High school math curriculum tends to be far too dense to divert much time to off-content activities. Yet, math is the M in STEM; so it seems to me that some of the responsibility for STEM connections rests on my profession. After all, who has more access to more students than core teachers? Students who set academic goals tend to be more motivated, and a problem of interest tends to evoke student engagement,* so I argue that integrating STEM in ways that do not significantly divert time from content is well worth the effort. I broadly define to include the 6 C’s of deeper learning, and here’s how I integrate “STEM:”
- Explicitly through parallel thought processes. For example, when studying lines “y=mx+b” in depth, I play about 30 seconds of a video to explain queuing analysis and another 30 seconds explaining how it relates to lines on paper. For guess-and-check quadratic factoring, I spend about 90 seconds having students consider the logistical thought processes in human resource management.
- Explicitly through math applications. Some employment-related challenges are directly related to classroom content. Here’s how I modified a CPM lesson (I love CPM) to be more compelling by broadening the application. HERE is my collection of standards-based STEM-related activities. HERE is how I integrated chapter-by-chapter with CPM.
- Implicitly through collaborative instruction. I use a textbook that is inquiry-driven because it’s much easier to turn inquiry lessons into direct instruction than to take a direct instruction lesson and turn it into inquiry (although it can be done). Inquiry teams with assigned roles can be structured to mimic contemporary work spaces, driven by productivity.
I realize STEM integration is not on the front burner of most high school math teachers, but the Boeing Community Fund liked it and gave me a classroom set of Chromebooks to increase learning efficiency. They need workers who get this and are willing to fund worthy efforts to make that happen. If there is an academic freight train headed in my direction, I tend to want to know what’s on it and how to hack into it for my students’ advantages. I believe NCTM’s Catalyzing Change has tried to bring the train into view, and I feel compelled to run with it. But I don’t plan on staying on that track forever because I believe integrating coding may be at the next station before I have even arrived. For now, though, I have assembled my ideas in the STEM categories drop-down list on the right.
*Meece, J. L., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Hoyle, R. H. (1988). Students’ goal orientations and cognitive engagement in classroom activities. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(4), 514-523. doi:10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.1684