Mathematics helps to bind the other elements together as it is needed to solve problems in the fields of science, technology, and engineering, while also providing structure to the arts.
While understanding mathematics grows increasingly important for students who wish to pursue a STEAM career, for those who don’t take a natural interest in such subjects, math can be incredibly intimidating. Reasons for this are many and include the promotion of abstract concepts in the classroom and emphasis on memorization as a learning technique. Because mathematical concepts build on one another, if a child falls behind early, it can take them a long time to catch up with the rest of their class.
According to research published in Education Week, mathematics anxiety is the debilitating feeling of tension and anxiety when it comes to solving math problems. It begins in kindergarten and affects almost half of elementary school children. The symptoms of this anxiety come in many forms, such as frustration, a lack of engagement, low achievement, and negative self-talk. Clearly, traditional forms of mathematics instruction are producing unsatisfactory results. To correct this troubling trend, we must find different and more effective ways of teaching this material.
The act of storytelling, which is as old as the earliest human civilizations, allows us to share information in an effective and memorable way. Because our brains have evolved to intuitively understand the world around us through the power of storytelling, applying this same principle to teaching can have amazing results. While teaching mathematics, using storytelling elements to make numbers less abstract is a great way to both boost classroom engagement and make the subject more inviting.
For example, instead of focusing on memorization and solving math problems, create a story where each number has a real-world equivalent (a piece of candy, an animal, a fruit, etc.) and come up with a scenario involving a conflict your students have to address. As with all stories, the more engaging the conflict, the more interested your students will be in its resolution.
Finally, the last piece of the STEAM puzzle is mathematics and, in many ways, it also helps to bind the other elements together. After all, mathematics is needed to solve problems in fields like science, technology, and engineering, while it can also provide the necessary structure to the arts. Of course, numeracy is also an essential life skill more generally.
One of the challenges with mathematics as an academic subject is that although it is widely seen as being a core part of the curriculum, many students find it difficult to enjoy. Therefore, many STEAM education initiatives aim to boost engagement in this area and encourage more students to continue to study the subject at a college or university level.
A major benefit that mathematics offers over many subjects is its universal nature, regardless of language, which opens up career possibilities all over the world. Within the workforce, advanced mathematics skills are in high demand in a range of fields, from scientific research and data analysis roles, through to engineering and medicine.