COMET • Vol. 8, No. 07 – 4 March 2007


(1)State Board of Education to Appoint Additional Content Review Panel (CRP) Members for the 2007 Mathematics Adoption; Additional CRP Members are Still Sought

Source: California State Board of Education

The next meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) will be held this coming week on March 7-8.

Item 37 on the agenda, which is slated for action at this meeting, is “2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption of Instructional Materials: Appointment of Instructional Materials Advisory Panel Members and Content Review Panel Experts (Cohort 3).”  The following information is taken from this agenda item:


The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends that the State Board of Education (SBE) approve appointment of nine of the ten Content Review Panel (CRP) experts as listed in Attachment 1 [see], and as recommended by the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission).


March 9, 2005: The SBE adopted the 2006 edition of the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, which includes the evaluation criteria for the 2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption.

January 12, 2006: The SBE adopted the 2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption Timeline.

November 9, 2006: The SBE approved 85 applicants for appointment to the Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) and 4 applicants for appointment to the CRP, conditioned upon legal counsel review of any potential conflicts of interest (Cohort 1).

January 10, 2007: The SBE approved 76 additional applicants for appointment to the IMAP, conditioned upon legal counsel review of any potential conflicts of interest (Cohort 2).



In March 2006, a recruitment letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Jack O’Connell was sent to district and county superintendents, curriculum coordinators in mathematics, and other interested individuals and organizations to recruit mathematics educators to serve as IMAP members and CRP experts. Recruitment letters were also sent to college and university departments of mathematics and to a number of professional associations related to mathematics. The application forms for the IMAP and CRP have been on the CDE Web site since February 2006.

On January 26, 2007, the Curriculum Commission approved to move forward to the SBE six applicants (507, 508, 510, 511, 513, and 514) for appointment to the CRP, conditioned upon legal counsel review of any potential conflicts of interest. On February 20, 2007, the Curriculum Commission approved to move forward to the SBE four additional applicants (509, 515, 516 and 517) for appointment to the CRP, conditioned upon legal counsel review of any potential conflicts of interest. [] includes mini-biographies for the ten CRP applicants in Cohort 3.

Unfortunately, following the Curriculum Commission action on January 26, 2007, CRP applicant 508 notified the CDE that he will not be able to serve as a CRP expert, due to a scheduling conflict. Therefore, the CDE recommendation for this item is to approve appointment of nine of the ten applicants listed in Attachment 1 (excluding 508).

If additional CRP applicants are recommended by the Curriculum Commission prior to the program deliberations sessions in July 2007, those applicants will be submitted as a May SBE agenda item.

Profile of Applicants

The role of the IMAP is to review submitted programs to determine their alignment with the content standards and the evaluation criteria adopted by the SBE. The CRP members serve as mathematics content experts and confirm that the instructional materials are mathematically accurate and based on current and confirmed research.

All of the CRP applicants have an advanced degree in mathematics or a related field.

Of the ten CRP applications recommended by the Curriculum Commissioners, eight applicants are male and two are female. Three applicants are from Northern California, five applicants are from Southern California and one applicant is from another state…

Estimated Number of Panels

Approximately 40 publishers have expressed an interest in participating in the 2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption, though we may have fewer or more actual submissions. Based on this number of publishers, we anticipate needing approximately 20-25 panels of reviewers. Each panel will have five–seven IMAP members and one CRP expert. The SBE has already appointed an adequate number of IMAP members…[but applications for additional CRP members are still being accepted.]


Names of individuals recommended by the Curriculum Commission to the State Board of Education for service on a Content Review Panel (Cohort 3) and their affiliations (CSU = California State University):

Babette Benken (CSU, Long Beach)

Jerome Dancis (University of Maryland)

Ricardo Fierro (CSU, San Marcos)

Brad Huff (

George Jennings (CSU, Dominguez Hills)

Philip Ogbuehi (Los Angeles Unified School District)

Angelo Segalla (CSU, Long Beach)

Jean Simutis (CSU, East Bay)

Christopher Yakes (CSU, Chico)



(1) Nominate an American Star of Teaching!

Source: U.S. Department of Education

For more information regarding the American Stars of Teaching program visit

Only one month is left to nominate an outstanding teacher for an American Star of Teaching Award. American Stars represent thousands of educators throughout our nation’s K-12 school system who have positively impacted the academic performance of their students through innovative instructional strategies, passionate classroom practices, and an inspirational attitude.

“Few people are as important to the future of our children and this nation as are our hard-working teachers. American Stars of Teaching challenge, help, support, prod and go the extra mile to help their students learn and take pride in their achievements,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. “These ‘Stars’ represent the thousands of teachers in our nation’s schools who are committed to the growth of each and every student and are willing to spend the time, effort, and energy necessary to make sure that none are left behind.”

