Did you know April is Math Awareness Month? Who knew that a subject that is so well known still needed publicity! But if you have ever heard, “When will I ever use math in the real world?” or “I’m just not a math person,” you can see why we are making time to celebrate it.
Math Awareness Month has a particular urgency this year. Pandemic disruptions have put students behind their usual levels in both mathematics and reading. McKinsey reports that this trend is disproportionately affecting children who attend schools that have a majority of Black or Hispanic students. What strategies can shine a light on math in a new way and make a difference for these students?
Examples of “real world” applications help make math feel relevant to students. If you can host guest speakers, either virtually or in person, ask them to share how they’ve used math in their careers. Adults in STEM careers may have stories about how they apply math concepts on a daily basis. Each Engineering is Elementary unit showcases an engineering field to help increase exposure to STEM careers like this. Outside of STEM, many professionals also use skills they built in Math class, such as communicating precisely. The Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice offer even more examples of these kinds of skills.
Making meaningful connections between math and other content areas is another way to fire up students’ interest. Cross-curricular connections show that math is a way to understand the world around us. Students who love art, animals, or sports can all find ways that math is used in their favorite subjects.
EiE’s Engineering and Computer Science Essentials builds these kinds of connections into the curriculum. The integrated approach of these units strengthens problem-solving skills that students can apply to any content area. Math Connections within each unit offer timely activities that align with grade-level standards. A rigorous Math Extension Lesson gives students an opportunity to use their computational thinking skills to practice math concepts such as place value and multiplication in a new context.
Another way to show students that anyone can be a “math person” is to get the whole family involved. Bedtime Math, recommended by the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, has storybooks and an app that make math fun and interactive.
How are you building math awareness this month? And do you have a favorite response when students ask the “When will I ever use this…” question? Let us know in the comments below.