COMET • Vol. 9, No. 23 – 13 October 2008


(1) Bill to Attract More Math, Science, Special Education Teachers Signed into Law

Source:  California Senator Gloria Romero
URL (S.B. 1660):

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) recently announced that the governor signed into law her Senate Bill 1660 to address a critical shortage of math, science, and special education teachers in the lowest-performing (API Deciles 1-3) schools.

The measure will enable school districts to attract and retain highly-qualified teachers by providing compensation for incentives such as extra pay, additional time for class preparation, and extra time for professional development.

“The overwhelming majority of students in the lowest-performing schools come from poverty and are also predominantly Latino and African American,” Romero said. “Students in these schools have less access than students in other schools to qualified math, science and special education teachers. I believe that the effort to achieve quality education for poor and disadvantaged students is the civil rights issue of our time. Senate Bill 1660 is a step forward. California cannot lead the nation in renewable energy, a viable green economy, or in health care if we do not address the shortage and inequitable distribution of math and science teachers now.”

Students in the lowest performing schools are four times more likely to have teachers less qualified to teach math and science than students in better performing schools. Of the nearly one million students in these schools, 67.2% are Latino and 11.1% are African American. More than 40% are English learners, and most of them are poor.

Educators fear students in the lowest-performing schools will fall further behind in math when the State Board of Education requires testing of all eighth grade students on Algebra I in three years.

SB 1660 will allow school districts to use the professional development block grant funds they currently have for alternative ways to compensate teachers only if the teachers’ bargaining units agree to it.


(2) Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching — Call for Nominations

Source: Sandie Gilliam, CMC PAEMST Coordinator – (Note: James J. Miller, California Department of Education, is the PAEMST Coordinator for Science:

The California Mathematics Council (CMC) Awards Committee is hoping that you will nominate exceptional, experienced teachers for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The 2008-2009 applicants must teach mathematics or science in grades 7-12.  Next year, teachers in grades K-6 will be eligible to apply.

The following article appeared in the September issue of CMC’s ComMuniCator:

Reward Good Teaching

There are over 150,000 teachers in California teaching math, and yet each year we’re getting fewer than 15 applications for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching.

If you know an exemplary SECONDARY mathematics teacher who:
— Gets students excited about math,
— Skillfully uses a variety of teaching techniques,
— Engages students in meaningful mathematics,
— Regularly reflects on lessons and seeks professional development, and
— Is actively involved in mathematics education at the local, state, and/or national levels, then nominate them and assist them in applying!

Although mentors are available to help, personal encouragement and collegial guidance have been important to the success of previous applicants.

For more information and a nomination form which is NOW AVAILABLE, you can go the website at 

Mentoring sessions for the application will be held at the CMC conferences in Palm Springs (November 7-8) and Asilomar (December 4-7). [See] Application deadline: May 31, 2009.


(3) “Using Partnerships to Strengthen Elementary Mathematics Teacher Education”-MSRI Conference

Source: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)

“Using Partnerships to Strengthen Elementary Mathematics Teacher Education” is a workshop scheduled to be held on December 11-12, 2008. The workshop, which is sponsored by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, CA, is being organized by Deborah Ball (University of Michigan), James Lewis (University of Nebraska), and William McCallum (University of Arizona). The workshop will explore the challenges to and benefits of a collaborative approach to the mathematical education of elementary teachers.

A core problem–perhaps the central problem–for improving elementary school mathematics is the mathematical education of elementary teachers. The historic isolation of elementary teachers’ study of mathematics from their pedagogical preparation is increasingly seen to be both unnatural and ineffective. Indeed, the mathematical education of elementary teachers is inherently interdisciplinary as future teachers seek to gain the mathematical knowledge, the pedagogical knowledge and the knowledge of young students that is needed to become a successful mathematics teacher. Thus, it seems reasonable that an integrative learning approach to mathematical education of elementary teachers could yield substantial benefits.

In part supported by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, mathematicians and educators at the University of Michigan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sonoma State University, and Mills College have worked to form partnerships that meet the mathematical and pedagogical needs of their students. Faculty from these institutions who have participated in the Collaborative Teaching project will report on their efforts and lessons learned about working together to educate teachers of mathematics.

