COMET • Vol. 8, No. 24 – 4 October 2007


State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Invites Public Input on Mathematics Instructional Resources


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced that instructional materials submitted for the 2007 K-8 mathematics adoption are available for public review and comment during October.

“Thirty-three publishers submitted 54 programs for review in this round of K-8 mathematics adoption, making this one of the largest adoptions conducted by the state,” said O’Connell. “With this wide variety of mathematics instructional materials we will be able to offer schools additional resources to help students who are struggling and thus help close the achievement gap. I urge interested parties to take the opportunity to review these materials. This process provides an important opportunity for the public to confirm students will get the content they need and also gives community members a say on what instructional resources students should get.”

For the first time, publishers were able to submit programs in three separate categories: basic, algebra readiness, and intervention programs. Intervention programs are designed to provide additional support and instruction for students working below grade level in grades 4-7. One hundred forty-one Instructional Materials Advisory Panel and 14 Content Review Panel members reviewed the programs. The panel members included classroom teachers, community members, mathematics educators, and mathematicians.

Now it is the public’s turn to review the instructional materials that have already been on display since April 2007 at 21 Learning Resources Display Centers (LRDCs) located throughout California. After viewing the materials, comments may be submitted on forms available at the LRDCs. Comment must be received by October 31, 2007 to be considered by the State Board of Education.

Comments may also be emailed to or mailed to Tom Adams, Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division, California Department of Education, 1430 N Street, Suite 3207, Sacramento, California 95814. Concerns may be expressed at a public hearing of the State Board of Education on November 7-8 in Sacramento.

The complete list of recommended materials is available at (at the bottom of the press release). For locations of the LRDCs, please visit



(1) Sputnik and the Dawn of the Space Age Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.

The story begins in 1952, when the International Council of Scientific Unions decided to establish July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958, as the International Geophysical Year (IGY) because the scientists knew that the cycles of solar activity would be at a high point then. In October 1954, the council adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY to map the Earth’s surface.

In July 1955, the White House announced plans to launch an Earth-orbiting satellite for the IGY and solicited proposals from various Government research agencies to undertake development. In September 1955, the Naval Research Laboratory’s Vanguard proposal was chosen to represent the U.S. during the IGY.

The Sputnik launch changed everything. As a technical achievement, Sputnik caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard. Its size was more impressive than Vanguard’s intended 3.5-pound payload. In addition, the public feared that the Soviets’ ability to launch satellites also translated into the capability to launch ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the U.S. Then the Soviets struck again; on November 3, Sputnik II was launched, carrying a much heavier payload, including a dog named Laika.

Immediately after the Sputnik I launch in October, the U.S. Defense Department responded to the political furor by approving funding for another U.S. satellite project. As a simultaneous alternative to Vanguard, Wernher von Braun and his Army Redstone Arsenal team began work on the Explorer project.

On January 31, 1958, the tide changed, when the United States successfully launched Explorer I. This satellite carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth, named after principal investigator James Van Allen. The Explorer program continued as a successful ongoing series of lightweight, scientifically useful spacecraft.

The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the “Space Act”), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies.


Related articles:

(a) “Sputnik: The Little Shiny Ball That Changed Everything”
 Fox News – 4 October 2007

This report includes a link to archived Movietone newsreels of the Sputnik launch.

(b) Sputnik

This special presentation of The New York Times on America Online includes articles and photos from the first week following Sputnik’s launch, coverage of the U.S. response and the early days of the space race, and a directory of related websites. (This was prepared in 1997 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik.)


(2) “Secrets of 1957 Sputnik Launch Revealed” by Vladimir Isachenkov

Source: The Associated Press – 1 October 2007
URL: M00

When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph.

But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age.

And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket, according to Boris Chertok, one of the founders of the Soviet space program.

In a series of interviews in recent days with The Associated Press, Chertok and other veterans told the little-known story of how Sputnik was launched, and what an unlikely achievement it turned out to be.

Chertok couldn’t whisper a word about the project through much of his lifetime. His name, and that of Sergei Korolyov, the chief scientist, were a state secret. Today, at age 95 and talking to a small group of reporters in Moscow, Chertok can finally give full voice to his pride at the pivotal role he played in the history of space exploration.

