How Teachers Can Ignite Interest in Math and the Sciences
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are fields that fuel innovation. With this in mind, it is undeniable that the world of academia needs knowledgeable and passionate educators that inspire students’ interest in these subjects. Here are a few tips for effective teachers of STEM classes to ensure that current and future generations of students maintain interest in pursuing educations in the sciences and mathematics.
Bring Enthusiasm to the Classroom
Perhaps the greatest contribution that a teacher can make to his or her students is changing the way they view learning. A teacher may not be able to spur interest in the sciences for every child in every class, but it shouldn’t be for lack of trying. Remember to maintain an enthusiastic and knowledgeable presence in the classroom, so that you can pass your passion on to students. If subjects are conspicuously fascinating to you, students will be able to identify with this fascination and, similarly, express it. It’s important to stay up to date with research and news so that you can incorporate practical uses for the material you teach. Students want to know the meaning behind the concepts they’re learning—how are these applicable to the world around them?
Don’t Remove the Mystery
Much of the apprehension surrounding science and mathematics is caused by students’ hesitancy to explore the unknown and the complex. While students should be taught not to be intimidated by the sciences, this doesn’t necessarily mean they should be given the impression that every curiosity has a proven theory or explanation to back it. Rather, be honest about things that don’t. One of the most common mistakes that teachers of math and science make is presenting only concrete answers and tangible facts. Removing all of the curiosity takes away some STEM subjects’ appeal—the mystery is part of the captivation. Instead, make sure students recognize that certain phenomena aren’t clear-cut and there won’t always be a single correct answer to any one occurrence or formula or oddity. Science is a process of exploring, so encourage students to ask questions about what they’re learning in order to give them the best chance at becoming sincerely interested in classroom material. Ideally, students will begin seeking answers because they want to discover the them for themselves.
Be as Hands-On as Possible
A good teacher makes analogies and tries to make formulas or equations relatable to the real world. Teach with graphics, sounds, and interactive assignments because kids learn best when they can touch, build, and explore by themselves with proper encouragement and support to back them. Try to make science fun by presenting different ideas and concepts like a puzzle that gets easier with practice. When a student finally grasps a difficult concept or discovers something new independently, there is a much better likelihood that this knowledge will truly be learned and not simply stored. In his article Facilitating Teaching and Learning Across STEM Fields, James Ejiwale of Jackson State advises STEM educators to engage students in “motivational activities that integrate the curriculum to promote ‘hands-on’ and other related experiences that would be needed to help solve problems as they relate to their environments.” With this approach, students will gain the self-esteem to help others in the classroom and explain their new knowledge to their peers in a unique way.
Encourage Extracurricular Involvement
It is no secret that all learning cannot be done in the classroom. Furthermore, when students are passionate about a subject, the little time they can devote to it during school isn’t enough to make it a hobby. Encourage kids to get involved in extracurricular STEM activities, groups, and clubs. Let them know that there are chances to explore science and mathematics interactively outside of what they are learning in class. Provide students with information about robotics competitions and Science and Math Olympiads programs. The more exposure students have to extracurricular STEM opportunities, the better their chances of turning an interest into a passion.
Many students think they’re alone when it comes to science and math; they believe that they’re the only ones who aren’t grasping the more difficult concepts. Group work helps students to talk about what they don’t comprehend with their peers. With the subsequent realization that others might be struggling as well, students working in groups are more confident asking teachers and professors for assistance. Teamwork emboldens students to bounce ideas off of one another and allows them to inspect and understand things from a multitude of angles. Most importantly, when students see peers interested in learning, they’ll want to contribute and join the crowd.