The American Stars of Teaching project is a component of the Department’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which was developed by teachers for teachers. Its overall goal is to engage some of the nation’s best teachers and practitioners in sharing strategies for raising student achievement and informing teachers of the latest successful research-based practices. The initiative also includes regional and district summer workshops for teachers, roundtables, regular e-mail updates and other professional development opportunities. See for more details.

Teachers across all grade levels and disciplines will be honored this fall as 2007 American Stars of Teaching. One teacher will be recognized from every state and the District of Columbia. Colleagues, parents, students, school administrators or members of the community may nominate a teacher they believe has demonstrated the skills, talents and qualities that personify an American Star of Teaching.

Last year the Department received more than 4,000 nominations for the program. Honorees were selected by a committee composed of former K-12 teachers who now work for the U.S. Department of Education. As in the past, Education Department officials will again visit the schools of American Star teachers to congratulate them on their success.

Please take a moment to pass this information along to colleagues, parents, students, school administrators and members of the community, and encourage them to nominate a teacher who has made a unique and positive difference in the lives of their students. The nomination form is available at  Nominations will be accepted through April 1.


(2) $5,000 Cash Prizes for Outstanding Teachers: The Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award

Source: Turnaround Management Association

The Turnaround Management Association recognizes outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers with the Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award.

This program, made possible through the John William Butler Foundation, honors teachers who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and skill in shaping the lives of students and the communities in which they live. It provides $5,000 cash stipends to three to five public or private school teachers plus travel and lodging expenses to the 2007 TMA Annual Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 16-19.

The Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award program is open to currently licensed, active K-12 teachers who have been employed by accredited schools for at least five years. Teachers may nominate themselves, or others may submit a teacher nomination.

Guidelines, applications, and a list of previous recipients are available online at Applications are due by May 1.


(3) “Actor, Advocate Boasts Math Teaching System” by Leslie Williams

Source: The Times-Picayune – 1 March 2007

In the third or fourth grade, actor Danny Glover realized his best subject was math, which was his emphasis at George Washington High School in San Francisco. At 19, after leaving a junior college in San Francisco, he took a part-time job as a dishwasher at a hospital and spent the summer of 1996 shepherding students as they built gravity-propelled coasting cars, played basketball and took field trips.

The following year, Glover — who was interested in sociology, architecture and engineering — enrolled as a sophomore at San Francisco State College and helped students from Raphael Weill School who visited the 3rd Baptist Church tutorial center run by the college, his alma mater.

“What made the tutorial program so unique was that it involved all the stakeholders — parents, students, the administration and teachers,” recalled Glover, a dyslexic who often assisted the students with their math homework.

His connection with education continues with the Algebra Project, an approach to teaching mathematics that was introduced to the New Orleans public school system in the early 1990s and now is practiced in the city’s decentralized system at James Singleton Charter School, an independent, pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade school in Central City affiliated with Recovery School District.

It’s Glover’s relationship with the Algebra Project — a nationally recognized approach for preparing students for the often-failed course — that brought him this [past] week to New Orleans.

[Last Thursday] at Craig Elementary School, Glover [was] expected to announce that the Algebra Project, the Vanguard Foundation, the Recovery School District, and Xavier University will develop a math initiative that will prepare students in the early grades for algebra and advanced math.

Glover serves on the governing boards of the Algebra Project and the California-based Vanguard Foundation of San Francisco, which supports the project.

The visit by one of the stars of The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon and Dreamgirls delighted Singleton Charter School students who gathered in the gym Wednesday morning.

The Algebra Project approach was crafted by Bob Moses, a civil rights activist and graduate of Harvard University.

Instead of exposing students to Algebra for the first time in the eighth or ninth grade, said Jessie Cooper, a LaPlace-based Algebra Project trainer, students prepare over several years for what they’re going to encounter in Algebra class.

“In elementary school and middle school, they’re learning the concepts they’ll need to be successful,” said Cooper, noting that students also are taught to transform activities in their lives into math equations.

Glover’s visit is designed as well to attract attention to efforts to expand Algebra Project offerings in local schools, said Raynard Sanders, a consultant for Vanguard and the project…


(4) Videos are Available for the Conference: “Raising the Floor: Progress and Setbacks in the Struggle for Quality Mathematics Education for All”

Source: Mathematics Science Research Institute (MSRI)

Last May, Deborah Ball and her colleagues organized a 4-day conference at MSRI entitled, “Raising the Floor: Progress and Setbacks in the Struggle for Quality Mathematics Education for All.” Streaming videos of many of the sessions are now available to view free of charge at the conference’s Web page:

The following videos are among those currently available (session titles and speakers):

“The Young Peoples’ Project, the Algebra Project, and the Glagway Game Campaign” — Robert Moses