These questions guide the workshop design:

1.  What mathematical and pedagogical knowledge is of central importance to the preparation of elementary mathematics teachers?
2.  How can courses and programs for elementary teachers be designed and structured so as to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching?
3.  What are the barriers, challenges and benefits to approaching the mathematical education of teachers as a partnership among mathematicians, educators, and master teachers?

The audience for the workshop includes mathematicians, mathematics educators, and classroom teachers who are concerned with improving elementary teachers’ opportunities to gain the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching. Participants should attend the workshop in teams of 2-4 that include at least one mathematician and one educator, both of whom are interested in the education of elementary teachers and in learning more about the benefits that can be derived from a collaborative approach to the mathematical education of elementary teachers.


(4) Authorizations to Teach Mathematics

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

At last week’s meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, an item entitled, “Authorizations to Teach Mathematics” was included on the agenda. The document accompanying this item is available for download from the Web site above.

Included below is an excerpt:


Mathematics, especially Algebra I, has been the focus of much attention recently due to action of the State Board of Education (SBE) in July 2008 to assess all 8th grade students in Algebra I by the 2010-11 school year. This action was taken as a condition of entering into a compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). In light of this new state policy direction, it seems appropriate to review and discuss the documents that authorize an individual to teach mathematics, since a number of the Commission’s credentials and other documents authorize an individual to teach mathematics in the public schools.

This agenda item describes current credential authorizations and teacher preparation in mathematics in the context of student coursework and related evidence of student proficiency [on the Algebra 1 California Standards Test].  The information presented in this item addresses a number of topics related to the preparation of individuals to teach mathematics including types of authorizations required for different levels of mathematics instruction, K-12 student proficiency in mathematics, number of mathematics credentials and other mathematics authorizations awarded, subject matter preparation to teach mathematics, including the number and passing rate of single subject candidates who satisfy the subject matter requirement through the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET):  Mathematics Examination, and pedagogical preparation to teach mathematics.

At different points in the discussion, questions are posed about the adequacy of the preparation of professional educators who provide mathematics instruction. Finally, staff has posed a number of questions for the Commission to consider regarding the preparation and credentialing of individuals to teach mathematics and requests Commission direction as to which, if any, of the questions should be studied further…

Mathematics Instruction in the Self-Contained Classroom 

The multiple subject teaching credential authorization allows its holder to teach in self-contained classrooms, usually at the kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade levels.  In addition, individuals with multiple subject credentials are often assigned to 7th or 8th grade core assignments.  Multiple subject credential holders are currently authorized to teach Algebra I if the class is taught in a core configuration.  However, this assignment conflicts with California’s NCLB Highly Qualified Teacher requirements which are discussed below.  The multiple subject credential does not authorize its holder to teach Algebra I in a departmentalized setting.  More specifically, the multiple subject teaching authorization statement reads:

This credential authorizes the holder to teach all subjects in a self-contained class and, as a self-contained classroom teacher, to team teach or to regroup students across classrooms, in grades twelve and below, including preschool, and in classes organized primarily for adults. In addition, this credential authorizes the holder to teach core classes consisting of two or more subjects to the same group of students in grades five through eight, and to teach any of the core subjects he or she is teaching to a single group of students in the same grade level as the core for less than fifty percent of his or her work day.

Mathematics Authorizations for the Secondary Level

* The single subject credential in mathematics authorizes an individual to teach every level of mathematics from grades K-12.  More specifically, the single subject mathematics authorization statement reads:

This document authorizes the holder to teach the subject area(s) listed above in grades twelve and below, including preschool, and in classes organized primarily for adults.

Individuals who hold a single subject teaching credential in mathematics are authorized to teach mathematics in grades seven through 12 including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II/Trigonometry, Probability and Statistics, Introductory Analysis, and Calculus courses.

* The single subject Foundational-Level Mathematics (FLM) authorization statement reads:

This document authorizes the holder to teach the content areas in general mathematics, algebra, geometry, probability and statistics, and consumer mathematics in grades twelve and below, including preschool, and in classes organized primarily for adults. 

