Thinking Big about Mathematics, Science, and Technology: Effective Teaching STEMS from big ideas

Chris Hurst


Current discussion amongst mathematics and science educators seeks to clarify the nature of STEM education. This paper considers the benefits of an integrated view of STEM. Recent mathematics curricula, such as the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (USA) and the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, present content in a traditional linear and compartmentalised manner, rather than accentuate the connections between the “big ideas” of mathematics. Both curricula pay lip service to the “big process ideas” (or proficiencies) that should be the vehicles for exposing links between and within the “big content ideas”. To some extent, the same criticism could be levelled at the Australian Curriculum: Science although it at least embeds key process ideas in one of three strands: Science Inquiry Skills. As well, both the Australian Curriculum: Science and the Australian Curriculum: Technologies acknowledge that understandings do not develop within the confines of a single year. It is suggested here that it may be beneficial to re-think the nature of key content and to organise it for teaching based on the “big ideas” of mathematics, science, and technology, emphasising the connections within and between them. This paper suggests that in attempting to deal with widely perceived “crowded curriculum”, teachers could consider the similarities between the big ideas of mathematics, science, and technology, and make the connections explicit for children.

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