COMET • Vol. 8, No. 28 – 4 November 2007


“State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Announces California to Help More Women Succeed in Math, Technology, and Science Careers”

Source: California Department of Education

On October 30, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced that California has been accepted as one of five states to participate in the prestigious National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Equity Pipeline Project that is designed to attract more women into the fields of math and science. (For the list of participants, please visit the above Web site.)

“We need to attract more people overall into math and science careers, but the need is even more critical for female students,” said O’Connell. “Even though young girls outnumber boys enrolled in K-12 math and science courses, social forces tend to sway them away from these studies as they enter college. This may deprive women of leadership opportunities that could lead to a lifetime of higher wages, expectations, and accomplishments. As a society we can no longer rely solely on the best minds of just half of our population if California is to maintain its leadership as a global economy and a land of technological innovation. I am pleased that California will be able to participate in the STEM Equity Pipeline Project so we can encourage more women to fulfill their career dreams in the fields of math, technology, and science.”

The National Science Foundation gave a grant to the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity Education Foundation that developed the STEM Equity Pipeline Project. The goal is to increase enrollment of girls in math- and science-related academic courses that lead to a high school degree and college, and to increase participation in STEM career and technical education career cluster programs.

The project is headed by Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity Education Foundation. “We are excited about the potential this project holds to increase the capacity of educators throughout California to encourage women and girls to pursue a career in a STEM field. The train-the-trainer model we will be using with the state teams will build professional development expertise for improving STEM cluster programs of study,” said Lufkin.

The criteria for selecting states to participate in the first year included the following: states that have adequate data collection and management systems in place to implement the process improvement model, geographic distribution nationally, commitment to equity in STEM education as proven by prior performance and activities, and the diversity of systems and administrative structures.

In the first year of the project, five states will participate in the extension services. Two additional states will be added in year two. Three additional states will be added in each of years three and four for a total of 13 states. For more information about the STEM Pipeline Project, please visit the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (



(1) Problem Solving Around the World: Summing Up the State of the Art

Source: Alan Schoenfeld – UC, Berkeley –
URL (Special Issue)

ZDM (The International Journal on Mathematics Education) is a German mathematics education journal published in English that has a long tradition of single-topic special issues. The October 2007 issue (Volume 39, Numbers 5-6), edited by Guenter Toerner, Alan Schoenfeld, and Kristina Reiss, is a special issue entitled Problem Solving Around the World: Summing Up the State of the Art. The issue contains articles describing the state of research and curricular practice around the world, offering interesting contrasts between what we know and what we make happen in schools.

ZDM was recently acquired by Springer, which is trying to make the journal more visible. To do so they’re making this special issue free on the Web–until the end of the year. It is available at

The volume includes papers describing the state of the art in Australia, Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, and the USA. Take advantage of this limited-time opportunity to access these articles free of charge!

Articles in this issue include the following:

“Problem Solving Around The World: Summing Up the State of the Art” by Günter Törner, Alan H. Schoenfeld and Kristina Maria Reiss


“Curriculum Developers and Problem Solving: The Case of Israeli Elementary School Projects” by Abraham Arcavi and Alex Friedlander

“Problem Solving in France: Didactic and Curricular Perspectives” by Michèle Artigue and Catherine Houdement


“Problem Solving in Mathematics Education in Italy: Dreams and Reality” by Paolo Boero and Carlo Dapueto


“Problem Solving in The United Kingdom” by Hugh Burkhardt and Alan Bell


“Problem Solving as a Challenge For Mathematics Education in the Netherlands” by Michiel Doorman, Paul Drijvers, Truus Dekker, Marja Van Den Heuvel-Panhuizen, Jan De Lange and Monica Wijers


“Investigations and Explorations in The Mathematics Classroom” by João Pedro Da Ponte


“Problem Solving in The Mathematics Classroom: The German Perspective” by Kristina Reiss and Günter Törner


“When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going Problem Solving in Hungary, 1970–2007: Research and Theory, Practice and Politics” by Julianna Szendrei


“Problem Solving in Chinese Mathematics Education: Research and Practice” by Jinfa Cai and Bikai Nie


