COMET • Vol. 9, No. 30 – 5 December 2008


The Mathematics Specialist Credential Will be Addressed at Next Week’s CCTC Meeting

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s agenda for next week’s meeting includes an information item entitled, “The Mathematics Specialist Credential: Discussion of Current Authorization, Adopted Standards, and Possible Future Uses of this Authorization.”

Excerpts from this agenda item appear below, with the full text available at


… At the November 2008 Commission meeting, staff presented a plan for addressing the issues related to the authorizations to teach Mathematics.  At that time, the Commission requested that the issue of the Mathematics Specialist be among the first topics to be addressed.  This agenda item presents information about the current Mathematics Specialist credential and proposes that with the increased focus on instruction in mathematics, including Algebra, it may be the appropriate time for the Commission to review and possibly revise the related program standards as well as the authorization statement for the Mathematics Specialist credential.

At the October and the November 2008 Commission meetings, staff presented information from the California Department of Education concerning K-12 student achievement in mathematics. These data indicated that while there is a need to improve student achievement in the area of 8th grade algebra, there is also a need to improve the teaching of mathematics in the early grades that is preparatory for the teaching and learning of algebra.

In reviewing the factors that affect the teaching and learning of mathematics in grades K-8, one factor that stood out as being within the purview of the Commission to address was the issue of the initial preparation of teachers for teaching grades K-8 mathematics.  Within that framework, the discussion at the Commission meeting focused on one potential option that could assist current teachers of grades K-8 mathematics: using the services of a Mathematics Specialist credential holder to provide support and assistance to both students and teachers. To begin to examine this possibility, the Commission requested that staff provide further background information and options for the Commission to consider.

The Mathematics Specialist Credential Authorization

Currently the Commission has the authority to issue and has adopted program standards for Mathematics Specialist Instruction Credentials (Math Specialist).  As previously stated at the November 2008 Commission meeting, however, there are currently no approved programs to prepare Math Specialists.

The current Title 5 Regulations for the Mathematics Specialist credential are as follows:
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.

The Mathematics Specialist authorization does not authorize an individual to teach anything in addition to what an individual with a Single Subject teaching credential in Mathematics is already authorized to teach.  However, the authorization states that an individual holding a Mathematics Specialist credential may coordinate curriculum, develop programs and deliver staff development which allows the individual to provide services beyond teaching in a classroom.

Program Standards for the Mathematics Specialist Instruction Credential

The Mathematics Specialist Instruction Credential was originally designed for veteran teachers with subject matter knowledge in mathematics.  There are four specific requirements that an individual working toward the current Mathematics Specialist credential must meet prior to being recommended for the credential:  1) possess a major in mathematics acceptable to a Commission approved institution, or a passing score on the Commission-approved mathematics examination; 2) hold a valid teaching credential; 3) have a minimum of three years of full-time classroom teaching with demonstrated aptitude for classroom teaching; and 4) complete one academic year or its equivalent of professional preparation including graduate coursework in mathematics…

The knowledge and skills that an individual must have to earn the Mathematics Specialist Instruction Credential are defined in the program standards that were adopted sixteen years ago and the guidelines that were adopted over 23 years ago…  The complete standards are available on the Commission’s web page:  …  The current standards… and guidelines… are outdated.   Further, the California’s Mathematics Frameworks have been revised twice and the Commission’s own Single Subject: Mathematics Teacher Preparation Standards have also changed in recent years.  Therefore, if the Commission was to determine the Mathematics Specialist credential concept worth continuing and updating, new program standards would need to be developed.

Possible Future Uses for the Mathematics Specialist Authorization

…An updated Mathematics Specialist credential could be modeled on the more widely used Reading Specialists authorizations. Described below are four settings where a Mathematics Specialist credential might be used.  These settings are not a comprehensive list but may serve to start a dialogue concerning the future of this credential.

* Remediation within an elementary school, much like the current Reading Certificate and Reading Language Arts Specialist Credential. The authorization could focus on elementary school and middle school (up to Algebra I) where the individual holding the authorization works with small groups of students who are significantly behind in their comprehension of math.  The individual would have skills in diagnosis and remediation of students’ misunderstandings of mathematics.

*  Professional development, collegial instruction and support for multiple subject teachers.  The individual might provide professional development, demonstration lessons and observations in the multiple subject teacher’s classroom focusing on mathematics.  This authorization could focus on the elementary and middle school years (up to Algebra I).

