is fundamental to quality instruction. The premise of the workshop was that improving students’ mathematics learning in the U.S. depends on improving mathematics teaching, for which teacher knowledge of mathematics is a key factor. The workshop brought together different groups for whom the issue of teacher mathematical knowledge is of critical concern and explored current perspectives, evidence, and programs. Three questions structured its interactive design:

1.  Why should K-8 teachers know mathematics?

2.  What is the nature of the knowledge of mathematics needed for effective teaching?

3.  What can mathematics departments and schools of education do to help teachers develop such knowledge?

The goal of the…document [Using Math to Teach Math: Mathematicians and Educators Investigate the Mathematics Needed for Teaching (K-8)], commissioned by MSRI, is to draw more mathematicians’ attention to the problem of the mathematical preparation of teachers and to assist those who want to get involved. It is my hope that by providing a coherent synthesis of the many ideas assembled at the workshop, this document will support mathematicians,
mathematics educators, and others in their efforts to improve mathematics courses and programs for K-8 teachers.

The organization of the workshop and of this booklet draws significantly from research conducted at the University of Michigan by Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass, Heather Hill, myself, and others. Our work seeks to understand the nature of teacher mathematical knowledge as it arises out of, and is used in, teaching. Emerging from this research is a characterization of mathematical knowledge for teaching as just that, mathematical knowledge for teaching. In other words, the mathematics teachers need to know is connected to the distinctive work teachers do. This characterization of mathematical knowledge for teaching focuses attention on what matters most–that the mathematics taught to teachers
be useful to them and help to improve teaching and learning. It also provides a framework for viewing and connecting a variety of efforts across the country that work on the problem of teacher content knowledge in different ways. For both reasons, this characterization of teachers’ mathematical knowledge served well as the basic structure for the workshop and for this document.

In drafting this booklet, I have made liberal use of ideas developed by the research group at the University of Michigan and those presented at the workshop, especially in talks given by David Monk, Heather Hill, James Hiebert, Roger Howe, Liping Ma, Hyman Bass, Randy Philipp, Robert Moses, Jill Adler, Marta Civil, and Lena Licón Khisty. I gratefully
acknowledge these mathematicians, mathematics educators, educational researchers, and teachers, as well as those who provided feedback on a draft: the Workshop Organizing Committee, associates of MSRI, and numerous workshop presenters and attendees…


The chapter titles for this document, which is available in its entirety for download from the above Web site, follow below:

– What’s the Problem with Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge and Whose Problem is it?

– What’s the Evidence That Teacher Mathematics Knowledge Matters?

– What Mathematics Do Teachers Need to Know?

– Would Improved Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching Help Reduce the “Achievement Gap”?

– What are Mathematicians Doing About the Problem, and What Can You Do?

– Readings and References


Hard copies of Using Math to Teach Math can be obtained by calling MSRI at (510) 642-0143. Streaming video from
this conference is available at

(2) Assessing Mathematical Proficiency            

Source: David Eisenbud, Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)
URL theme for the first conference in the MSRI “Critical Issues in Mathematics Education” series was “Assessing Students’ Mathematics Learning: Issues, Costs, and Benefits.” This conference was held on March 7-10, 2004 at MSRI. A PDF version of the findings from this conference is now available online at the above Web site. The table of contents (chapter titles and authors) for this volume, entitled Assessing Mathematical Proficiency, appears below:

