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Stem Learning: Math and Science? Just Playtime in the Real World

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STEM learning seems to be the buzzword of the decade. Google gives 106 billion results. But as a parent, what’s the deal, why should I care, what should it look like, and how can I help?

stem

Stem Learning

What’s the Deal?

If you’re new to STEM, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Educators, politicians, policy advocates, and even grandmas are saying it’s critical for our next generation of kids to find jobs and compete in the global marketplace.

Why Should I Care?

They’re probably right. Jobs of the 21st Century don’t look like the jobs our parents took. And maybe that’s enough. But for me it goes so much farther. I want my kids to change the world! Maybe that will be for one person or millions or billions. Cure cancer, discover a new form of sustainable energy, or figure out how to fund a music program at the local elementary school. Big or small, I want them to touch lives, and STEM is their tool belt. It’s the skills plus the problem solving techniques and stamina they will need to change the world.

What Should It Look Like?

The best thing your kids can learn in math and science is to love it. So let’s start with what “real” math and science is not.

It is not:

  • Memorizing math facts
  • Regurgitating science definitions
  • Filling out worksheets
  • Answering multiple choice questions

I’m not advocating a flash card bonfire. Facts are critical to building skills.

“Real” science is playtime and what-if in the real world instead of a make believe one. Science is how we push on the world and experience how it pushes back. Math is the language of “how much”. Math and science is a language as fluent as the language you speak at home. And it needs to become part of the inside of our kids.

Successful math and science education is the joining of facts with the pursuit of exploring. It can be seen in kids who:

  • Ask why, constantly
  • Try it again, but in a different way
  • Imagine, and then build
  • Push their limits, and often the limits of their toys!
  • Attempt a more efficient solution
  • Smile and laugh and play the whole time

If you've ever seen your child inhale a big, fast breath, and then shout, “I know what to try!” and run away, you’re on the right track. If you have ever sighed in exasperation and said, “Okay, now put that back together,” you’re probably on the right track, too.

How Can I Help?

Concentrate on the exploration side, and let your children discover the joy of math and science at home! Remember, it’s just play in the real world. Join in and encourage their what-ifs and how-comes. You can do it together or they can do it alone—in the kitchen, the supermarket, the backyard, or the bedroom.

I’ll give you real world examples in the next article.

What is your favorite thing about math and science?

Picture courtesy of Flickr
 
Bryn Oh has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering and another one in Music, both from MIT. She worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engine, she worked for Apple, and she started a training department at a dot.com start up. Now she raises three kids while consulting part time from her home. Her family gained attention last year as the Mars Time Family after the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars and they all went on Mars time for a month.

 

 

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