“Education, Equality, and National Citizenship” — Goodwin Liu

“Equity: Unarticulated Assumptions”–Presentations by Ricardo Cortez, Frieda Jacques, Staffas Broussard, and Ernesto Cortes

“Race and Identity in Math Class: The Complexity of Students’ Positionings of Self in Math” — Na’ilah Nasir

“Equity and Inclusion in Graduate Education: A Model from the Heartland” — Phil Kutzko

“AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society” — Cathy Abeita

“Comments on the National Academies’ Report, ‘Rising Above the Gathering Storm'” — Phillip Griffiths

“National Policy–Perspective of Government and Business” — Charles Hokanson

“Response to National Policy” — Vinetta Jones

“Seeking a Workshop Consensus” — Deborah Ball


(5) “‘Math Anxiety’ Confuses the Equation for Students” by Sean Cavanagh

Source: Education Week – 16 February 2007

Stellar athletes, successful entrepreneurs, and motivational speakers like to say that pressure makes diamonds. The higher the stakes and the harder the circumstances, the thinking goes, the more likely we are to overcome our fears and doubts and produce results.

If only it were that simple in mathematics.

In recent years, researchers and educators have delved further into the topic of “math anxiety,” or the ways in which students’ lack of confidence in that subject undermines their academic performance.

Today, the issue is receiving renewed attention from academic scholars and others, who believe that developing a better understanding of the causes and implications of math anxiety is a key to improving achievement for many students.

Emotional and cognitive factors in learning, including math anxiety, were … explored at a seminar in San Francisco … at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS, which is based in Washington, is an international professional association of scientists.

“It’s easy for people to hear of this and dismiss it. They hear of it and say, ‘Why is this a problem?’ ” said Mark H. Ashcraft, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas…

“It affects people’s academic performance,” he said of such anxiety. “It affects people’s career choice. It’s not just an attitude or feeling that can be ignored.”

When he first began examining the impact of anxiety on math performance, Mr. Ashcraft assumed that students’ unease or nervousness amounted to “an attitude,” as he recalls it, rather than a phobia with a direct link to the brain’s processes. “I was wrong,” he says now.

A number of researchers, including Mr. Ashcraft, say there is evidence that anxiety disrupts student performance in math by wreaking havoc with “working memory.” Such capacity is a type of short-term memory individuals use to retain a limited amount of information while working on a task–and block out distractions and irrelevant information. Anxiety can sap students’ working memory during tests, but in other problem-solving situations, too.

‘Conceptual Barriers’

Some evidence also suggests that anxiety is more of a factor in math than in other subjects.

While students who are anxious about math sometimes are equally apprehensive about other subjects, that anxiety does not undermine their performance in areas such as verbal skill to the same extent it does in math, Mr. Ashcraft and others say. And while the public may be inclined to see anxiety as simply a byproduct of a student not understanding a math concept or topic, researchers believe students’ self-doubts can in fact be a prime cause of those struggles.

Students feel more anxiety in math partly because they are dealing with so many concepts and procedures that are foreign to them, said Robert S. Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who has examined children’s thinking abilities in math and science. Once students realize they do not grasp a math concept, the internal pressure grows.

Math Pressure Cooker

A 2005 study found that students with relatively strong working-memory capacity–a form of short-term memory–were more susceptible than their peers to performing poorly because of stress, or “choking under pressure,” as the authors put it, on difficult math problems.

“Math entails certain conceptual barriers that lead people to read the same passage over and over again and not understand it,” Mr. Siegler said. By contrast, in reading a history lesson, students are likely to recognize vocabulary, themes, and ideas, even if they do not understand all the implications of a particular passage.

“You don’t feel like you totally didn’t understand it, and you’re just floundering,” he said.

Mr. Siegler is one of 17 people serving on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, a White House-commissioned group charged with identifying effective strategies for improving instruction in the subject. The panel includes a number of cognitive psychologists, along with education researchers, mathematicians, and others.

Members of the panel, who are expected to produce a final report for President Bush next year, have discussed the impact of math anxiety “in general terms” as one of several variables that affect student performance, Mr. Siegler said.

In his research, Mr. Ashcraft has found that anxiety tends to have the most powerful impact on students when they are working on certain types of math problems–typically those with larger numbers, or those requiring multiple steps.

Individuals with high levels of math anxiety tend to rush through problems, making them prone to errors, the UNLV researcher has concluded. Those math-anxious students also have far more difficulty on problems that require processes such as “carrying” numbers than on questions where such steps are not necessary.

In a 2001 study, published by Mr. Ashcraft and Elizabeth P. Kirk, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the researchers concluded that math-anxious students struggle on problems involving carrying, borrowing, and long division. Those processes require a lot of working memory, they concluded, a function that is easily disrupted among students prone to math anxiety.