The FLM credential authorizes an individual to teach mathematics in grades seven through 12 including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Probability and Statistics.  Individuals who hold a FLM credential are not authorized to teach Trigonometry, Introductory Analysis, or Calculus courses.  The FLM credential, which was approved as an authorization by the Commission in 2002, was developed to increase the number of individuals authorized to teach Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

* In addition to holding one of the credentials listed above, a multiple subject or single subject teacher may add either a Supplementary Authorization in Introductory Mathematics or a Subject Matter Authorization in Mathematics.  The Supplementary Authorization in Introductory Mathematics has been an option for teachers for over 25 years, while the Subject Matter Authorization is a more recent option developed in response to NCLB.   Both the Supplementary Authorization in Introductory Mathematics and the Subject Matter Authorization in Mathematics read:

This credential authorizes the holder to teach only the subject matter content typically included for the introductory subject or subjects listed above, in curriculum guidelines and textbooks approved for study in grades 9 and below [(i.e., Algebra I and Geometry)] to students in preschool, kindergarten, grades 1-12, or in classes organized primarily for adults….

An individual with the Supplementary Authorization…has a minimum of 20 semester units of mathematics content knowledge [(or 10 upper-division math units)].  However, after NCLB highly qualified teacher requirements became federal law, California defined a highly qualified teacher as an individual who has completed 32 semester units in the subject area, in this case mathematics.  The Supplementary Authorization did not satisfy California’s definition of highly qualified teacher.  Therefore, the Commission developed the Subject Matter Authorization that requires 32 semester units in mathematics and allows teachers holding this authorization to be considered “highly qualified” for the purpose of NCLB.  Both these documents authorize the individual to teach mathematics up through 9th grade content…

In addition, veteran teachers can utilize the High Objective Uniform State Standard Evaluation (HOUSSE) process administered at the local level to become highly qualified.  Districts are motivated to assign only highly qualified teachers to their academic subject courses because to do otherwise risks being sanctioned by the State Board of Education and the California Department of Education…

Subject Matter Preparation to Teach Mathematics

The preparation for an individual to teach any subject includes both an understanding of the subject matter and an understanding of how to teach that subject to K-12 students.  Subject Matter Requirements (SMRs) are developed for each content area, and then Program Standards are adopted by the Commission.   The same SMRs are used when an examination is developed.  The current SMRs for mathematics are aligned to the adopted student content standards…  An individual earning an initial authorization to teach mathematics has two options for demonstrating mastery of the content of mathematics: 1) completion of an approved subject matter preparation program offered by a college or university (an option for a single subject credential) that provides instruction in subject matter content and an introduction to subject-specific pedagogy, or 2) passage of an examination (required for a multiple subject credential, an option for a single subject credential). Completion of university coursework is required when an individual adds either a Supplementary Authorization (20 units) or a Subject Matter Authorization (32 units) to his or her existing single subject or multiple subject credential…

In general, 40% of candidates demonstrated subject matter competency in mathematics through coursework, while 60% demonstrated competency through passage of the examination.  This is not the case with respect to the FLM credential, of which nearly all, or 99% of candidates, take the examination  The percent of candidates using the examination route has more than doubled from 2002-03 to 2006-07, due in large part to the FLM credential…

Candidates for the FLM credential are required to pass Subtests 1 and 2 of the CSET: Mathematics Examination, which address Domains 1-4 (see below).  The complete content specifications for the CSET: Mathematics examination can be found on the CSET web page:

Domain 1: Algebra
– Algebraic Structures
– Polynomial Equations and Inequalities
– Functions
– Linear Algebra
Domain 2: Geometry
– Parallelism
– Plane Euclidean Geometry
– Three-Dimensional Geometry
– Transformational Geometry
Domain 3: Number Theory
– Natural Numbers
Domain 4: Probability and Statistics
– Probability
– Statistics
Domain 5: Calculus [on Subtest 3] – Trigonometry
– Limits and Continuity
– Derivatives and Applications
– Integrals and Applications
– Sequences and Series
Domain 6: History of Mathematics [on Subtest 3] – Chronological and Topical Development of Mathematics…

One final consideration relevant to this topic is that the Commission has the authority to award Specialist credentials.  The program standards for the Mathematics Specialist Programs were developed in 1985 and revised slightly in 1992.  But at this time, there are no approved programs that meet the standards and fewer than twenty Mathematics Specialist credentials have been granted.  The authorization for the mathematics specialist reads:

The Mathematics Specialist Instruction Credential authorizes the holder to teach mathematics in grades twelve and below, including preschool, and in classes organized primarily for adults.  This credential also authorizes the holder to develop and coordinate curriculum, develop programs and deliver staff development for mathematics education programs coordinated by school districts and county offices of education.