* An individual with a Mathematics Specialist credential might be an appropriate person to work with students who have struggled in Algebra I and need to retake the course, and/or with students who are below the Proficient level on state assessments in math.

* An individual with a Mathematics Specialist credential might serve in a leadership role within a school, district, or county office developing and coordinating mathematics instruction.
Proposed Plan to Review and Revise the Mathematics Specialist Credential Requirements and Program Standards

If the Commission wishes to pursue updating the Mathematics Specialist Credential authorization and related program standards, staff could begin the process of convening an expert panel to review the credential requirements and program standards and subsequently to propose revisions to the Commission. The application process for the establishment of the panel would be conducted consistent with adopted Commission policy. If staff is directed to initiate this process, the application period could extend through February 2009, with the panel work beginning in March 2009.  A potential draft charge for such a panel is included as Appendix A, and a description of the potential timeline for the panel, in accordance with Commission policy, is provided in Appendix B. [See]



(1) “It’s Complex” by Joshua Brown

Source: University of Vermont

…Intuitive problem solving, [Peter Dodds] thinks, is not simple to explain and even harder to replicate with a computer. It’s way beyond the best artificial intelligence programs, and it would be charitable to say that neuroscience has a firm grasp of how the brain manages such a task. But it’s not magical either.

“It’s complex,” he says.

And complexity lies at the heart of Dodd’s research and teaching as an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics. He’s part of a group of researchers who make up the University of Vermont’s Complex Systems Center launched in 2006…

“In its most simple form, a complex system is many distributed parts interacting in some distributed way,” Dodds says, “giving rise to some interesting, often unexpected, macrophenomena.” Take a neuron. Alone, it’s a cell that conducts a chemical signal. But billions together, each woven with thousands of links that adapt and change over time, emerge as a brain capable of following a hunch and the smell of coffee.

While the human brain may be the ultimate complex system, other examples appear everywhere. Take army ants. Despite their name, they have no general, and their queen sends out no instructions. No ant is aiming to get across that gully, and there is no blueprint or traffic light. Yet millions of ants, following the same instinctive rules of individual behavior, can build bridges with their bodies and forage for food along vast efficient highways.

“That’s emergence,” says computer scientist Maggie Eppstein, director of the UVM Complex Systems Center. “You can’t just look at the rules each little thing is following and then describe what is going to happen in the whole system. You’ve got to run the model or observe the whole to understand what happens at the next scale.”

Ferociously chaotic air currents resolve into a tornado that moves across the landscape maintaining its form. “In complex systems, through local interactions and self-organization, stable or semi-stable patterns emerge at a next level or a higher scale,” she says, “but they are difficult to predict because they are so sensitive to small changes in the system or initial conditions.”

Applying insights like these, Eppstein and her colleagues across the university are helping to lead the rapidly developing field of complex systems science. They aim to bring new approaches to some of the world’s most vexing problems like improving hurricane forecasts, understanding the effects of phosphorous pollution in a watershed, slowing the spread of invasive species, making robots that can start to discern the intentions behind an action, and untangling the genetic and environmental threads that lead to heart disease….

“Complex systems science is just the evolution of science,” Dodds says. Since the revolution that Newton and Descartes helped launch, the main thrust of so-called normal science has been to look for smaller pieces and more fundamental laws. Molecules yield atoms yield quarks.

“There are many problems that we figured out by breaking things into little pieces,” Dodds says. “Scientists figured out DNA with its double helix. And then they figured out the human genome by measuring like crazy. There was a sense conveyed that once we understood all the bits of the genome, we’d understand everything human,” he says, “but that’s totally insane.”

“It’s like saying once we understand atoms we understand matter,” he says, “But we don’t.”

Of course, many of the underlying ideas behind complex systems are far older than the name. It was Aristotle who stated that the “whole is more than the sum of the parts.” But complex systems science takes this realization further. As physicist PW Anderson wrote in a seminal 1972 paper in Science, in a complex system “the whole becomes not only more than, but very different from the sum of its parts.”

“The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe,” Anderson wrote…


(2) “Report and Recommendations for Education Policy Leaders Says World’s Educators Should Learn From Singapore’s Success in Science and Math”

Source: The Pearson Foundation – 20 November 2008

A new report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Pearson Foundation identifies key factors in Singapore’s success in teaching science and mathematics and recommends that educators around the world extend and develop these practices in their school systems.