“Each of these first rockets was like a beloved woman for us,” he said. “We were in love with every rocket, we desperately wanted it to blast off successfully. We would give our hearts and souls to see it flying.”

This very rational exuberance, and Korolyov’s determination, were the key to Sputnik’s success.

So was happenstance.

As described by the former scientists, the world’s first orbiter was born out of a very different Soviet program: the frantic development of a rocket capable of striking the United States with a hydrogen bomb.

Because there was no telling how heavy the warhead would be, its R-7 ballistic missile was built with thrust to spare–“much more powerful than anything the Americans had,” Georgy Grechko, a rocket engineer and cosmonaut, told AP.

The towering R-7’s high thrust and payload capacity, unmatched at the time, just happened to make it the perfect vehicle to launch an object into orbit–something never done before.

Without the looming nuclear threat, Russian scientists say, Sputnik would probably have gotten off the ground much later.

“The key reason behind the emergence of Sputnik was the Cold War atmosphere and our race against the Americans,” Chertok said. “The military missile was the main thing we were thinking of at the moment.”

When the warhead project hit a snag, Korolyov, the father of the Soviet space program, seized the opportunity.

Korolyov, both visionary scientist and iron-willed manager, pressed the Kremlin to let him launch a satellite. The U.S. was already planning such a move in 1958, he pointed out, as part of the International Geophysical Year.

But while the government gave approval in January 1956, the military brass wanted to keep the missile for the bomb program, Grechko, 76, said in an interview. “They treated the satellite as a toy, a silly fantasy of Korolyov.”

The U.S. had its own satellite program, Grechko said. “The Americans proudly called their project ‘Vanguard,’ but found themselves behind us.”

The Soviet Union already had a full-fledged scientific satellite in development, but it would take too long to complete, Korolyov knew. So he ordered his team to quickly sketch a primitive orbiter. It was called PS-1, for “Prosteishiy Sputnik”–the Simplest Satellite.

Grechko, who calculated the trajectory for the first satellite’s launch, said he and other young engineers tried to persuade Korolyov to pack Sputnik with some scientific instruments. Korolyov refused, saying there was no time.

“If Korolyov had listened to us and started putting more equipment on board, the Americans could have opened the space era,” Grechko said.

The satellite, weighing just 184 pounds, was built in less than three months. Soviet designers built a pressurized sphere of polished aluminum alloy with two radio transmitters and four antennas. An earlier satellite project envisaged a cone shape, but Korolyov preferred the sphere.

“The Earth is a sphere, and its first satellite also must have a spherical shape,” Chertok, a longtime deputy of Korolyov, recalled him saying.

Sputnik’s surface was polished to perfection to better deflect the sun’s rays and avoid overheating.

The launch was first scheduled for October 6. But Korolyov suspected that the U.S. might be planning a launch a day earlier. The KGB was asked to check, and reported turning up nothing.

Korolyov was taking no chances. He immediately canceled some last-minute tests and moved up the launch by two days, to October 4, 1957.

“Better than anyone else Korolyov understood how important it was to open the space era,” Grechko said. “The Earth had just one moon for a billion years and suddenly it would have another, artificial moon!”

Soon after blastoff from the arid steppes of the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, the satellite sent out what would be the world’s most famous beep. But the engineers on the ground didn’t immediately grasp its importance.

“At that moment we couldn’t fully understand what we had done,” Chertok recalled. “We felt ecstatic about it only later, when the entire world ran amok. Only four or five days later did we realize that it was a turning point in the history of civilization.”

Immediately after the launch, Korolyov called Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to report the success. Khrushchev’s son, Sergei, who was alongside his father at the moment, recalled that they listened to the satellite’s beep-beep and went to bed.

Sergei Khrushchev said that at first they saw the Sputnik’s launch as simply one in a series of Soviet technological achievements, like a new passenger jet or the first atomic power plant.

“All of us–Korolyov’s men, people in the government, Khrushchev and myself–saw that as just yet another accomplishment showing that the Soviet economy and science were on the right track,” the younger Khrushchev, now a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, said in a telephone interview.

The first official Soviet report of Sputnik’s launch was brief and buried deep in Pravda, the Communist Party daily. Only two days later did it offer a banner headline, quoting the avalanche of foreign praise.