“[A]nxious individuals devote attention to their intrusive thoughts and worries, rather than the task at hand,” Mr. Ashcraft explained in a 2002 paper discussing that study. “In the case of math anxiety, such thoughts probably involve preoccupation with one’s dislike or fear of math, one’s low self-confidence. … [P]aying attention to these intrusive thoughts acts like a secondary task, distracting attention from the math task.”

‘Choking Under Pressure’

Others have sought to better identify which students are most prone to the effects of anxiety in math.

Sian L. Beilock, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, found that students who had high amounts of working-memory capacity were, in fact, most susceptible to seeing their performance fall in math, on more complicated problems.

Ms. Beilock and Thomas H. Carr, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, summarized their findings in a 2005 paper published by the American Psychological Society, titled “When High-Powered People Fail: Working Memory and ‘Choking Under Pressure’ in Math.”

Students with a good amount of working memory rely on “really intensive strategies” to solve math problems, such as keeping track of numbers in their heads as they move from step to step, Ms. Beilock explained in an interview. That approach serves them well on relatively simple math problems, but not more complicated ones, she said.

In higher-pressure situations, such as timed tests, or where researchers put students under additional stress, those high-memory students fare more poorly. Performance pressure sucks the working-memory that has served them so well previously. By contrast, individuals with relatively little working-memory capacity do not seem to suffer as much, Ms. Beilock said.

The idea that students with a lot of working memory–who tend to be better students–fare more poorly under pressure is counterintuitive, Ms. Beilock acknowledged. And it has implications for evaluating student performance through tests, she said.

“Testing is hitting people who would normally perform the best, the hardest,” she said. Because of the impact of pressure on exam performance, she said, “it’s dangerous to [make] conclusions about ability from the test.” Performance pressure among top students, she added, could be pulling them down on tests.

Still, research has shown that students can learn to overcome anxiety, Ms. Beilock said. One strategy simply involves practice with math problems, which can make it easier to retrieve answers from memory. Another is to train students to become more accustomed to working under pressure by having them take timed practice tests, for example. Although there has been little definitive research on what makes math anxiety worse, some scholars have suggested that math teachers or parents can ratchet up the anxiety of students by placing unrealistically high demands on them, or by showing annoyance when concepts aren’t quickly mastered, while providing little academic support. Mr. Ashcraft also points out that math anxiety is somewhat higher among women than men.

Sheila M. Ford, a former elementary math resource teacher and principal in Washington, believes anxiety is just as likely to affect students in other subjects. But she also believes students’ uneasiness in math tends to rise faster if they sense that a teacher does not have mastery of the material.

“It goes back to teacher preparation and knowledge of the subject matter,” said Ms. Ford, a former member of the governing board that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. “If the teacher’s uncomfortable with the curriculum, it will be noticeable to the students.”



(1) Critical Issues in Education: Teaching Teachers Mathematics”

Source: Mathematical Science Research Institute (MSRI)

Teaching Teachers Mathematics, a 3-day workshop scheduled for May 30-June 1, 2007, will be the fourth in a series of workshops sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, CA. Workshop organizers are Deborah Ball, Jim Lewis, and Ruth Heaton. Previous workshops have addressed issues related to assessment, the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching, and equity. Building on the issues investigated in these previous workshops, this workshop will focus concretely on courses, programs, and materials that aim to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching. Both courses and programs that lead to initial certification and professional development of current teachers will be examined at the workshop. In addition, the workshop will examine efforts by colleges, universities, school districts, professional organizations and funding agencies to support people who teach these courses or lead these workshops.

These questions guide the workshop design:

1.  How can courses and programs for teachers be designed and structured so as to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching? What are the features, strengths, and drawbacks of different approaches?

2.  What materials exist for use in teaching teachers mathematics? What are their features? What is known about their usability and effectiveness?

3.  Who teaches teachers mathematics and how is their work supported? What can we learn about the factors that enhance the teaching of mathematics for teachers?

The audience for the workshop includes mathematicians, mathematics educators, classroom teachers, and education researchers who are concerned with improving teachers’ opportunities to gain the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching. The workshop will showcase courses, programs, and curriculum materials whose goal is to increase teachers’ knowledge of mathematics and examine how the mathematical education of teachers relates to the many other aspects of teachers’ professional training and education.

MSRI and the workshop organizers are especially interested in encouraging mathematicians to participate in this workshop, as mathematics departments often have primary responsibility for offering mathematics courses aimed at developing teachers’ mathematical knowledge—yet mathematicians are among the most vocal critics of teachers’ knowledge of mathematics. This workshop offers the opportunity to learn more about programs that are successful at teaching teachers mathematics.

Visit the above Web site for more details concerning this workshop.


(2) American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2007 Annual Conference


The annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) will be held on April 9-13 in Chicago, IL. The preliminary program is now available online.  Non-members can search the program by speaker name or by words in the title after entering the site as a guest at