Today: Feb 21, 2024

Ideal education: integrating, not separating subjects

 JESSICA ESPOSITOStaff Writer

As a future teacher, I have become accustomed to certain buzz words in the field. Some of the jargon includes things like “interdisciplinary” and “integration of content areas.” This jargon, in its simplest form, refers to the idea of teaching academic areas together rather than in isolation.

Integration of content areas is how elementary school teachers manage to teach all of the subjects effectively in one day. If a teacher does not integrate the subjects, students lose out and they often miss important aspects, like science or social studies, due to the fact that there simply isn’t enough time in the day.

In my pre-service career at Southern, I have learned that mathematics and science should be integrated as a method to improve student education. Research suggests that in today’s society, students are required to have knowledge of mathematics, science and technology in order to survive in this high-tech, competitively-driven world. Furner and Kumar, authors of the article, “The Mathematics and Science Integration Argument: A Stand for Teacher Education,” explain that “using an interdisciplinary … curriculum provides opportunities for more relevant, less fragmented and more stimulating experiences for learners.”

They believe that teachers must show students how mathematics and science are connected on a daily basis. However, most educators teach science and mathematics as two separate subjects. The authors refer to this separate curriculum as a “jigsaw puzzle without any picture.” We can all remember in elementary school when our teacher said “everyone clear off your desks and put away what you are working on. It is time for (math, spelling—you fill in the blank). Wouldn’t it be better for students if they had the opportunity to read a story that dealt with math or science concepts so they would not only be working on their literacy, but their math or science skills as well?

I was extremely fortunate to take EDU 320, Integrated Mathematics and Science for Elementary Education offered here at Southern, where I learned how to effectively teach mathematics and science as a cohesive whole, rather than two disconnected subjects. I learned so many strategies: using manipulatives, hands-on activities, cooperative group work, using questioning and making conjectures, using justification of thinking, promoting the role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning, using problem-solving approach to instruction, and incorporating software and technology into lessons among several other things. Further, I learned about several activities that I can do with my future students that incorporate math and science.

I do not understand why the integration of mathematics and science is not enforced throughout the country. I have discovered that children will be more motivated to participate in activities if they are integrated. Several aspects of mathematics and science overlap, and I believe students should have the opportunity to practice the same skill in different contexts because the information will be more likely to resonate with them.

Yet, we teach our students that mathematics is about solving numerical problems and science is about memorizing the scientific method, and we send this message that nothing is related, when that is not true. Even at the collegiate level, most teacher preparation programs require separate science methods and mathematics methods courses, and I do not understand why. Even the education department here at Southern is separating the EDU 320 course due to new state regulations.

I wonder if the state’s reasoning for requiring separate science and math methods courses is an attempt to provide more time delegated to each subject. But if that is the case, why not extend the integrated course to ensure enough time committed to those subjects? Yet, Furner and Kumar claim that “methods courses profoundly impact how a teacher will teach.” So if the state requires separate methods courses in teacher preparation programs, doesn’t that suggest that we may end up teaching subjects in separated and isolated blocks because that was the way we were learned how to teach them?

I have seen the integration of math and science in my fieldwork, and so much more information is covered that the students really enjoy. Trust me, the students achieve the “aha moment” much faster when the subjects are connected, as opposed to when there are set times during the day designated for a particular subjects and those subjects only. Ultimately, I believe that colleges need to require several methods courses that focus on the integration of subjects so that future teachers are better prepared to teach their students

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