Assessing Mathematical Proficiency

Edited by Alan H. Schoenfeld, University of California, Berkeley

Section 1: The Big Picture 

1. Issues and Tensions in the Assessment of Mathematical Proficiency

Alan H. Schoenfeld

2. Aims of Mathematics Education

Judith A. Ramaley

3. The No Child Left Behind Act: Political Context and National Goals

Susan Sclafani

Section 2: Perspectives on Mathematical Proficiency

4. What Is Mathematical Proficiency?

R. James Milgram

5. What Is Mathematical Proficiency and How Can It Be Assessed?

Alan H. Schoenfeld

Section 3: What Does Assessment Assess? Issues and Examples

6. Mathematical Proficiency: What Is Important? How Can It Be Measured?

Hugh Burkhardt

7. Aspects of the Art of Assessment Design

Jan De Lange

8. Mathematical Proficiency for Citizenship

Bernard L Madison

9. Learning from Assessment

Richard Askey

10. When Assessment Guides Instruction: Silicon Valley’s Mathematics Assessment Collaborative

David Foster, Pendred Noyce, and Sara Spiegel

Section 4: The Case of Algebra

11. Assessing the Strands of Student Proficiency in Elementary Algebra

William G. McCallum

12. Making Meaning in Algebra: Examining Students’ Understandings and Misconceptions

David Foster

13. Task Context and Assessment

Ann S. Hannon

Section 5: What Do Assessments Assess? The Case of Fractions

14. Learning About Fractions from Assessment

Linda Fisher

15. Assessing a Student’s Mathematical Knowledge by Way of Interview

Deborah Loewenberg Ball with Brandon Peoples

16. Reflections on an Assessment Interview: What a Close Look at Student Understanding Can Reveal

Alan H. Schoenfeld

Section 6: The Importance of Societal Context

17. Assessment in France

Michele Artigue

18. Assessment to Improve Learning in Mathematics: The BEAR Assessment System

Mark Wilson and Claus Carstensen

19. English Learners and Mathematics Learning: Language Issues to Consider

Lily Wong Fillmore

20. Beyond Words to Mathematical Content: Assessing English Learners in the Mathematics Classroom

Judit Moschkovich

21. Assessment in the Real World: The Case of New York City

Elizabeth Taleporos

22. Perspectives on State Assessments in California: What You Release Is What Teachers Get

Elizabeth K. Stage

Epilogue: What Do We Need to Know? Items for a Research Agenda


Streaming video of the conference presentations are available free of charge at the MSRI Web site:

(3) Launch of Mind, Brain and Education Journal

Source: International Mind, Brain, Education, and Education Society
URL: April 2, Wiley-Blackwell celebrated the premiere issue of the new journal, Mind, Brain, and Education, with a reception at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This new journal (sponsored by the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society) provides a forum for accessible presentation of basic and applied research on learning and development, including analyses from biology, cognitive science, and education.

During the celebration, Kurt Fischer (Harvard University), Howard Gardner (Harvard University), Maryanne Wolf (Tufts University), and Stanislas Dehaene (Collège de France) discussed their recent findings regarding how brain science informs educational practice.  Free podcasts of these presentations are available:

1. “Mind, Brain, and Education: Analyzing Human Learning and Development
” by Kurt Fischer, Harvard University:  – 9 minutes, 20 seconds

”Is There Such a Thing as Brainless Education?” by Howard Gardner, Harvard University:  – 6 minutes,  58 seconds

3. “Dyslexia Intervention: Reading and the Brain” 
by Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University: – 11 minutes, 6 seconds

4. “Traveling Along the Number Line: Mathematics and the Brain” by Stanislas Dehaene, Collège de France: – 7 minutes, 44 seconds

Two of the above speakers also contributed to the first issue of Mind, Brain, and Education. All of the articles in this issue (listed immediately below) can be downloaded free of charge from

1.  “Why Mind, Brain, and Education? Why Now?” by Kurt W. Fischer, David B. Daniel, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Elsbeth Stern, Antonio Battro, and Hideaki Koizumi (Editors)

2.  “We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education” by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Antonio Damasio

3.  “Generalist Genes: Genetic Links Between Brain, Mind, and Education” by

Robert PlominYulia Kovas, and Claire M. A. Haworth

4.  “How Can Genomics Inform Education?” by Elena L. Grigorenko

5.  “A Few Steps Toward a Science of Mental Life” by Stanislas Dehaene

6.  “Are There Separate Neural Systems for Spelling? New Insights into the Role of Rules and Memory in Spelling from Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” by Elizabeth S. NortonIoulia Kovelman, and Laura-Ann Petitto