“Problem Solving and Working Mathematically: An Australian Perspective” by David Clarke, Merrilyn Goos, and Will Morony


“From Convergence To Divergence: The Development of Mathematical Problem Solving in Research, Curriculum, and Classroom Practice in Singapore” by Lianghuo Fan and Yan Zhu


“Toward The Problem-Centered Classroom: Trends in Mathematical Problem Solving in Japan” by Keiko Hino


 “Problem Solving: A Personal Perspective From Brazil” by Ubiratan D’Ambrosio


“Mathematical Problem Solving: An Evolving Research and Practice Domain” by Manuel Santos-Trigo


“Problem Solving in The United States, 1970–2008: Research and Theory, Practice and Politics” by Alan Schoenfeld


“The International Commission on Mathematical instruction: ICMI Awards Committee” by Mogens Niss
– Note: Nominations for the Hans Freudenthal Award (recognition for a major program of research on mathematics education) and the Felix Klein Award (recognizing lifelong achievement in mathematics education research) are being accepted through November 17. Please visit for more information.



(2) Public Comment at the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Meetings

Source: U.S. Department of Education

“Comments submitted to the National Math Panel (NMP) in any format–through e-mail, the U.S. postal service and/or provided in person during the public comment sessions at NMP meetings–are considered to be part of the public record of the Panel’s deliberations, and will be posted on the [above] website.” The below statements were excerpted from public comment provided at the NMP meeting held on October 23-24 in Phoenix, AZ. (The Tenth Meeting will be held in Baltimore, MD on November 28.)

#1–William McCallum:  I am a mathematics professor at the University of Arizona, and direct the Institute for Mathematics and Education there. In addition, I chair the Committee on Education of the American Mathematical Society and next year will start a two year term as chair of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences…

The immediate purpose of the Panel’s report is to inform the legislative agenda at the federal level. However, we cannot wait. Whatever legislation might materialize, turning the Panel’s words into action also requires an urgent national deliberation, conducted in school districts, state houses, state boards of education, and national organizations. On that front, I suggest that in your final report you enjoin a coalition of institutes, centers, and programs to organize a series of follow-up meetings around the nation. These meetings would mine the work of the panel and extract nuggets around which to build their own agendas for action and programs for research. An important resource for this work will be not only the Panel’s report, but the rich set of documents it has accumulated during the period of public comment, especially in areas where the Panel has been unable to develop substantial agreement. Some meetings would have a focus on influencing policy, taking recommendations from the Panel’s report that can be turned into immediate action. For example, there is much that institutions for higher education can do right now in teacher preparation and professional development, and an urgent need for them to do it on a much larger scale than they do now. Other meetings would pick up the ball in areas where more research is needed, and develop research agendas of their own to fill in these gaps.

Should the panel take up my suggestion, the Institute for Mathematics and Education ( would eagerly step up. We have the capacity not only to run some of the meetings envisioned in my proposal, but also to collate and orchestrate the efforts of other centers. Collaboration is the hallmark of the Institute. We specialize in bringing together communities that are sometimes worlds apart: mathematics departments, colleges of education, school systems, government agencies, business, and commercial and non-profit education organizations. I have made preliminary contact with some of the organizations that might help carry out this work, such as the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, the Focus on Mathematics Project at Boston University, the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education at the University of Nebraska, the Center for Mathematics Education at the University of Maryland, and the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology here at Arizona State University. There are many more centers that I have not had the time to contact, but which I am sure are ready to join such an effort.

As “A Nation at Risk” memorably put it, “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” That was almost 25 years ago, and we are not much better off now than then. We ourselves are the unfriendly power, and we are also therefore the solution. I urge the Panel to draw on the resources of local and national centers and catalyze the formation of a network for positive climate change in education.


#2–Honorable Members of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel:  Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am Janie Zimmer from Research-Based Education, speaking on behalf of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics or NCSM, an organization of leaders in mathematics education. I serve on the NCSM Board.