Pravda also published a description of Sputnik’s orbit to help people watch it pass. The article failed to mention that the light seen moving across the sky was the spent booster rocket’s second stage, which was in roughly same orbit, Chertok said.

The tiny orbiter was invisible to the naked eye.

Excited by the global furor, Khrushchev ordered Korolyov immediately to launch a new satellite, this time, to mark the November 7 anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

“We didn’t believe that you would outpace the Americans with your satellite, but you did it. Now you should launch something new by November 7,” Korolyov quoted Khrushchev telling him, according to Grechko.

Working round-the-clock, Korolyov and his team built another spacecraft in less than a month. On Nov. 3, they launched Sputnik 2, which weighed 1,118 pounds. It carried the world’s first living payload, a mongrel dog named Laika, in its tiny pressurized cabin.

The dog died of the heat after a week, drawing protests from animal-lovers. But the flight proved that a living being could survive in space, paving the way for human flight.

The first Sputnik beeped for three weeks and spent about three months in orbit before burning up in the atmosphere. It circled Earth more than 1,400 times, at just under 100 minutes an orbit.

For Korolyov there was bitterness as well as triumph. He was never mentioned in any contemporary accounts of the launch, and his key role was known to only a few officials and space designers.

Leonid Sedov, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences with no connection to space program, was erroneously touted in the West as the Father of Sputnik. Korolyov, meanwhile, was only allowed to publish his non-sensitive research under the pseudonym “Professor K. Sergeyev.”

Khrushchev rejected the Nobel committee’s offer to nominate Korolyov for a prize, insisting that it was the achievement of “the entire Soviet people.”

Sergei Khrushchev said his father thought singling out Korolyov would anger other rocket designers and hamper the missile and space programs.

“These people were like actors; they would all have been madly jealous at Korolyov,” he said. “I think my father’s decision was psychologically correct. But, of course, Sergei Korolyov felt deeply hurt.”

Korolyov’s daughter, Natalia, recalled in a book that the veil of secrecy vexed her father. “We are like miners–we work underground,” she recalls him saying. “No one sees or hears us.”

The Soviet Union and the rest of the world learned Korolyov’s name only after his death in 1966. Today his Moscow home, where Chertok met reporters, is a museum in the chief scientist’s honor.

Chertok was permitted to travel abroad only in the late 1980s, after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev liberalized the Soviet Union.

The surviving leaders of the space program are no longer anonymous or silent, and revel in the accolades so long denied them.

“The rivalry in space, even though it had military reasons, has pushed the mankind forward,” said Valery Korzun, a cosmonaut who serves as a deputy chief of the Star City cosmonaut training center. “Our achievements today are rooted in that competition.”

In the end, it was the Americans who won the race to the moon, nearly 12 years later. Khrushchev wasn’t interested in getting there, his son says, and the effort made under his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, was underfunded and badly hampered by rifts between Korolyov and other designers.

“We wouldn’t have been the first on the moon anyway,” Grechko said. “We lost the race because our electronics industry was inferior”Š

(3) 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

Articles included in this issue include the following:

– “Building Capacity through the Adoption Process”
– “Teaching Math to English Learners: Can Research Help?” by Dr. Suzanne Irujo
– “Assessment Corner [Formative Assessment]” by Bruce Arnold
– “Spotlight on Higher Ed [Pathway to Algebra: Teaching the Meaning of the Equal Sign]” by Dr. Rong-Ji Chen
– “If My Students Only Knew Fractions!” by Cathy Williams
Additional mathematics-related information is also available on the Mathematics Unit Web site at


(4) “TI Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Calculator with New Line True to Slide Rules” by Andrew D. Smith

Source: The Dallas Morning News – 30 September 2007

Jerry Merryman acknowledges the world-changing importance of the handheld calculator, a device he helped invent exactly 40 years ago.

By replacing a 55-pound box that cost $8,000 in today’s money with a book-size machine that cost less than $1,000, Mr. Merryman and his colleagues at Texas Instruments Inc. gave people and businesses unprecedented mastery over numbers.

More important, they created the first mass market for integrated circuits and helped cut prices enough to fuel the microchip revolution.

