Greg Pearson, National Academy of Engineering posted a question on "Ask a Question"

PostedFriday, October 31, 2014 at 11:54 AM

I have noticed that a lot of the kids in my 6th grade class get really excited about doing a design project, but it doesn’t really seem that the science and math concepts I’m trying to get in their heads stick. What am I doing wrong?
4 Answers
  • Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 7:50 AM
    When doing a design challenge it is important to think of the following: - What are the opportunities for integrated math and science, and how can I expand upon it? - What is the math that I can "push" in, that is not integrated (asking students to be accountable for a budget, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing decimals each day). - You can also, pull students out of the engineering design piece, build science and math in an isolated setting, than ask them to apply inside the engineering design. Then, they can be held accountable for processing, where the math and where the science is in their design, by putting index cards at the points where what they learned applies. Daily reflections about the math and science helps as well. A "Making Connections" wall or reflection is also helpful in students synthesizing information. The greater the connection, the deeper the understanding. Here is a video of roller coaster physics, with more applied science than math- but it can give you an idea. Good luck! https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies
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  • Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 at 11:35 PM
    Keeping it simple, real world application to their world. I have taught middle school for 17 years, and I have found that students need to see the concepts presented in their real world perspective so they can make a connection. I taught how to use a ruler and the English - metric system of measurement. I used this information to have them "sex" the fish by gender. Boy, did I have their attention. The girls were excited that "females are bigger, than males" contrary to the human norm.
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  • Cary Sneider , Portland State University
    Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 9:54 AM
    As a friendly amendment to Mitchell’s response, I suggest not only going through more than one design cycle by improving on a solution, but also presenting students with more than one challenge, so they need to apply the concept in in different contexts. For example, to learn the concept of “force,” they might design a football helmet that reduces the damage to a person’s brain by extending time during which the force is experienced, and a few days later they might be challenged to use a lever to increase the force that one person can exert to free a person trapped in a collapsed building. In both cases, students should be required to use the concept “force” to explain how their solution works.
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  • Posted Friday, October 31, 2014 at 11:56 AM
    Tough question and hard to answer in writing, but I’ll suggest one thing. We know from cognitive science research that learning through engineering design activities requires multiple runs through the process before the science or math content will “stick.” Properly done, engineering design is an iterative process, with lots of failures and restarts along the way. It’s through these hitches and restarts that the real learning occurs. So if you can manage it, provide enough time for the kids to go through more than one design cycle. Feel free to email me off-line, and we can set up a time to chat.
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