* ARTICLES, LETTERS, ANNOUNCEMENTS (CALIFORIA FOCUS) *(1) California Professional Development Institutes for Mathematics
A statewide listing of all institute dates and university contacts is available at http://www.ucop.edu/math/mathcontacts.html . "The California Professional Development Institutes offer a wide array of options for teachers of mathematics who would like to improve their own content knowledge in mathematics and who are interested in improving the mathematics achievement of their students. [These] institutes will be offered to teams of teachers during the summer of 2000 with followup during the 20002001 school year" (http://www.ucop.edu/math/intent1.html). Institute participants receive a stipend of $1000$2000 depending upon the length of the institute. For more information, contact Georgia Makris at georgia.makris@ucop.edu or 5109879510. (2) Update on the Mathematics Framework for California Public SchoolsThe errata list for the Mathematics Framework is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/errata.pdf . You can download the Framework at http://www.cde.ca.gov/cdepress/math.pdf * ARTICLES, LETTERS, ANNOUNCEMENTS (NATIONAL FOCUS) *(1) "A Difficult Formula: Math = Fun" by Daniel McGinn
At most colleges there's only one thing less popular than a calculus class: a 9 a.m. calculus class. But on a recent morning at Williams College, all 50odd seats are filled as Edward Burger teaches differentiation. Not even Burger, a former standup comic, can turn 8x3+2x into fodder for Jay Leno. But he can try. As students work problems, their professor clambers between rows, offering encouragement. When the class seems particularly hung updoesn't anyone remember the quadratic formula?he coaxes a woman into singing the formula, to the tune of "Jingle Bells" (hum along: "Negative B/plus or minus the/square root of B squared..."). This is math? It is at Williams College. "We do whatever it takes to get the biggest audience possible," says department chair Colin Adams. And it's working. Next week the elite liberalarts school in Massachusetts will graduate a record 42 students with bachelor's degrees in mathematics. That's 8 percent of the classat a time when just 1 or 2 percent of students nationally choose math as a major (chart). Even at Williams math can't compete with the hottest major, economics. But the subject has earned a respectable buzz, which may offer larger lessons for educators clinched in a national debate over math. The issues are complex but boil down to one thing: how to excite kids about math? At Williams the answer is fun, imaginative teaching. In the '70s and '80s, Williams's math department was like that of most schools: arrogant and uncompromising. "The sense was that math ought to be hard, and only the best and brightest students should be taking it," says Olga Beaver, who joined the faculty in 1979. So tough introductory classes acted as filters, causing many students to find a different major. But in the late '80s a new generation of faculty arrived and made intro classes less intimidating. They developed courses that would appeal to nonmajors, like math for finance and math for medicine. In classrooms, teachers began assigning more group projects to combat the image of math as a solitary pursuit. The bigger changes came as the department focused on hiring great teachers, regardless of their research specialty. Two of Williams's 12 math professors have been named the country's best collegiate math teacher in recent years; Burger is a finalist this year. In 1995 Williams swiped a star statistics professor from Princeton; now 40 percent of Williams undergrads take stats. Make no mistake: the school is still teaching tough material. In differential geometry one morning, Frank Morgan fills whiteboards with incomprehensible stuff. (Sorry, professor: you lost NEWSWEEK at "hello.") But to make it accessible he describes the history behind the theories, from Kepler to Newton to Einstein. Later Morgan takes a seat among the students and stares at the board with them. "Don't be scared," he says. "Just enjoy watching how complicated it is." Students have learned to find beauty in that complexity. Sitting around the library, five students recall Tom Garrity teaching an entire class while hopping on one foot, just to keep kids interested. But they also remember struggling through marathon takehome exams and burning through erasers long past midnight. Most intended to major in something else, but were wooed by personable professors who teased them with challenges. After graduation a few will become mathematicians, but most will take jobs in finance, computers or a host of other fields. But Shara Pilch, who graduates with a math degree next week, intends to use this equation on younger students. "When I do a math problem, I can feel my neurons grow," she enthuses. Pilch will begin firing neurons as a highschool teacher in Webb, Miss., next fall. (2) "New, New Math = Controversy"
[Broadcast Transcript] You don't have to spend much time in Marie Tourini's 6th grade classroom to understand why she is a convert to new math, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts. "I see more student engagement. I see more students feeling comfortable and becoming involved in the discussion and the thinking process," explains Tourini. This is not the new math that became popular in the 1960s. This is new new math  memorization is no longer emphasized. Neither are the mechanics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Instead, children are encouraged to use language and problem solving skills to find answers to problems. And the answers don't have to be exact. That's all made new math pretty controversial. "I think that they own it more," says Tourini. "They understand it more than just having to memorize x and y. Proponents of the new system say it's not the math that's new, it's the teaching method. "We know more about learning today than we did 20, 30 years ago," says Fran Curcio, who helped develop the new curriculum. "And we know more about teaching than we did 20, 30 years ago." Curcio believes it keeps kids more engaged. "It's the problem that presents a situation that allows children learners to think about 'What do I need, what do I know, what do I need to find out?'" she says. "And then they employ the tools of computation to solve the problem." But other mathematicians just hate new math, and believe it will not prepare students for college. "There is a feeling among...a substantial part of the college and math research communities that some of what went on was that the baby got thrown out with the bath water," said Dr. Sylvain Cappell, a mathematician at NYU's Courant School of Mathematics. "Look, we can't change the fact that mathematics is hard. It's hard for mathematicians too," Cappell said. "One should approach math with a sense of play and a sense of fun as well as with the knowledge that it takes rigorous work. But it can't just be feelytouchy. There is hard work to be done"... "We all want to accomplish the same thing," says Curcio. "That is to improve the mathematics curriculum, improve the success rate, and help children to feel good about themselves in the study of mathematics so they'll go on to study more"... (3) "The Math Meltdown" The 23 May 2000 and 30 May 2000 issues of the Christian Science Monitor contain Parts 2 and 3 of a 3part series of articles pertaining to mathematics education. The titles and first paragraphs of these articles are found below, along with their URLs. Articles from the 23 May 2000 issue:
Ever since William Hewlett and David Packard launched Silicon Valley out of a Palo Alto garage in 1939, math has counted for a lot in this town. Knowing your way around an algorithm is the sure way into the hottest hightech market. That's why parents  many of whom were top math professionals at Stanford University or local software companies  took note when plans surfaced to revamp math in the middle schools. They didn't like this new approach, especially after test scores plummeted. They also didn't like being told that they'd have no say in how math was taught...
