June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
15.97.1 - 15.97.7
A Study of Mathematics Infusion in Middle School Engineering Technology Education Classes Introduction This study is part of the Mathematics, Science, and Technology Project (MSTP), a Mathematics and Science Partnership project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by the Hofstra University Center for Technological Literacy (CTL). As part of its goal to improve mathematics in the middle school, MSTP introduced Bedroom Design, an engineering technology education (ETE) curriculum for middle school, and examined its impact on student learning of mathematics. The curriculum uses an “informed design” approach1, 2 to infuse grade-related disciplinary mathematical concepts into ETE instruction. Designed to be taught as a five-week unit, it features a hybrid instructional model that employs computer simulation as well as physical modeling. Fifteen teachers in New York State and 20 teachers nationally implemented the curriculum, and gains in student mathematical learning and attitudes were studied using pre and post curriculum assessments.
The transition into the 21st century has seen a greater emphasis on student proficiencies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with a focus on how these skills will help students thrive in the technological-based world and marketplace. Yet the mathematical achievement of students in the United States is below that attained by students in other countries, and American students are notably behind once they reach late middle school3. To address these weaknesses, educators have developed various strategies to increase students’ STEM content knowledge. These include, but are not limited to, furthering teachers’ professional development, changing curriculums, and increasing the amount of classroom time spent on teaching the STEM areas.
One way to improve student competencies in STEM is to make connections between these disciplinary areas; this will help students develop a broader understanding of similar concepts and ideas. But connected curriculum is not a new pedagogical approach; it has been recognized as an important teaching tool for many years4. A useful way to apply the connected curriculum concept to STEM education is to use mathematics as a thread to link science, technology, and engineering. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has in fact recommended the connected curriculum approach. It has suggested connecting mathematics to science, social science, and commerce as a way for students to increase their mathematical competence5. To address this recommendation, the MSTP project introduced the term “mathematics infusion” to describe an approach that makes connections between mathematics and ETE6. Through infusion, mathematics is brought into the ETE curriculum at critical points so that it fits with the material naturally and helps create connections between the disciplines. The Bedroom Design curriculum is the platform for the mathematics infusion in this study.
Unfortunately, there has been little research involving the effects of a connected mathematics and ETE curriculum. Two earlier pilot works, however, indicated the potential of math infusion in ETE. In one, a project developed by Akins and Burghardt7, students applied mathematical
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