First of all, we would like to tell you that NCSM greatly appreciates the work of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel throughout the past year and a half. We realize how important your task is to the advancement of mathematics education. We thank you for your efforts, and we are hopeful that your final report will have an impact on the children in our nation…

I would again like to highlight what we see as the most critical issue in the work of this Panel, and that is equity–the opportunity for every student to achieve a high level of mathematics.

As we examine the total work of the Panel, we currently see few references to equity and the opportunity for every student to achieve high levels of mathematics in order to be prepared to be successful in algebra. There are some references to students with learning disabilities, and a reference to gifted and talented students, but at this time–or prior to this meeting–we see none addressing the needs of those from poor families, those whose native language is other than English, those who have diverse learning styles, those students of color, and those who have strong and different cultural backgrounds. We realize that you are still in the early stages of your report, yet must emphasize that the needs of these students must be woven into this report in a more robust way.

…In the few months that remain before that report, NCSM again invites you to call upon us to help inform your work and to provide support in any way we can…


(3) “Sputnik Declassified”

Source: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Lesson plans and other resources for teachers are available at the NOVA Web site for teachers interested in using these PBS programs for instructional use. This week’s NOVA broadcast (first airing Tuesday evening) will be “Sputnik Declassified” (see  Videotaped shows can be used within one year of taping.

The following is an excerpt from the program overview for “Sputnik Declassified”:

Through declassified documents, archival photos, and interviews with historians, participants, and experts, NOVA reveals the story behind America’s pursuit of a satellite, and what caused the United States to lag behind Sputnik 1, the first satellite launched in 1957.
The program:
– points out that the story begins in World War II, with the experiences of two significant figures: Dwight D. Eisenhower and Wernher von Braun.
– chronicles von Braun’s childhood dream of pioneering space travel in order to explore, and reports on how that dream was harnessed by the German military for its own purposes.
– reviews Eisenhower’s formation of a secret committee to determine the best way to avoid a surprise attack by the Soviets.
– discloses the committee’s recommendations to develop reconnaissance satellites to provide reliable information on threats to the United States.
– explains the committee’s directive to establish the freedom of space for all nations through a scientific Earth satellite program, as a means to set a precedent that would allow the spy satellite Eisenhower wanted.
– illustrates how in 1687 Isaac Newton first described how firing a cannon from the top of a mountain could create a satellite.
– traces Germany’s development of the ballistic missile and reports how the team led by Wernher von Braun tackled propulsion, cooling, aerodynamic, and guidance challenges.
– recounts how during World War II the German V-2 ballistic missiles were mass-produced in an underground factory staffed by slave laborers from concentration camps.
– notes how the 1957–58 International Geophysical Year set the stage for development of the first satellite.
– details the two leading proposals in the U.S. efforts to build a satellite–one by an army team led by von Braun and another by the Naval Research Laboratory–and reports on the controversy surrounding the choice, and secret reasons behind it.
– chronicles how the Soviets, after experiencing serious delays with their original satellite development, switched gears and quickly assembled and successfully launched the beach-ball sized, 184-pound satellite named Sputnik.


(4) Special Programs for Teachers at Office Supply Stores

URL (Office Depot):
URL (Office Max):
URL (Staples):

Office Depot, Office Max, and Staples all offer shopping incentive programs for teachers (including college/university professors).

Office Depot’s Star Teacher Program:  Teachers receive an instant 5% savings on qualified in-store purchases (15% savings on Copy & Print Center purchases). Star Teachers can also receive Rewards, a maximum of $50 per Reward Period or $200 per year, granted on qualified purchases (exclusions and minimum purchase levels apply). Rewards accrue based on Reward Period purchase level and are distributed quarterly in the form of an Office Depot Reward Card.

MaxPerks for Teachers: For every $75 spent, teachers can earn $10 in MaxPerks rewards (payable each quarter), up to a maximum of $100 per year. In addition, teachers can also earn 2% on all ink and toner purchases.

Staples Teacher Rewards Program:  Teachers can earn 2% back in rewards (up to $15) when they spend at least $200 for purchases in a quarter. (If over $500 is spent in a calendar year, teachers can earn 5% back in rewards. From December 15 to January 15 and from July 15 to September 15, every $1 spent counts as $2 toward earning rewards.