Infusing Science With Math
Incorporating mathematics into science lessons helps students get better at math, and like it more, reports Erik Robelen of Education Week:
“New findings from a project funded by the National Science Foundation show a statistically significant boost in math achievement for the 8th graders exposed to the ‘math-infused’ lessons, when compared with a control group of students who were not. ‘What we found from year one was that the kids ended up doing a lot better in math,’ said co-author James Lauckhardt, a senior research associate at the Center for Advanced Study in Education.
Lauckhardt said there were limits on the data available on science achievement, but that he and his fellow researchers did not find any evidence that the math focus diminished science learning.
The project involved the development of lessons that asked students to use what they already know about math concepts and apply it to science, Lauckhardt said. ‘So they were introduced to the math more frequently than the control group but in different (and we think more meaningful) ways,’ he wrote in an email.
The lessons were structured so that students would encounter increasingly complex math that supports the study of linear relationships. Three levels of math were introduced: graphical representation of data; examination of slope and visual understanding of linear and nonlinear lines; and contrasting linear and nonlinear lines and developing linear equations.
The study explains in greater detail what was learned. ‘Most notably, student-reasoning skills increased for students in the infusion group above and beyond what would be expected during a typical school year,’ the authors write. ‘In essence, students who received math infusion were able to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar situations or contexts.’
They also had more practice with math and were better prepared to tackle a variety of math concepts. As a result, they showed stronger scores on a state math test, according to the study.
‘This finding is encouraging, as it implies that students who learn math in a variety of contexts are better able to retain mathematical concepts and perform better than students who only learn math as a stand-alone content area,’ the study says.
Lauckhardt said that beyond the change in test scores, another difference the researchers discerned was that students who participated in the math-infusion lessons over the course of an academic year showed a stronger positive attitude toward math.” Read more here.
This approach makes a lot of sense. Among other things, it shows students that math is useful—that it can be put to work in disciplines like science to help solve problems.