Report and Recommendations for Education Policy Leaders documents the conclusions from the International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, held April 28-May 1 in Singapore. This conference, created and presented by CCSSO and the Pearson Foundation, convened delegates from 13 countries and six continents to explore firsthand the educational and cultural drivers that consistently help Singapore students to score at the top of international surveys such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The report cites specifically Singapore’s country-wide investment in teachers; the development of their administrative leadership; and the educational system’s adoption of innovative core curriculum designed to foster students’ creativity and independent thinking.

“We convened this first gathering, focused specifically on science and mathematics, in Singapore in the hope that this worldwide delegation could learn from Singapore’s success,” said Gene Wilhoit, CCSSO’s Executive Director. “Our spirited discussions set the stage for the continued exploration of these issues–one we invite others to share by means of this publication.”

Small working teams from countries including Brazil, Canada, England, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States also shared key educational, assessment, and professional development practices that ensure student success in mathematics and science education in their respective countries.

Report and Recommendations for Education Policy Leaders is the first in a series of annual reports from CCSSO and The Pearson Foundation that will present shared conclusions of CCSSO members from around the world. The partners announced the series and presented the first report at the CCSSO Annual Policy Forum (APF) and Business Meeting in Austin, Texas.

“One of the report’s clear conclusions is that educators have as much to learn from other countries as they do from the achievements of their own teachers and administrators,” said Pearson Foundation President Mark Nieker. “With CCSSO, we hope this report provides educators everywhere a chance to reflect on their own practices and to share ideas to improve outcomes for the students they serve.”

Report and Recommendations for Education Policy Leaders can be downloaded via the CCSSO and Pearson Foundation websites ( These sites also contain details of next year’s Summit, which will be held in Finland to focus specifically on teacher quality and technological innovation.


(3) “Ads on Tests Add up for Teacher” by Greg Toppo and Janet Kornblum


Tom Farber gives a lot of tests. He’s a calculus teacher, after all.

So when administrators at Rancho Bernardo, his suburban San Diego high school, announced the district was cutting spending on supplies by nearly a third, Farber had a problem. At 3 cents a page, his tests would cost more than $500 a year. His copying budget: $316. But he wanted to give students enough practice for the big tests they’ll face in the spring, such as the Advanced Placement exam.

“Tough times call for tough actions,” he says. So he started selling ads on his test papers: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final.

San Diego magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune featured his plan just before Thanksgiving, and Farber came home from a few days out of town to 75 e-mail requests for ads. So far, he has collected $350. His semester final is sold out.

That worries Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert, a Washington-based non-profit that fights commercialization in school and elsewhere. If test-papers-as-billboards catches on, he says, schools in the grip of tough economic times could start relying on them to help the bottom line.

“The advertisers are paying for something, and it’s access to kids,” he says.

About two-thirds of Farber’s ads are inspirational messages underwritten by parents. Others are ads for local businesses, such as two from a structural engineering firm and one from a dentist who urges students, “Brace Yourself for a Great Semester!”

Principal Paul Robinson says reaction has been “mixed,” but he notes, “It’s not like, ‘This test is brought to you by McDonald’s or Nike.’ ”

To Farber, 47, it’s a logical solution: “We’re expected to do more with less.”

The National Education Association says teachers spend about $430 out of their pockets each year for school supplies. This semester, Christine Van Ruiten, a teacher at E.C. Reems, a charter school in East Oakland, has spent $2,000. She scours Craigslist for free supplies and posts requests to, which matches teachers with donors.

Founded in 2000 by Charles Best, then a Bronx teacher, DonorsChoose has funded about 65,000 projects totaling $26 million. Best calls it “a more dignified, substantive alternative for teachers than selling candy door-to-door–and certainly than selling ad space on final exams…”


(4) Call for Papers: “Models in Developing Mathematics Education” Conference in Dresden

Source: Alan Rogerson

The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project and The University of Applied Sciences (FH), Dresden (Germany) announce our 10th International Conference:”Models in Developing Mathematics Education,” to be held 11-17 September 2009 in Dresden, Saxony, Germany in full cooperation with the Saxony Ministry of Education.

International Organizers are Dr. Alan Rogerson, Coordinator of the Mathematics in Society Project (Poland) and Prof. Fayez Mina, Faculty of Education, Ain Shams University (Egypt). The Chair of the Local Organizing Committee is Prof. Dr. Ludwig Paditz of the Dresden University of Applied Sciences.

You are warmly invited to attend and present a paper at our conference in the heart of the historic and beautiful city of Dresden.

The Second Announcement can be downloaded from  For all further conference details and updates, please email Alan Rogerson at