Learning science and math is normally thought of as committing to memory facts and procedures. Because of this we tend to perceive the best way to teach is through rote memorization of ideas, theories, and models.
As a consequence, students experience little opportunity to develop a real understanding of what they are expected learn.
Our challenge is to craft strategies which allow student interactivity within lessons. Student involvement beyond memorization is an essential building block for learning science and math.
Using Technology and Hands-On: Real Indicators of Student Interactivity?
Not really, it all depends on how they are used in lessons. Regrettably, too often:
Technology is just used as an alternative attraction on the road to rote memorization of facts and concepts.
Hands-on is simply a synonym for following directions from work sheets, lab manuals, or textbooks with no thought by students (NSTA Blog).
Creating Student Interaction
Using technological tools and hands-on activities must focus on creating opportunities for students to ask what, where, when, why, and how.
To this end, we are obligated to craft student interactivity by challenging students in learning situations that require them to think.
This is accomplished by incorporating technology, math manipulatives, and science tools built around activities such as:
- problem solving situations,
- discrepant events, and
- critical thinking.
Ways to Create Student Minds-on Involvement
Although there are many ways to create minds-on activities, the following is a sample of activities to create student interactivity in science and math lessons.
Stimulating Critical Thinking Problems and Investigations
Integrated science and math problems, case studies, projects, technology use include:
- What is the maximum number of eagles that can inhabit an specific area? (biology, fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios)
- How long will it take to repay the investment in a solar panel, based on local electricity costs? (real numbers, statistics, physics, and linear equations)
- What is the math behind a carnival ball toss game? (reasoning, communication, statistics, variables, nature of science)
- What effect does wind have on water evaporation? (nature of science, technology, charts, tables, variables, reasoning)
- Why do engineers use so many triangles in structures? (geometry, physical science)
- What is the biodiversity of your local ecosystem? (number sense, biology)
QR Code Quests
Students use an iPad, iPod, or Smartphone to follow a trail of QR Codes in problem solving situations. These Quests require students to solve a problem or complete an investigation. When complete, they create a QR Code to lead others to their solution and supporting evidence.
An alternative method is to use existing QR Codes in magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Why is this Important?
Our students tend to find science and math a painful exercise in regurgitating information, with little understanding of what they are talking or writing about.
Often, their defense mechanism is expressed by stating:
- I cannot do math!
- Why do I need to learn this!
- I’ll never use this!
- Science is boring!
- Math is boring!
Creating an environment in which students don’t need these and other defense mechanisms is important for building student confidence and understanding content.
Science and math teachers are always interested in best practices. Do you have a favorite problem solving activity or investigation, why not share it.