But there was always a downside.

Calculators, with their narrow inputs and solutions, obscured relationships among numbers rather than illustrating them.

Now, as it celebrates the first handheld calculator, Texas Instruments is launching a new line of machines that resemble Mr. Merryman’s old slide rule as much as they resemble the calculator that rendered it obsolete.

“It looks like we’ve come full circle,” Mr. Merryman said as he watched a demonstration of TI’s Nspire.

Younger readers will struggle to imagine life in 1965. Serious calculations required massive computers that cost more than houses. A basic calculator–one that did nothing beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division–resembled a typewriter and cost half as much as a family car…

Amid such conditions, TI chief executive Patrick Haggerty saw an opportunity. All his company had to do was to invent a completely new device that crushed established competitors in every way and cost a fraction as much.

Such an effort, he reasoned, should take about six months.

Project oversight fell to Jack Kilby, the man who had invented the microchip in 1958. Mr. Kilby divided his imaginary calculator up into five basic components, each of which had to be dreamed up from scratch: input, memory, processing, output and power.

Then, to meet his boss’s impossible timeline, Mr. Kilby created five separate teams, sent them off to work simultaneously on the five problems and prayed that the resulting components would somehow fit together into a coherent whole.

“It was an ambitious project,” deadpanned Mr. Merryman, a self-taught engineer who was 31 when Mr. Kilby tapped him to run the memory and processing teams.

The six-month project took 18 months, but the design that went to the U.S. patent office in September 1967 still counted as an unqualified triumph. Indeed, the device was so revolutionary that it took nearly four years to design and equip a factory for its construction.

Virtually no one had a calculator when the $150 Pocketronic hit the market on April 14, 1971. By the end of 1972, more than 5 million had sold. By the end of the decade, the number of calculators exceeded the number of Americans.

For all the relief that calculators provided on Tax Day, their true importance lay in making microchips cheaper.

Until TI invented the handheld calculator, microchips cost so much that only rich customers such as NASA and the Pentagon could afford mainframe computers and other chip-driven devices. TI and its competitors knew that prices would fall dramatically as production runs increased, but no one wanted to buy chips in quantity until prices fell.

The calculator demonstrated just how right they were. Economies of scale drove the price of a calculator down from $150 in 1971 to less than $5 in 1981, even as the product improved.

Better still, the declining price of computer chips made it feasible to put them in many different products.

“We didn’t do all that work to make a calculator,” Mr. Merryman said. “We did it to bring integrated circuits into consumer products.”

As the basic calculator went from breakthrough to commodity to trinket, Texas Instruments kept adding features and functions.

The LCD screen soon replaced the heat printer, which burned answers onto a roll of ticker tape in TI’s original design. Then the square-root button appeared on the keypad, followed by the buttons for exponents, statistics and basic trigonometry.

These improvements profited TI and delighted pragmatic customers, but they distressed math lovers, who said calculators diminished understanding. Math teachers, for example, spent years resisting calculators.

Older engineers took a similarly skeptical view. Mr. Merryman, who kept using his old slide rule long after he invented the calculator, says that engineers who learned their trade post-calculator have no “feel for numbers.”

TI eventually found itself in an odd place. It was a math and science company that made a fortune selling students a product that some said hurt their understanding of math and science.

The company responded to this conundrum in traditional TI fashion. It rounded up a bunch of smart engineers and charged them with the improbably speedy construction of a profitable solution.

The original graphing calculator came out in 1990 and underwent periodic upgrades, but TI decided a couple years back that it should make a fresh start.
Rather than build the calculator of their dreams, the Nspire team asked teachers and other experts to explain how people learn math and describe the calculator of their dreams. Then they built that.

“They told us that deep learning comes when you show the same thing from many different angles, so we built devices that depict the mathematical relationships as equations, as graphs and as data points in a spread sheet,” said Maribel Mendoza, product manager, TI education technology division.

“If the student changes something in any one of those three areas, the machine automatically adjusts the other two. … You can use it to solve problems, obviously, but it’s not really about solutions. It’s about exploration.”

The Nspire [(] almost certainly won’t change the world as much as the Pocketronic, but the Nspire team clearly hopes their two calculators will change how Americans learn math…