(4) Challenging Summer Mathematics Programs for High School Students

Source: The American Mathematical Society
URL American Mathematical Society has compiled information about a variety of summer mathematics programs for promising high school students. This information is available for download as a PDF file from  Links to the programs’ Web sites are available at

(5) Toolkit for Change

URL “Toolkit for Change” is an online resource funded by the National Science Foundation and developed “to support leaders of systematic improvement in K-12 mathematics education… This site offers a growing collection of resources to help leaders provide high quality mathematics instruction to all students, and do well on measures of adequate yearly progress.”

The Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) Team is a collaboration of research and development groups at Michigan State University, the University of California at Berkeley, the Shell Centre at the University of Nottingham in the UK, and Inverness Research Associates. Members of the team coordinate the Toolkit for Change project and welcome your feedback on the Toolkit Web site.

(6) Free Summer Workshops Offered Through the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative

Source: U.S. Department of Education
URL Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative has been created by and for America’s teachers. It supports teachers’ efforts in the classroom through professional development workshops and eLearning and by sharing relevant information through email updates.

Teacher Workshops

Teacher Workshops offer classroom teachers a free opportunity to participate in high-quality professional development designed to provide the classroom support, technical assistance, and increased collaboration needed to assure academic success for all students. Participants will share instructional strategies with prominent teachers from around the country in each content area and for each grade level. For more information, visit   Also see for session materials.

Teacher Training Corps

The Training Corps consists of effective teachers and practitioners experienced in scientifically based instruction and who will provide on-site technical assistance and regional workshops for teachers and school district personnel. For more information, see

Teacher Updates

Teachers can receive electronic updates by signing up on the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative’s website. These e-bytes share developments in federal education policy; provide links to classroom teaching and learning resources; and communicate information about American Stars, Teacher Workshops and Digital Workshops. Visit to register.


Travel Grants Available to Attend ICME-11 in Monterrey, Mexico

Source: Gail Burrill,

Applications for travel grants are now available to attend the Eleventh International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME-11), which will be held in Monterrey, Mexico, from July 6-13, 2008. Contingent on the funding of a proposal pending at the National Science Foundation, grants will be available and awarded by the close of 2007.  These grants will be available only to U.S. citizens and will support travel expenses to ICME-11 that include hotel accommodations, meal costs, and conference registration.  They also can be used toward air transportation (on American carriers only).  Travel grant awardees under this program may not use funds from other NSF programs to supplement their international travel (airfare to Mexico or subsistence at ICME-11).

A selection committee will review applications and award the grants for ICME-11 travel.  The committee will include representatives from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Mathematical Association of America, the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, the American Mathematical Society, and the U. S. National Commission on Mathematics Instruction.

Elementary, middle, and high school teachers and graduate students are strongly encouraged to apply.  Questions can be directed to Gail Burrill, The travel grant application and selection criteria are available on the NCTM Web site at or from Margaret Iding, 116 North Kedzie, Division of Science and Mathematics Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824; telephone (517) 355-1708, ext. 105; fax (517) 432-9868, e-mail   The application deadline is September 30, 2007.  Notifications will be made by December 30, 2007.

The International Congresses are held every four years and offer a unique opportunity for mathematics educators from the United States to discuss issues related to mathematics education with international leaders from developed and developing countries.  Grants will enable participants to listen to world-renowned scholars in mathematics and mathematics education and to take part in small, focused discussion groups on a wide range of topics, including a special emphasis on educating students from diverse cultures, mathematics education for second language learners, the relationship between research and practice in mathematics education, the professional development of mathematics teachers, closing the achievement gap, and information and communication technology in mathematics education. [Visit for more information.]