...Andover's math test scores soar above those of most other schools in the state. Despite that, the prestigious school stopped offering its traditional math curriculum to new students in 1994 and began an experimental program known as CorePlus Mathematics, based on National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 1989 (NCTM) standards...
The Department of Education's expert panel, assembled to find the best math programs in the United States, had a key problem, critics say. It relied heavily on studies of student achievement that were authored or coauthored by the directors of the programs themselves  or by people with close institutional or other ties to the program...
Something exciting is happening at School 2 in Paterson, N.J. Students are starting to understand math concepts. In 1998, at the end of the first year of an experiment in math education, eighthgraders at this struggling school saw their scores on standardized math tests jump 20 percent. Not only that, but their pass rate was 77 percent  much closer to the statewide pass rate of 86 percent. Scores from 1999 were similar...
A group of ninthgrade students are devising a formula for calculating the area of a stretch of winding road, and throughout the 50minute period they remain intent on their task. They produce several possible solutions and reason them through until the principle behind the challenge is clear. At class's end, some students linger for more problem solving. It's a typical slice of everyday life at this Japanese public school, run by the Japanese government for families living in the United States. It's also one of many practices that teachers in Paterson, N.J., are taking in, intent on boosting their school's math performance...
Below are mathreform plans that a US Department of Education expert panel calls "exemplary" or "promising," along with their Web addresses...
...This isn't just any math class. It is CorePlus Mathematics, one of only five math programs designated as "exemplary" by the US Department of Education. The course emphasizes reallife problems, group learning, and weaving together subjects from algebra to trigonometry. It also uses calculators. A lot... Articles from the 30 May 2000 issue
...Math is moving to the top of the American educational agenda. Like School 2 in Paterson, N.J., thousands of schools around the United States are testing new approaches, spurred by a sense of urgency that American children are not keeping pace in a crucial area. The common goal: to set all students on paths that will open doors in a hightech age. But how to do that is controversial. US teachers have developed a thick skin against frequent reforms that encourage wild swings or suggest a lost golden age of learning. They're not helped in their daytoday efforts by a culture which prizes reading far above math in early grades, and where kids can define "nerd" well before they learn to multiply...
For all the debate about overhauling math education in the US, there have been few actual gains in student achievement. That's why news of a program in Puerto Rico has drawn attention from those interested in math reform. In 1992, the island launched an initiative in its public schools, aiming to close a 70point gap between public school students and their privateschool counterparts on standardized tests. Educators expected modest improvement, but got a lot more...
"The children are doing the discovery, and that's more difficult for them and sometimes more difficult for us," says Wanda Collazo, who has been teaching eighth and ninthgrade math for six years using the Puerto Rican Statewide Systemic Initiative, the island's mathreform method. "But I would never go back to the other way"...
If you're wondering why your kids aren't picking up how to divide fractions, it could be that their teachers don't quite get it, either. That's the message from "Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics" (Lawrence Erlbaum), a book that is becoming a stealth hit for math junkies on both sides of the "math wars," and a must read for anyone interested in solving the problems of public schools...
Euclid would feel right at home in a math class in Paris. The geometry problems on the blackboard would look familiar to the thirdcentury B.C. Greek mathematician, as would the method of work: methodical, clear, and anchored in the language of proof...
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone neutral about Saxon Math. For many recent graduates of teacher education programs, it's the incarnation of "drill and kill"  devoutly to be avoided. But don't tell that to parents storming school boards and state legislatures to get Saxon texts into schools. They're still wondering why their eighthgraders can't figure 10 percent of 100 without the aid of a calculator, and are convinced Saxon will get classrooms back to basics  or sanity...
Move over ballet, soccer practice, and littleleague baseball. One of America's fastestgrowing afterschool rituals is piling kids into the car to go get tutored in math. Amid rising parent concern that students just aren't "getting it" at school, forprofit "math remediation" companies with names like Kumon, Sylvan, Score, and others are stepping in to fill the math gap...
William Johntz was casting about for ways to engage innercity remedial students in math. Finally, it hit him: Give them harder material. The year was 1963. But the counterintuitive approach that the mathematician, psychologist, and math teacher set in motion during his lunch hours in Berkeley, Calif., is going strong four decades later... * EVENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES *School's In Conference
"The State Superintendent's Symposium on critical issues related to accountability will feature models of effective practice along with information that will impact California school operations during the coming year and beyond."
* INTERNET RESOURCES *(1) Apple Universe
(2) ERIC Digests
The fulltext ERIC Digest database contains 2,184 Digests published through March, 2000. The database is updated quarterly (3) ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation
COMET is an online newsletter that seeks to provide timely information in a digest format about state (California) and national news, articles, events, opportunities, and web resources related to mathematics education. Information from a variety of print and online sources is compiled and distributed via COMET approximately once a week. The target audience includes California PreK12 teachers of mathematics and school/district administrators, as well as university faculty throughout the nation who are interested in issues related to mathematics education (with a focus on California news). COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project. COMET is produced by:

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