Currently, the role of Reading Specialist Credential holders is an important one for schools in that they usually work with students in the primary grades who are having trouble learning to read in addition to providing staff development and developing and coordinating curriculum.  Although the Mathematics Specialist Credential exists, it can be argued that it has been an underutilized tool for addressing needs in the area of mathematics.  Examining ways to expand these programs and credential holders as well as maximize their role may be one way to address   the needs of students in upper elementary, middle, or high schools who are not making adequate progress in their understanding of mathematics…



Lost in America: Top Math Talent

Source: EurekAlert – 10 October 2008
URL (Article):

…The study, “Cross-Cultural Analysis of Students with Exceptional Talent in Mathematical Problem Solving,” appearing in the November 2008 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, brings together decades of data from several extremely high-level mathematics competitions for young people. These data show that there exist many females with profound intrinsic ability in mathematics. What is more, whether this ability is identified and nurtured is highly dependent on socio-cultural, educational, or other environmental factors. In the United States, these factors keep many boys as well as most girls from developing their mathematical talents to the fullest.

Girl Math Whizzes Found in Cultures that Value Math

The main part of the study examines participation in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), a highly challenging, nine-hour, six-problem essay style examination taken by some of the most mathematically gifted pre-college students the world over. In recent years, as many as 95 countries have sent 6-member teams to compete in the IMO. The study found that there have been numerous girls who have excelled in the IMO; however, the frequency with which girls of medal-winning ability are identified varies greatly from country to country.

Even some relatively small countries such as Bulgaria and Romania can field highly successful IMO teams. “[W]hat most of these countries [that excel in the IMO] have in common are rigorous national mathematics curricula along with cultures and educational systems that value, encourage, and support students who excel in mathematics,” the study says. Since 1974, the highly-ranked Bulgarian, East German/German, and USSR/Russian IMO teams have included 9, 10, and 13 different girls, respectively. By contrast, during that same time period, the U.S. teams included just 3 girls. While only a few students per year typically achieve a perfect score of 42 points in this extremely difficult exam, multiple girls have been among them, including Evgenia Malinnikova of the USSR who missed by only one point achieving a perfect 42 three years in a row.

One of the study’s findings is that many of the students from the United States who participate in the IMO are immigrants or children of immigrants from countries where education in mathematics is valued and mathematical talent is nurtured. A similar pattern holds for data from other highly challenging math competitions, including the USA Mathematical Olympiad and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for undergraduate students, also analyzed in the study. In particular, Asian-American and white girls who are immigrants from Eastern Europe are well represented in proportion to their percentages of the U.S. and Canadian populations among the very top students identified in these math competitions. It is only U.S.- and Canadian-born white and historically underrepresented minority girls who are underrepresented–underrepresented by 50-fold or more relative to Asian girls educated in the same school systems, the study concludes.

U.S. Culture Discourages Girls–and Boys

Study co-author Titu Andreescu of the University of Texas at Dallas believes, “Innate math aptitude is probably fairly evenly distributed throughout the world, regardless of race or gender. The huge differences observed in achievement levels are most likely due to socio-cultural attributes specific to each country.” Some countries routinely identify and nurture both boys and girls with profound mathematical ability to become world-class mathematical problem solvers, while others, including the USA, only rarely identify girls of this caliber. In addition, social pressures conspire to discourage girls from pursuing math. “[I]t is deemed uncool within the social context of USA middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism,” the report says.

“Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.”

The study also looks at the representation of women among the faculty in five of the very top US research university mathematics departments. Just 20% of the women in these elite departments were born in the United States. Of the 80% born elsewhere, many are immigrants from countries in which girls are frequently members of IMO teams. The study found a similar race/ethnicity/birth country/gender profile among U.S. participants in the IMO and its training camp as among the faculties of these outstanding math departments. “Thus, we conclude that the mathematics faculty being hired by these very highest-ranked research universities reflects the pool of IMO medal-caliber students of mathematics coming through the pipeline,” the study says.

“The U.S. culture that is discouraging girls is also discouraging boys,” says Janet Mertz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of oncology and lead author of the study. “The situation is becoming urgent. The data show that a majority of the top young mathematicians in this country, male as well as female, were not born here.” Co-author Joseph A. Gallian, professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota Duluth, says, “Just as there is concern about the U.S. relying on foreign countries for our oil and manufactured goods, we should also be concerned about relying on others to fill our needs for mathematicians, engineers, and scientists.