Asee peer logo

Muscle Math Understanding Through The Science Of Life

Download Paper |


2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

MINDing Our Business

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.880.1 - 7.880.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Treva Fitts

author page

Susan Wynn

author page

Martha Absher

author page

Kristen Ford

author page

Judy Russell

author page

Glenda Kelly

author page

Adefolakemi Oni

author page

Gary Ybarra

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2370

MUSCLE: Math Understanding through the Science of Life

Gary A. Ybarra 1, Martha S. Absher1, Treva P. Fitts 2, Judith Russell3, Susan Wynn3, Kristen Ford 4, Adefolakemi Oni1, Glenda Kelly 5 1 Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC/ 2 E.K. Powe Elementary School, Durham, NC/3Lakewood Elementary School, Durham, NC/ 4 South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, NC/ 5 Private Practice, Chapel Hill, NC

MUSCLE: Math Understanding through the Science of Life is a K-8 academic enhancement program funded by the GE Fund. This program partners the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University with two schools in the Durham County, NC Public School System (Lakewood Elementary School and Rogers-Herr Middle School). The mission of MUSCLE is to capitalize on children’s natural affinity for plants and animals to provide meaningful contexts for learning mathematical concepts. Mathematics in K-8 has been taught traditionally as a discrete topic with contexts fabricated to provide illustrations of applications1,3,4,5. This causes children to view math as a subject separate from other subjects and something that can be avoided. Many children develop negative attitudes toward math at early ages. They see math as being too difficult and develop the attitude that they are not good at it. There is high correlation between what children say they like and what they see themselves as “being good at”6,7, and children often turn away from math because it is “too hard” 8,9. The goal of MUSCLE is to integrate math into all areas of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study 1 with emphasis on the life sciences in order to provide meaningful and engaging contexts for learning mathematics.

MUSCLE places 12 undergraduate Engineering Teaching Fellows from the Pratt School of Engineering at our two partnership schools to assist teachers in the creation, development and execution of hands-on learning activities that integrate math into all areas of the curriculum with focus on the life sciences. We strive to show children that math can be fun and exciting, and that math is in everything we do. The teachers and students at Lakewood Elementary School have built a greenhouse and outdoor garden in which they grow vegetables and other plants. All students have a hand in the project and take pride in the plants they grow. The garden project provides us with fertile ground in which to weave the use of math as the universal language of quantification. Children make measurements of plant growth rates and make plots of th is data. They learn probability through the law of large numbers by tracking characteristics of parents and their offspring of common garden peas. These are two of many exercises the students perform in the garden.

From the Perspective of the Principal and Curriculum Specialist:

The MUSCLE program brings many exciting possibilities for the students and teachers at Lakewood Elementary School. The five MUSCLE fellows, who each spend 10 hours per week at the school, interact positively with the students. They are excellent role models for the students and even the most reluctant learner is excited about learning math and science with the fellows, particularly since the focus is hands-on. The MUSCLE program has also provided resources

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

Main Menu

Fitts, T., & Wynn, S., & Absher, M., & Ford, K., & Russell, J., & Kelly, G., & Oni, A., & Ybarra, G. (2002, June), Muscle Math Understanding Through The Science Of Life Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10588

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015