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Thus, mathematics and science as disciplines, as well as integrative activities that cross the STEM fields, should be part of a comprehensive STEM program. An essential feature of integrative STEM activities should be that they support the individual disciplines addressed with integrity—using content from gradeappropriate standards that is taught in ways that support pedagogical recommendations from the disciplines.

Using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) for Formative Assessment

Although it may seem that STEM is pervasive, some schools still devote inadequate time and attention to mathematics or science and leave students ill equipped to navigate complex problems that go beyond these disciplines— problems that can benefit from the creativity and integrative thinking associated with a strong STEM program.

However, too much emphasis on STEM fields will lessen time for developing students' overall literacy, broad educational knowledge, and experiences with the arts and other disciplines that are essential to the well-rounded educational experiences our students deserve.

In some schools, STEM as its own entity might even threaten valuable instructional time and adequate attention to necessary development in the areas of mathematics and science—the very foundation of STEM.


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In terms of instruction, many teachers coming from mathematics and science backgrounds may find themselves assigned as integrative STEM teachers, often without any relevant coursework or adequate professional learning to prepare them for such an assignment. The kind of real-life problem-based teaching often associated with the most effective STEM activities requires considerable expertise in both content and pedagogy.

Teachers assigned to teach STEM in an integrative way may or may not be dealing with deficiencies in their content knowledge. Regardless, asking them to teach STEM in an integrative way without adequate background is likely to create new knowledge gaps and challenges and intensify the challenge of finding qualified teachers for mathematics and science classrooms.

Much can be gained in support of the teaching and learning of mathematics through connecting and integrating science, technology, and engineering with mathematics, both in mathematics classes and in STEM activities. Engineering design, for example, offers an approach that nurtures and supports students' development of their problem-solving abilities, a top priority for mathematics teachers.

The design process both reinforces and extends how students think about problems and offers tools that can help students creatively expand their thinking about solving problems of all types—the very types of problems and issues that students are likely to encounter in both their personal and professional lives.

Teaching mathematics well is an important component of a comprehensive STEM program. There is more to mathematics, however, than being part of STEM. The mathematics that students learn in school includes content and thinking that can be used as tools for tackling integrative STEM problems. But it also includes content that might be considered "just math" or might be connected to non-STEM disciplines.

Problems involving mathematical models of finance might or might not connect to science S or engineering E and might or might not involve in-depth uses of technology T. Likewise, art might be integrated into a mathematics lesson that does not involve either science or engineering. Mathematics goes beyond serving as a tool for science, engineering, and technology to develop content unique to mathematics and apply content in relevant applications outside of STEM fields.

The standards describe a strong, balanced, comprehensive foundation in mathematical knowledge, thinking, and skills that is reflected in mathematics standards from across the states. Essentially every state includes attention to the kind of mathematical thinking, processes, and practices that students should develop as part of their balanced mathematics experience. Thus, there is strong professional guidance, as well as policy direction, for the mathematics that should be taught at each grade level. Further, in Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All , NCTM has developed a set of eight teaching practices that describe the nature of effective mathematics instruction.

These practices paint a picture of an interactive classroom in which students are engaged in working through rich tasks—sometimes struggling productively as they tackle challenging problems—with the teacher guiding classroom discussion focused on students' thinking and monitoring student learning throughout the process.

Professional recommendations for the teaching and learning of mathematics include offering students challenging, engaging, and relevant problems consistent with STEM recommendations from the public and private sector.


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  7. Teaching mathematics and science well, according to these recommendations, can help students develop creativity, reasoning, and problem-solving skills that align with the goals of STEM programs. Bybee, R. Dugger, W. Larson, M. Math education is STEM education!

    Chapter 1. Educating Everybody's Children: We Know What Works—And What Doesn't

    Honey, G. Schweingruber Eds. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author. Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Catalyzing change in high school mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. National Research Council A framework for K—12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. National Science Teachers Association Kendall-Taylor, and M. STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood.

    Metz, K. Disentangling robust developmental constraints from the instructionally mutable: Young children's epistemic reasoning about a study of their own design.

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    The Journal of the Learning Sciences 20 1 : 50— Moulding, B. Bybee, and N. A vision and plan for science teaching and learning. Essential Teaching and Learning Publications. Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K—8. A framework for K—12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Parent Involvement in Science Learning. Learning Science in Informal Environments. Early Childhood Science Education. Safety and School Science Instruction.

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    Science Education for Middle Level Students. The Next Generation Science Standards. Satchwell, R. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education 39 3. Developing assessments for the next generation science standards. Stohr-Hunt, P. An analysis of frequency of hands-on experience and science achievement.

    Resource: Assessment in Math and Science: What's the Point?

    Journal of Research in Science Teaching 33 1 : — Introduction High-quality elementary science education is essential for establishing a sound foundation of learning in later grades, instilling a wonder of and enthusiasm for science that lasts a lifetime, and in addressing the critical need for a well-informed citizenry and society. NSTA identifies the following key principles to guide effective science learning in the elementary grades: The elementary educational environment plays a key role in student learning.

    Students thrive with teachers who consider all aspects of space physical, socio-emotional, gallery, and intellectual for creative and in-depth learning DeVries and Zan Such an environment provides children with opportunities to engage in the practices of science, engineering, and mathematics daily through real-world applications during the course of exploring topics of interest and relevance. Elementary students have the capacity to engage in scientific and engineering practices as they develop conceptual understandings over time.

    High-quality science instruction moves students from curiosity to interest to reasoning Moulding, Bybee, and Paulson The progression of learning occurs with each science and engineering experience and is magnified by frequency and intentionality. As noted in the NSTA position statement, Early Childhood Science Education , children have the capacity to engage in scientific practices and develop understanding at a conceptual level NSTA , and early in their science education, they need opportunities to observe phenomena, engage in problem solving, and provide explanations of their thinking Katz Over time and through multiple and varied experiences, children develop skills in scientific discourse.

    They construct more detailed models and explanations, and listen to and critique the explanations of others. Children enter the realm of scientists as they plan and carry out investigations, solve problems, create models, analyze and interpret data, construct explanations, and design solutions. These opportunities allow them to deepen their understandings of fundamental concepts over time.

    Elementary students can and should engage in science within the broader community of science. There are numerous possibilities to support students' science engagement in the community and this can occur both in and out of the classroom.

    Tapping into the broader scientific community allows children to become active participants within diverse cultures of practicing scientists and engineers. There must be adequate time in every school day to engage elementary students in high-quality science instruction that actively involves them in the processes of science.

    NSTA does not find a research basis for recommending a specific number of minutes for teaching core content, including science.